Melancholy leaders

Strength through suffering
What prompts our fascination with Lincoln? Perhaps it is our frustration with the quality of current politicians. Our political climate seems to favor self-absorbed spin doctors rather than people whose judgments are marked by reasoned reflection and courageous action.

We also yearn for leaders of genuine gravitas, people whose strength of character enables them to draw on the strengths of those around them. In Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin tells of Lincoln’s profound decision to include his political rivals in key cabinet positions, a move that proved pivotal during the Civil War.

Years later, Lincoln’s decision had a profound impact on Martin Luther King Jr., who describes Lincoln’s leadership in his sermon “Loving Your Enemies.” Like the people of the 1850s and 1860s, and those of the 1960s, we yearn for leaders who genuinely love their enemies and can chart paths beyond the polarizations.


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