Friday, February 13, 2009
An Example for All Politicians Everywhere
Abraham Lincoln the ultimate political role model
Yesterday, just as Charles Darwin's 200th birthday was celebrated, so was Abraham Lincoln's.
There are very few Americans who would dare tread into politics without a ready supply of praise for the legendary President and martyr on hand.
But politicians in nearly any country in the world can learn a plethora of lessons from the example that Lincoln set -- especially those with a passion for social justice.
If there is one political leader in all of history who stood by his beliefs and stood by what he knew to be right, it was certainly Lincoln.
Lincoln believed in a unified United States, and believed in justice for all people, regardless of race (even if never quite believing in full equality). In the end, he wound up giving the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs.
Lincoln's fingerprints can be found on Presidents ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon to, most recently, Barack Obama. Obama took the oath of office on the very same bible used by Lincoln. Roosevelt wore a ring forged with a lock of Lincoln's hair -- the very literal definition of a relic.
Although less than overwhelmingly popular in his own time in Canada, Lincoln is known to have had an impact on Canadian Prime Ministers such as Wilfred Laurier and John Diefenbaker. Laurier actually lived during Lincoln's lifetime. He was 23 when Lincoln was shot. Diefenbaker certainly must have had Lincoln in the back of his mind when he struck down racially-based immigration policies, and would openly cite Lincoln's penchant for making tough political decisions -- no political decision could possibly be more difficult than committing his country to civil war -- when cancelling the Avro Arrow project.
Current President Barack Obama, the most Lincoln-esque President in recent history, lavished characteristic praise on Lincoln. "He recognized that while each of us must do our part, work as hard as we can, and be as responsible as we can -- in the end, there are certain things we cannot do on our own," Obama announced. "There are certain things we can only do together. There are certain things only a union can do."
Lincoln's message -- that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and that all people are entitled to live free -- is one that should be remembered by politicians ranging from Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to Israeli President Ehmud Olmert to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.
Lincoln had a gift for putting the common good ahead of his own personal ambitions. A great many politicians could stand to learn that lesson today (including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper).
Hopefully, in the wake of Lincoln's 200th birthday, more of these individuals will be receptive to that message.