Lincoln & Leadership
After Thanksgiving Day I hopped in my car a drove down to Washington DC. I’ve always loved DC and spent a lot of time there during college. I had a friend from High School who was in the Air Force and working at the Pentagon. He had an apartment with a comfortable couch, which was all I needed in those days for some very fun, long weekends. This time, I traveled with my girlfriend who is from the east coast but had never visited the city. This visit was a little more comfortable, as we stayed at The Grand Hyatt Washington. We had easy access to all points of interest and we were very active tourists hitting many of the famous sites and museums. Since I had been there before, I played tour guide revisiting many of the sites again. Now, more than 20 years later I naturally noticed some changes. What was once easy access (almost ridiculously easy with what we know today) now had beefed up security. Appreciation had to be gained from afar, as gates and concrete barriers of all sort, kept foot traffic and cars at a safe distance. Even with those physical changes the city remains magic. The restaurants and nightlife of Georgetown are great retreat from a day climbing marble stairs and taking in the wonders of man, nature and science. I found other changes too, they were within me. As I stood to read the words of a man, I realized, I had grown, thankfully, in those 20 plus years. I have been immersed in leadership, its theories, principles and practices for over a decade. I’ve read stacks of books, met with, worked along side and studied many great leaders of our time. But standing on the cold marble stone of the Lincoln memorial, chilled by a brisk November wind I read his eloquent words. Those words now carved into that stone for eternity to witness and rightfully so. When our union was in it’s darkest hour, when this beautiful experiment in democracy was being torn apart from within, when the republic was on the brink of destruction – one man stood for the greater good. He didn’t calculate what was “politically expedient” he didn’t do what was popular – he did what was right. When the painful war was won, he didn’t place blame. When others would have been righteous he sought to heal and move forward. It made me wonder how we lost our way in a democracy founded on “For the people, by the people” to “Let me get mine before you get yours.” We could use “Lincoln Leadership” in Washington today. His words moved me that night and who he was – stays with me. Our hotel was a couple of bocks from Fords Theater, a site I had never visited before. So, on our way out of town we stopped in to take the tour. It was more moving then I had expected. To see where he sat, to hear the details of the assignation as told by a National Park Service Ranger, was quite gripping. We went across the street, to the boarding house room where he breathed his last breath. To do what was right, he withstood attacks of all kinds, in the press and in the halls/chambers of our government. He took it all and triumphed, in his quiet and steadfast way. Yet, in the end he had to give everything, his life and the opportunity to see his dream fulfilled. Today in Iraqi and Afghanistan young men and women are also making the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I wonder if our leaders in Washington can equal their, or Lincoln’s courage and do what is right for the greater good. We can learn from the past, if we would only look.