In a Lincoln's Birthday tribute, President Reagan yesterday laid a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial and recalled the rich legacy of thought and language that Lincoln left America.

"Today, do our national leaders agonize over the dilemma between doing what is practical and what is right?" Reagan asked in his brief remarks in the cold wind at the memorial.

For an answer, he quoted Lincoln: "Let us have faith in the right, that it makes might, and in that faith let us to the end do our duty as we understand it."

"Or do we ever fear failure of the defense of principle?" Reagan asked.

"I am not bound to win, but am bound to be true," he answered in Lincoln's words.

"In Lincoln's life there is ample testimony of the depth of his mind, to the compassion of his heart, to the breadth of his virtue, and above all, to the value of putting country above self-interest," Reagan said.

Reagan, slightly more than three weeks into his presidency, also quoted what Lincoln said on the eve of assuming the office:

"I appeal to you, constantly bear in mind that not with politicians, not with a president, not with office-seekers, but with you is the question, 'Shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generation?'"

The president shook hands with Seaman Robert Brown, part of the honor guard, and thanked him for standing so long in the cold during the ceremony. Then, perhaps feeling the cold himself, he said, "Okay, I'm getting in first," and ducked into his limousine.

Reagan hosted a luncheon for 20 Hispanic leaders in the White House family dining room and met during the afternoon with the foreign ministers of Italy and Oman.

Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. emerged from the White House to tell reporters they had stressed the importance of increased consultation between the United States and its allies.

Reagan and Colombo also discussed tactical nuclear weapons, and Colombo said there was a need to restore the equilibrium of forces in Europe.

The Reagans drove to the vice president's house on Massachusetts Avenue last night for dinner.