As I pore over all the lists of lists at the beginning of the new year, I am struck by one question. How many of these celebrated people and their celebrated deeds will be remembered for any substantial period of time? The answer ... not many!
One American hero stands out and he is recognized by the entire world as a truly noble and great man. His face is carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore and his memorial in Washington, DC is a deeply moving shrine to his life and deeds. Almost 150 years since his assassination he still personifies great deeds and significant accomplishment. His name, of course, is Abraham Lincoln.
They say, "It takes bad times to make great leaders." When Lincoln assumed the presidency in 1861, the country was divided by the slavery issue. The agricultural South was threatening to split away from the United States over the right to harbor slaves.
Lincoln's stance was "The Union, it must be preserved." The Civil War between North and South, between brother and brother was one of the bloodiest in our country's history. In 1865, after the North triumphed, there was still much ill feeling among the Southerners.
When Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theater in downtown Washington, DC, the hopes of a peaceful and meaningful reconciliation between the warring factions died along with him.
The Reconstruction Period under Lincoln's vice president, Andrew Johnson, was a national disaster. He did not have the ability or the forgiving attitude that Lincoln would have shown in that very touchy situation.
I believe that Lincoln would have guided the Reconstruction of the South in a kind, but intelligent manner. The Black citizens would not have suffered the indignities and degradation that were thrust upon them. They were segregated and were deprived of voting privileges.
The period between 1865 and 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, was a bitter period in American history. We are still suffering the backlash of the ill-conceived Reconstruction.
The power of Abraham Lincoln's personality, along with his forgiving actions, would have gone a long way to offer the South a benevolent path back from secession.
Yes, the "Power of One Man" can make a difference. As we view history, we are amazed at the "Power of One."