While hysterical anti-government types love to scream about the supposed sins of our sixteenth president (“He suspended habeus corpus!” “He tried to assassinate Jeff Davis!” “He looked really tall in hats!”), I have no patience for that. It is an admittedly dangerous business lionizing politicians or athletes or actors or pretty much any human being, but in my book, President Lincoln’s about as close to a true hero as people come.
Think about all he did and the horrific circumstances surrounding those triumphs. No, most of us will never be in a position to establish the first paper currency, charter the first transcontinental railroad, proclaim emancipation or anything like that, but still: put yourself in his shoes and realize what that tall skinny farmer’s son accomplished through one of the darkest, most hate-filled periods of American history…
Ever bummed out by a setback? Lincoln lost not one but two separate runs for Senate. When he finally earned the Presidency, he did so with only 39.8% of the popular vote and no support from a single Southern state. In fact, they started seceding immediately after the election.
Ever have tough times at work? Abe’s workplace was at war…with itself. That’s like an agency where the account people and the creatives argue with guns, knives and bombs. This trouble isn’t happening between you and your competitors, it’s happening internally, right here at home. What B-school degree prepares you for that?
Ever have to work with someone who publicly smacked you? Fighting to preserve the Union was heinous enough–but forgiving to preserve it was the true test of character. When hostilities finally ended with the Surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln freed all 18,000 rebels who were arrested, save for one who was exiled. He openly and repeatedly encouraged Southerners to lay down their arms and join in the reunion. Fighting can come easily, but forgiving is truly tough.
If you can make the time for it, read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals.” It’s not exactly a beach read, but it is a deeply insightful and exhaustingly comprehensive glimpse of an extraordinary person struggling and succeeding mightily through extraordinary times.
Actually, that last part isn’t really true–if popular assessment is the measure, Lincoln didn’t achieve mightily in his lifetime. But eventually he did. So much so that 100 years after Congress declared Washington’s Birthday a Federal Holiday, a push from a group of American business spurred it to evolve into “President’s Day” specifically so it would include President Lincoln.
The business group behind this? Advertisers.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79