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November 18, 2012

Lincoln's Leadership

I saw Lincoln last night. What a film.

There was a scene where Lincoln's eldest son explained with convicion to his disapproving father that he had to enlist in the war because if he were to have any chance at becoming somebody of worth in the future, he would have to enlist and risk his life ... because "What will matter most is whether or not I fought." [Paraphrased.]

The scene tore me up. It made me think about boxing ... and about how to find courage in the face of fear ... about those who get in the ring and those who don't.

When we consider who to follow in terms of those who want to lead us, it's true what Lincoln's son pointed out ... it matters whether the leader, in the face of danger, either hid in the bathroom or got into the ring.

LincolnAbraham Lincoln had strong ideals. These ideals are what helped him conceive of crafting an amendment to our constitution to abolish slavery. Such audacity.

To make it happen, he also had to get into the ring, if you will, and deploy strategically pragmatic political tactics—the kind that could potentially lead to success or complete and utter defeat.

There are pivotal scenes that show how Lincoln and his allies found ways to push idealism aside as needed, to allow pragmatism to advance their cause. In many ways, he cared less about whether legislators felt black people were inherently equal to white people. Rather, he cared whether he could convince them to support the amendment, regardless of how they felt. Pass the amendment, and worry about feelings later.

By using pragmatism, Lincoln risked his entire political career. But ultimately, it is pragmatism that procured the votes needed to cause our nation to say yes, we amend our constitution to abolish slavery. And with this amendment, the horrific war eventually came to an end. It was the ultimate in-the-political-ring jab-cross-hook-cross. Genius, courageous, unflappable, and masterful.

As I was walking out of the theater with my family, I wondered out loud about how our nation healed and recovered from such a devastating war ... to which I answered myself by realizing that in many ways, we are still healing from it. Sometimes, recovery is never complete. It's ongoing.


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