Barack Obama has made it clear that he admires Abraham Lincoln. He followed the same train route into Washington Lincoln used for his first inaugural; he plans to take the oath of office on Lincoln’s bible; he has read Lincoln biographies and writings searching for guidance on leadership.

Franklin Roosevelt is another president identified by Obama’s transition team as a president to study. FDR took office in 1933 in the midst of a horrendous economy much like Obama faces today.

However, a third president who should share the spotlight during Obama’s historic inauguration is Thomas Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson’s first inaugural address mirrored the goal Obama established as a core value of his presidential run – to overcome harsh political dissension and bring the country together.

Following one of the more bitter campaigns in American presidential history, Jefferson attempted with his inaugural address to bridge the political schism in the country. Jefferson famously said, “But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”

The echo down the corridor of time is Obama’s famous phrase used in his presidential campaign: “We are not a collection of Red States and Blue states, we are the United States of America.”

Obama rose to prominence with his eloquent address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which nominated John Kerry. Obama’s words that day, which struck a responsive chord across America, was his challenge to end the divide among us. He said: “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

If President Obama can lead this country away from group identification he will go a long way to erase divisiveness and establish a stronger America. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. argued so well in his book of nearly two decades ago, group identification leads to, as his book is entitled, The Disuniting of America.

And, if President Obama can indeed overcome bitter partisan divides, he will be reflecting Jefferson who asked the people in his inaugural address to come together for the common good now that the election was decided. “Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”

Jefferson’s hope for 19th century version of what might be labeled a kinder, gentler discourse on public matters did not work out so well as the bickering between the Federalists and Republicans continued at full tilt.

Time will tell if President Obama will have better luck. There will still be political differences, as there must be in a Democracy that covets individual expression. But Obama has set himself the challenge of removing arsenic from political debate. In that goal, Jefferson’s influence on the incoming president should be recognized.