The eyes of our nation are cast upon the upcoming presidential election; many not by choice. Televised talking heads fill moments of planned escape from the vagaries of life with seemingly endless political diatribes. Virtually every digital and print publication is saturated with advertisements and “news” stories extolling each candidate’s position on a wide variety of subjects or excoriating their comments, actions, or behavior.
The public is struggling with a difficult decision at a difficult time in the history of our country. Clearly, we haven’t found the information we need to make the decision that our entire country depends upon. Is President Obama’s position on healthcare, Romney’s position on right to life going to be the determining factor in this election? Will the future of our economy or our military commitment in the Middle East sway your vote?
There will be no better time than right now to heed the words of the philosopher, George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” We need only look back in the history of our country to identify the criteria we should all use in selecting our next president. Our greatest presidents were our greatest leaders. George Washington was a great leader. Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest leader of all. Look carefully at Lincoln’s presidency.
Prior to 1861 when Abraham Lincoln took office, not one of the previous eight presidents (Buchanan, Pierce, Fillmore, Taylor, Polk, Tyler, Harrison, Van Buren) earned reelection. The country was in turmoil as secessionists were tearing it apart. In his Inaugural Address, Lincoln said, “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.”
Unlike the “yes” men who commonly serve as cabinet level advisors, Lincoln chose his cabinet from a list of his greatest adversaries. That nearly every one of them became intensely loyal, supportive presidential confidantes speaks more eloquently than words of Lincoln’s leadership. Picture for a moment an Obama cabinet comprised of John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ron Paul.
When the war began in 1861, one month after Lincoln took office, there were 16,000 men in the US Army. Lincoln initially called
for 75,000 volunteers to serve three months, time enough to put down the “insurrection.” In July of 1861, Congress authorized a volunteer army of 500,000 men. Ultimately, between 1861 and 1865, 2.5 million men served in the Union Army. The majority were volunteers. Of those, 360,000 died and 280,000 were wounded.
Congress, under Lincoln, authorized the first US Income Tax in 1862, in order to support the war effort.
Faced, as Commander-In-Chief, with leading a burgeoning war effort, Lincoln created and administered a foreign policy that prevented the intervention of other countries in the Civil War. He crafted and successfully delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. He held the country together and began the process of reconstruction after the war.
Lincoln was reelected…
…by Union and Confederate soldiers coming home from war, by political friends and foes, by the citizens of the reconstituted United States, the first president in 38 years to earn that honor.
That is leadership. As you listen to the political commentary and read the stories, as you scan the ads and weigh the endorsements, seek out references to leadership successes. Which candidate has most effectively demonstrated leadership skills that have delivered significant, important accomplishments. That’s the candidate who deserves your vote.