There is something ironic about the huge frenzy of publicity on February 12 surrounding the sudden and tragic death of pop star Whitney Houston. The irony is that all this media attention obscured the fact that February 12 is the birthday of the greatest President this nation has ever had, Abraham Lincoln, the man who signed the Emancipation proclamation ending forever slavery in United States. This act began the long process of acknowledging the civil rights of black people and creating an American culture in which women like Ms. Houston are able to earn fame and adoration.
I know we will have another chance to honor Mr. Lincoln’s contributions to the nation on President’s Day but I think his birthday justifies special attention.
Candor requires, however, that I confess: I am an Abraham Lincoln groupie. He is my biggest hero. I have a large collection of books and Lincoln memorabilia, my daughter, Abrielle, was named after him as was one of our family dogs. And by blind chance, my son Justin was born on his birthday, February 12.
When i go to Washington D.C. I often visit the Lincoln Memorial and stand in awe of his magnificent eloquence and his legacy of honor, courage, compassion, humility, and humor.
Lincoln was a truly self-made man from genuinely humble origins. He became a skillful lawyer and effective politician, but what distinguished him was his character. He earned the nickname “Honest Abe.”
He was a courageous and inspirational leader who really believed in democracy – a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Empathy and compassion were in his blood. He felt the pain of others as deeply as any man could, yet duty made him a leader of our nation’s bloodiest war.
One of his boldest and most significant acts as President was to devise and issue the Emancipation Proclamation transforming slaves into free citizens, but I’m certain he never could have imagined that our country would elect a black man as our president.
Sadly, he did not lead a happy personal life. He lost his mother, a beloved stepmother, a woman he intended to marry, and a son he adored to various diseases, and he had a tumultuous marriage to an unstable and difficult woman. Though often depressed by feelings of inadequacy, he never shirked the huge responsibilities of his office. He often thought of himself as unworthy, yet he was one of the worthiest men who ever lived.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
You can receive these commentaries by e-mail each week by subscribing at our newsletter signup page, you also can receive them each day (along with videos and all other contents of Michael Josephson’s What Will Matter blog) by downloading our app for smart phones. Finally, you can subscribe to the podcasts from iTunes.