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Abraham Lincoln and Character
Abraham Lincoln is an exemplar and a model of virtue perhaps more than any person in world history other than religious figures. He holds a special place in our collective memory in part because of his great accomplishments, but more importantly, because of certain character qualities so famously attributed to him. But, as great as he was, Lincoln was not born with these character virtues. He honed and practiced and developed them daily, and so should we. Lincoln was far from a perfect individual. He possessed human flaws and made many mistakes in his life as we all do. However, he learned from his mistakes and learned how to compensate for his own personal shortcomings. As the famed African-American spokesman W.E.B. DuBois said in 1922 regarding Lincoln: “I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.” No matter who Abraham Lincoln met with, he believed to his core that all people deserved equal treatment. Through constant practice and diligent effort, even when Lincoln attained the high political position of president, he treated others whom he encountered with honesty, humility, courage, justice, and grace.
Even in Lincoln’s own lifetime people were fascinated by him. Right before his death he cascaded into the national folklore, and generations later we are still attracted to the greatness of Abraham Lincoln and his character virtues. His life examples provide powerful lessons: being honest in all dealings; possessing a never-ending quest to learn; facing fears and overcoming defeat; treating others with compassion, kindness, and respect as you would like to be treated; standing up for, and standing firm in, what is right; and rising to the highest heights if willing to work hard. We need these lessons more today than ever before. Those lessons can and must be constantly encouraged and integrated into every fabric of society, education, business, and government into both young and old.
Among the character qualities emphasized at the Abraham Lincoln Center for Character Development: