WASHINGTON - Barack Obama honored his hero Abraham Lincoln on the 200th anniversary of his birth Thursday, acknowledging his election as American's first African-American president was part of Lincoln's legacy.
"I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made my own story possible, and in so many ways made America's story possible," Obama said.
The bipartisan national Lincoln bicentennial celebration was held in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, which was turned into an Army triage hospital where Union soldiers were treated during the Civil War.
Despite the intense negotiations that finally led to an agreement on a stimulus package, Obama insisted that he be allowed time this week to reflect on Lincoln, whose presidency, along with Franklin D. Roosevelt's, have become the models for the Obama White House.
Obama has studied the decisions and dealings of those two Presidents, borrowing from Lincoln the strategy of bringing political rivals into his administration, and combing over the moves FDR made in his first 100 days in office to tackle The Great Depression.
Obama noted how Lincoln preached healing after vanquished the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Lincoln "could have sought revenge," Obama said, but he insisted that no Confederate troops be punished.
"All Lincoln wanted was for Confederate troops to go back home and return to work on their farms and in their shops," Obama said. "That was the only way, Lincoln knew, to repair the rifts that had torn this country apart. It was the only way to begin the healing that our nation so desperately needed."
Obama also attended a ceremony Wednesday night at the historic Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln, the 16th president, was assassinated in 1865.
Obama was headed later to Springfield, Ill. for another event honoring the 16th President. He will be the keynote speaker at the Abraham Lincoln Association's annual dinner.