Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
He was the 16th president of our nation, a Republican and, perhaps, the most beloved president of them all. He definitely ranks in the top five in terms of recognition and admiration. Although he’s not one of our Founding Fathers, his writings and decisions shaped our nation and has helped make us who we are today.
It’s no wonder politicians want to emulate him. It seems like every time we turn around, a politician is trying to channel the spirit of Abraham Lincoln for their own benefit. Probably every president since him has turned to Lincoln’s legacy at least once to look for guidance. It’s said President Nixon used to go to the Lincoln Memorial at night with a glass of gin in his hand just to talk to Lincoln’s statue. Probably very interesting conversations after the first couple of glasses.
Why do we love Lincoln?
He was the whole package. Poor boy who made good; an underdog who rose from nothing to the highest position in the land without much help. But above all, he possessed qualities most of us only dream about: Confidence tempered with humility.
Confidence: belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence and self-reliance; the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
Humility: Modest behavior, attitude and spirit; not arrogant or prideful; not proud or haughty.
Confidence allows a person to take charge with the anticipation of success. Humility allows a person to acknowledge the possibility that they (oh horrors!) could be wrong. Humble people listen to and take seriously those who disagree with them. They don’t mock them or name call. They don’t belittle the other party. And by genuinely listening, they have a better understanding of the whole picture and less chance of making mistakes.
And it was Abraham Lincoln’s amazing ability to marry these two diametrically opposite character traits that made him such a rare and great leader.
No wonder politicians want to emulate Lincoln. Most, if not all of them, have the confidence part down pat. Nooooo problem there. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. They’ll be thrilled to list the numerous accomplishments they’ve made. But where’s the humbleness? Where’s the mindset that the “other side” might be correct, or at least have ideas worth serious consideration? And I’m talking about both Democrats and Republicans in current residence.
Lincoln’s parents were the poorest of farmers. Lincoln grew up in the epitome of adversity. He never had the opportunity or means to attend a prep school or Ivy League college. There were no handouts or a free tickets waiting for him. There were no grandparents or other benefactors making sure he had a safety net. He became a self-made man and out of his adversity, he developed the confidence that he could improve on the life he’d been handed.
He was, for all practical purposes, a little-known, back-water lawyer with limited formal education. He watched his mother and sister die, and buried two sons of his own. He governed over a country deeply divided in ideology that was tearing itself apart. Although he was raised with church-going parents, Lincoln never joined a church, but did turn to a couple of ministers during times of adversity later in life.
The adversity that plagued him throughout his life instilled a humbleness that made him such a masterful leader. He successfully overcame his own ego; sometimes the greatest adversary of us all. His belief that God, not man, is in charge was the source of his humility and helped form his character, integrity and, in turn, his actions.
So, when he attained the highest office in the land; the office that wielded ultimate power over the life and death of our nation and its citizens; the office that has tested the character and integrity of every person who holds it…he did so with confidence tempered with genuine humility and grace.
Many contemporary politicians compare themselves to him, but in the overall picture, they don’t even come close. And in this day and age, I’m not sure any of them ever will.
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