A Leader in His Time and For All Time
Abraham's Uncommon Leadership Transformed America for Generations to Come
Alexander Gardner/Courtesy of Library of Congress
Leo Tolstoy, Russian author of War and Peace, traveled to a remote corner of Eurasia’s Caucasus Mountains in the early 20th century. There, a Caucasian chief and his neighbors asked to hear about the life of Napoleon.
Tolstoy told the story, but when he had finished, the chief raised his hand: “But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general, and the greatest ruler of the world. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder. He laughed at the sunrise, and his deeds were as strong as the rock and as sweet as the fragrance of roses. He was so great that he even forgave the crimes of his greatest enemies. His name was Lincoln. And the country in which he lived is called America.”
The legend of the 16th president of the United States of America –– a self-taught country lawyer who gave his life to emancipate slaves and preserve the American union –– reached the far corners of the earth from the time of his death in 1865. And the thirst for knowledge about Lincoln and his formidable leadership skills continued to show little sign of abating as the bicentennial celebration of his birth came to a close on February 12, 2010. One measure of that interest: More than 17,000 books have been written about Lincoln, with 372 published in the last year alone.
“Transformational leadership” as modeled by Lincoln was the focus of Seattle Pacific University’s 2009–10 Day of Common Learning, October 14, 2009. Delivering the keynote address to
students, faculty, staff, and guests was Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White Jr., a Huntington Library Fellow and former dean and
professor of American religious history at San Francisco Theological Seminary. His 2009 A. Lincoln: A Biography is a New York Times best-seller, one The Washington Post believes “belongs on the A-list of major biographies.”
White spoke with Clint Kelly, Response senior writer, in a wide-ranging interview about Lincoln as a young man, as a lawyer and candidate for national office, and as president-under-fire during America’s greatest crisis. “Though I don’t think Lincoln can help us solve the problems of climate change or how many troops to send to Afghanistan,” says White, “I deeply believe he can help us understand what leadership can look like today.”
A Conversation With Lincoln Biographer
“Lincoln believed that ‘all men are created equal’ was a promise not fulfilled fully by the founders, to be sure, but a reforming impulse that could now be fulfilled.”
Return to top
Back to Features Home