Tag: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln on Leadership

A Lincoln

Fight the Good Fight

The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

Try Honey Before Vinegar

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. On the contrary … mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all avenues to his head and his heart; and tho' your cause be naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be made, and tho' you throw it with more than Herculean force and precision, you shall no more be able to pierce him than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.

Work Hard, Then Work Harder

The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever price of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done.

Believe In Yourself

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.

The Idea of Democracy

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy—Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference is no democracy.

Stay Committed

I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.

Know Your Friends

I distrust the wisdom if not the sincerity of friends who would hold my hands while my enemies stab me.

Heal Their Wounds

On the whole, my impression is that mercy bears richer fruits than any other attribute.

Accept Lessons As They Come

In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.

​​(h/t historynet.com)

Lincoln’s Last Writing

lincoln

Famously provoked by Lincoln's speech, John Wilkes Booth was quoted as saying “That means citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever give.” And he made it so.

Only moments before the Presidential carriage left the White House on the evening of April 14th on the way to Ford's Theater, Lincoln wrote out this pass to allow George Ashmun, a Congressman from Massachusetts and chairman of the 1860 National Republican Convention, into the White House in the morning. The prolific writer, whose works are captured in the beautiful two volume set Lincoln: Speeches and Writings: 1832-1858 and 1859-1865, laid down his pen for the last time.

Allow Mr. Ashmun and friend to come in at 9 A. M. tomorrow.

The Deliberative President

Obama

Here are some excerpts from Robert Gates' Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War that look at some of the decision making aspects under Bush and Obama.

Obama was the most deliberative president I worked for. His approach to problem solving reminded me of Lincoln’s comment on his approach to decision making: “I am never easy when I am handling a thought, till I have bounded it north, and bounded it south, and bounded it east, and bounded it west.” As Obama would tell me on more than one occasion, “I can’t defend it unless I understand it.” I rarely saw him rush to a decision when circumstances allowed him time to gather information , analyze, and reflect. He would sometimes be criticized for his “dilatory” decision making, but I found it refreshing and reassuring, especially since so many pundits and critics seem to think a problem discovered in the morning should be solved by evening. As a participant in that decision-making process, I always felt more confident about the outcome after thorough deliberation. When the occasion demanded it, though, Obama could make a big decision— a life-and-death decision— very fast.

Keep in mind that Gates worked for 8 different presidents. So when he says Obama was the most deliberative president he worked for, he's coming from a place of experience. But how do you foster deliberation? Obama made some decisions that were controversial with his top senior appointments. Here's an example,

The president wanted Jim Steinberg, who had been deputy national security adviser under President Clinton, to become deputy secretary of state. Having been a deputy twice myself, I suspect Jim did not want to return to government as a deputy anything. In order to persuade Steinberg to accept the offer, Obama agreed to his request that he be made a member of the Principals Committee and have a seat in National Security Council meetings as well as one on the Deputies Committee. As far as I know, no deputy had ever been given an independent chair at the principals’ table.

Steinberg’s presence on the Principals Committee gave State two voices at the table— two voices that often disagreed. Steinberg would often stake out a position in the Deputies Committee that was at odds with what Hillary believed, then express that position in meetings of the principals and even with the president. Let’s just say that having two State Department positions on an issue was an unnecessary complication in the decision-making process …

Obama also took a “team of rivals” approach, (a play on Lincoln selecting 3 key rivals for Cabinet appointments) for example, by appointing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Obama also actively encouraged bad news and disagreement.

Less than two weeks after the inaugural, at the end of his weekly meeting with Mullen and me, the president asked me to remain behind for a private conversation. He asked me whether everything was going okay. I told him I thought the team was off to a good start, the chemistry was good, and the principals were working well together. … As Obama had done before on several occasions with all the principals, he encouraged me always to speak up and to be sure to give him bad news or to express disagreement. He concluded with what I thought was a very insightful observation twelve days into his presidency: “What I know concerns me. What I don’t know concerns me even more. What people aren’t telling me worries me the most.” It takes many officials in Washington years to figure that out; some never do.

While Gates isn't as explicit on the decision process under Bush, we get some insights. At one point, talking about the U.S. role of the Israeli attack on the reactor in Syria (under Bush), he writes:

On our side, a very sensitive and difficult security challenge had been debated openly with no pulled punches. The president heard directly from his senior advisers on a number of occasions and had made a tough decision based on what he heard and on his own instincts. And there had been no leaks. Although I was unhappy with the path we had taken, I told Hadley the episode had been a model of national security decision making. In the end, a big problem was solved and none of my fears were realized. It is hard to criticize success. But we had condoned reaching for a gun before diplomacy could be brought to bear, and we had condoned another preventive act of war. This made me all the more nervous about an even bigger looming national security problem.

Abraham Lincoln’s Last Public Address

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863

A few days before his assassination on April 15th, 1865 Abraham Lincoln gave his final public address.

