Abraham Lincoln – a great US President and a compassionate leader

abraham-lincoln

Travelling to Washington DC for the first time with my father and my cousin in the summer of 1986, on of the ‘must see places’ in the capital, on our list, was the Lincoln Memorial – there he was seated – the 16th US President who saved the nation, under the words: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

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I first read about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, from that old Classic comic book first published in 1958.  He was a President I greatly admired from the days of my childhood. He passionately believed that all men were equal, hence his deep commitment to abolishing slavery. Abraham Lincoln said: “I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” Half a million people perished in the Civil War. Beauty came out of ashes when President Lincoln ushered in a new birth of freedom, with the end of the civil war and the end of slavery.

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I never forgot those famous words uttered by this great man at the historic Gettysburg Address in 1863 – it is one of the greatest speeches made by a President of the United States of America. Here is the full text of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

Here is one of two confirmed photographs of President Lincoln shortly after he arrived at Gettysburg on November 19th 1863, three hours before he made that historic speech. Mr. Lincoln can be seen in the middle of this photograph.

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Abraham Lincoln was a very strong leader as well as a compassionate leader. He suffered during his childhood. They say he lived in economic poverty his father might have been very hard on him, his mother passed away when he was 9 years old, he lost his sister when he was a teenager. The lawyer Eric Giroux, writing in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, writes about Lincoln’s compassion: ‘Yet Lincoln, naturally disposed to empathy for his fellow living beings, seemed to learn from suffering, both his own and that of others.  As exemplified by his approaches to poverty, slavery, and the Civil War itself, Lincoln responded to suffering by expanding the sphere of his compassion. ‘

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Abraham Lincoln’s White House

Giroux recalled a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to a girl who had lost her father in the war. William McCullough’s death had plunged his daughter Fanny into a serious depression, which Lincoln addressed head-on in words that, as an expression of Lincoln’s compassion, are both representative and timeless:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny:

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases.  In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.  The older have learned to ever expect it.  I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.  You can not now realise that you will ever feel better.  Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake.  You are sure to be happy again.  To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.  I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.  The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend,
A. Lincoln

I was so thrilled that on a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida, our son also learnt about Abraham Lincoln and was able to see the figure and the President’s story in the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square at Disney.

Ivan Corea

Excerpts from Eric Giroux’s article in the Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly: https://masslawyersweekly.com/2011/07/13/lincoln%E2%80%99s-compassion/

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln’s White House courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York

Photographs of Lincoln courtesy of Pixaby, Pexel and Wikipedia.