Abe’s lesson for leaders

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

– Abraham Lincoln

What is the point of politics? Is its raison d’etre merely to win elections? Or is there a higher calling hidden deep in the practice of this hideous profession – such as striving for prosperity and peace for a country?

As various scandals plague the Obama administration and elements of both parties gear up for further fights over budgets, raising the debt ceiling and immigration reform, we keep hearing commentators say it is all jockeying for the 2014 congressional elections.

We just had an election eight months ago and, if these so-called experts are correct, Washington’s attention has now turned to the next one. What about solving the country’s problems? Is anyone worried about those?

Abraham Lincoln was not the revered figure he is today during his lifetime. Certainly, Southern whites despised him. He fought off many rivals within his own party to gain the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.

Prior to gaining the presidential nomination, Lincoln had won only one election of consequence. Yet, as the quote above shows, during his term as president he displayed an almost casual disdain for political critics. He had a higher calling – preserving the Union by winning the Civil War. The electoral chips would fall where they may.

Yes, he played hard – some would say dirty – politics to gain passage of the 13th Amendment ending slavery. But, again, there was an obvious higher calling than seeking a political advantage. The country needed it and it was the right thing to do.

It is interesting to note that Lincoln tops most historians’ list as the nation’s greatest president. Perhaps some of today’s leaders could take a page from his book.

They might discover they will broaden their appeal by governing with their consciences instead of the latest poll numbers.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.