The Life and Writings of Abraham Lincoln does a good job setting the context. General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox on April 9. Lincoln returned to Washington, where a great victory celebration was being held. Sometime on the evening of April 10, a crowd of people gathered at the White House to “serenade him,” however he asked them to come back the next night. This allowed him the proper time to prepare an address for the occasion. The speech below was carefully written and read from a manuscript while standing in a window of the White House. “It is not a speech of victory, but a serious analysis of reconstruction plans, particularly as they were being carried out in Louisiana.” Lincoln is going around Congress to take issues directly to the people. “Among the crowd standing on the White House lawn was John Wilkes Booth, who was reputedly so enraged at what the President had to say about giving the vote to the Negroes, that he then swore that this was the last speech Lincoln would ever make.”

April 11, 1865

WE MEET this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated . Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing be overlooked. Their honors must not be parceled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor for plan or execution is mine. To General Grant, his skilful officers and brave men, all belongs. The gallant navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

By these recent successes the reinauguration of the national authority— reconstruction— which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with— no one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with and mold from disorganized and discordant elements . Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and measure of reconstruction. As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I cannot properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up and seeking to sustain the new State government of Louisiana.

In this I have done just so much, and no more than, the public knows. In the annual message of December, 1863, and in the accompanying proclamation, I presented a plan of reconstruction as the phrase goes, which I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to and sustained by the executive government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable, and I also distinctly protested that the executive claimed no right to say when or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States. This plan was in advance submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then and in that connection apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power in regard to the admission of members to Congress. But even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana.

The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed people, and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana , every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal, and not a single objection to it from any professed emancipationist came to my knowledge until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July, 1862, I had corresponded with different persons supposed to be interested [in] seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, General Banks wrote me that he was confident that the people, with his military coöperation, would reconstruct substantially on that plan. I wrote to him and some of them to try it. They tried it, and the result is known. Such has been my only agency in getting up the Louisiana government.

As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest; but I have not yet been so convinced. I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceded States, so called, are in the Union or out of it. It would perhaps add astonishment to his regret were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to make that question, I have purposely forborne any public expression upon it. As appears to me, that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that question is bad as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all— a merely pernicious abstraction.

We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.

The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all, if it contained fifty, thirty, or even twenty thousand, instead of only about twelve thousand, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers. Still the question is not whether the Louisiana government, as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is “Will it be wiser to take it as it is, and help to improve it; or to reject, and disperse it?” “Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union soon by sustaining, or by discarding her new State Government?”

Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave-state of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free-state constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetual freedom in the state — committed to the very things, and nearly all the things the nation wants — and they ask the nations recognition, and it's assistance to make good their committal. Now, if we reject, and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We in effect say to the white men “You are worthless, or worse — we will neither help you, nor be helped by you.” To the blacks we say “This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how.” If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have, so far, been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize, and sustain the new government of Louisiana the converse of all this is made true. We encourage the hearts, and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring, to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it, than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it? Again, if we reject Louisiana, we also reject one vote in favor of the proposed amendment to the national constitution. To meet this proposition, it has been argued that no more than three fourths of those States which have not attempted secession are necessary to validly ratify the amendment. I do not commit myself against this, further than to say that such a ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently questioned; while a ratification by three fourths of all the States would be unquestioned and unquestionable.

I repeat the question. “Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State Government?

What has been said of Louisiana will apply generally to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each state; and such important and sudden changes occur in the same state; and, withal, so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive, and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and colatterals. Such exclusive, and inflexible plan, would surely become a new entanglement. important principles may, and must, be inflexible.

In the present “situation” as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper.

While out of print, The Life and Writings of Abraham Lincoln is still available on kindle. If you're looking for a solid desktop edition, I just ordered the two volume Lincoln: Speeches and Writings: 1832-1858 and 1859-1865.

The Man Who Never Quit

When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home and off their farm. Like other boys his age, he was expected to work to help support the family.

When he was nine, his mother died.

At the age of 22, the company he worked for went bankrupt and he lost his job.

At 23, he ran for state legislature in a field of 13 candidates. He came in eighth.

At 24, he borrowed money to start a business with a friend. By the end of the year, the business failed. The local sheriff seized his possessions to pay off his debt. His partner soon died, penniless, and he assumed his partner’s share of debt as well. He spent the next several years of his life paying it off.

At 25, he ran for state legislature again. This time he won.

At 26, he was engaged to be married. But his fiancée died before the wedding. The next year he plunged into a depression and suffered a nervous breakdown.

At 29, he sought to become the speaker of the state legislature. He was defeated.

At 34, he campaigned for a U.S. congressional seat, representing his district. He lost.

At 35, he ran for Congress again. This time he won. He went to Washington and did a good job.

At 39, when his term ended, he was out of a job again. There was a one-term-limit rule in his party.

At 40, he tried to get a job as commissioner of the General Land Office. He was rejected.

At 45, he campaigned for the U.S. Senate, representing his state. He lost by six electoral votes.

At 47, he was one of the contenders for the vice-presidential nomination at his party’s national convention. He lost.

At 49, he ran for the same U.S. Senate seat a second time. And for the second time, he lost.

Two years later, at the age of 51, after a lifetime of failure, disappointment, and loss (and still relatively unknown outside of his home state of Illinois), Abraham Lincoln was elected the sixteenth president of the United States.

— Via Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire.

Today we celebrate Lincoln's Birthday.

The next time you consider giving up when faced with setback, consider this story. Imagine how the world would be different today if Lincoln gave up after his first setback … or his second … or his tenth.