“[Barack Obama] didn’t get it right,” says Harry V. Jaffa, professor emeritus of Claremont McKenna College, senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and author of two influential books on Lincoln.

Jaffa was referring to this quotation from President Obama.

“I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”

Professor Jaffa noted that this quotation leaves out a great deal. The 93-year-old Jaffa recited the full statement from Lincoln’s speech, “The Nature and Objects of Government, with Special Reference to Slavery” (July 1, 1854) by memory:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.”

Notice the difference? The emphasis is on the need to have done, not on government doing the action.

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