I thoroughly enjoyed the article "Uniting the Continent" (Views, July 15) about President Abraham Lincoln signing the Pacific Railway Act, which enabled the construction of the transcontinental railroad between 1866 and 1869, 150 years ago this month. This epic achievement was to not only unite the nation after a ruinous civil war that nearly permanently divided it, but allowed the development of a vast continent that provided unprecedented economic benefits to its citizenry and a host of immigrants who flocked to our shores.
Lincoln, a skilled railroad attorney, not only understood the potential benefits versus cost of such a daunting endeavor, but possessed the far-sightedness and leadership to assure the legislation's passage amidst the trauma of war. He, of course, took advantage of a lessened opposition in Congress created by the resignation of most Democrat members, like Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, who were busy practicing the ultimate act of class warfare — defending the institution of slavery — in the 11 states that became part of an insurgent Confederate States of America.
One wonders, however, how even Lincoln could have accomplished such a breakthrough technological achievement if he had to deal with today's self-destructive partisan politics, bloated and entrenched bureaucracy, out-of-control regulatory environment and the intransigent opposition to any proposed public improvement project or commercial enterprise by an assortment of luddites posing as self-anointed protectors of the nation's (i.e. everyone's, not a chosen few's) natural resources.
The Keystone XL Pipeline extension project, proposed in 2008 and postponed for purely political reasons by the Obama administration until after the 2012 elections — a longer span of time than it took to survey and build the transcontinental railroad from Omaha to Sacramento — provides a sharp contrast of presidential acumen and leadership, or lack thereof, then and now. It clearly illustrates why we need a change of leadership to achieve economic recovery and growth, rather than malaise and decline, for both the so-called 1 percent and 99 percent of the United States of America.
Michael N. Cantwell