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Good morning, it's Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, the day of the week I pass along quotations intended to be inspirational or thought-provoking. Today's comes from America's greatest president, born this day in 1809 just outside the Kentucky hamlet of Hodgenville.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. inherited a divided country, of this there is no doubt. What also cannot be disputed is that Abraham Lincoln took national office at a time of far greater division.

Yes, the violent and frightening Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was staged by a mob trying to forestall the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another -- one ethos for another, as well. By the time Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, seven Southern states (Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina -- the ringleader of secession) had already voted to leave the Union and were raising armies.

The galvanizing event in this precipitous rebellion was the election of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th president of the United States. And so, the very question before the nation was whether those states would and could remain "united."

Lincoln did his rhetorical best in his inaugural address. Although he was unable to persuade Southern whites to use their "better angels" as a touchstone, Lincoln tried. Perhaps in the 21st century, we will be smarter and will heed his call.

"Physically speaking, we cannot separate," Lincoln said after taking the oath of office. "We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence, and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amiable or hostile, must continue between them."

And that's our quote of the week. 

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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