COMMENTARY 919.1: Confessions of a Lincoln Groupie

by Michael Josephson on February 13, 2015

in Commentaries, The Nature of Character

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I am an Abraham Lincoln groupie. He is my biggest hero. I have a huge 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.

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.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ray Toal February 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I’m very ambivalent about Lincoln. 650,000 men died under his presidency. Was and is the union that important? I think not. Lincoln would have been truly great had he stood up to the blood curdiling sense of righteousness that gripped so many northern liberal protestants at that time, and said that he would not initiate a war just to satisfy their perverse gravings to feel morally purified.


Noah J February 13, 2015 at 6:26 am

Michael, It is obvious that you haven’t studied the life and political ambitions and actions of Lincoln deeper than what most history books report about him. I would encourage you to dig into the real history of the giving him credit for the “freeing the slaves.” You might find that he had a political side very similar to the warped politicians of today. But similar to todays general public reporting, he was puffed up by media reporting and made more of a hero than he deserved.

I appreciate so much of what you write, yet I sometimes catch you reporting your perceptions as if they were facts. I would love for you to challenge and investigate the good and bad aspects of character that doesn’t seem to be challenged by most commentators or reporters. For example, domestic violence focuses on men that violate women. I see nothing that addresses men that are being abused by women, or the role of the woman in the act of violence. “It takes two to tango,” and women are being cheated when society goes on ignoring their role in the issue. The men are usually blamed for 100% of the violation and chastised, often serving jail or prison time while the woman is freed of any role in the violence charge. So she goes out and finds another man that is a woman hater and misses an opportunity to heal her attitudes that feed into her being violated. Perhaps this example is another view of how reporting and history can slant the truth to make one side heroic and the other demonic. Just saying …


Sally Scheib February 14, 2015 at 11:42 am

I appreciate the fact that Lincoln was flawed, like the rest of us. But that does not keep me from appreciating his good qualities. I appreciate the reminders from this blog about the good that he did. As for the many thousands who died during the Civil War, surely some of the blame goes to the Southern cause as well. What if Robert E. Lee had stayed faithful to the Union, in whose army he served? The war would probably have been much shorter. And why blame the liberal abolitionists for the Civil War? Their motives may not have been pure, but that does not make slavery right. If you scratch the surface of any of us, you will find flaws. Our job is to do what we can to work on those flaws.


Ann Onymous, Student March 5, 2015 at 4:34 am

I enjoyed reading your post, Michael.

In our ethics class this week, we are studying the Ethic of Care and the Ethic of Justice, especially as it pertains to leadership communication styles. Joan Tronto proposed that both an ethic of care and an ethic of justice are important, not only one or the other. She added, “An ethic of care is incomplete unless imbedded in a theory of justice.” (Johannesen, 2008)

Your description of President Lincoln shows that he exhibited both of those perspectives, as well. His relationship skills shaped his social and political prowess. Attentiveness and responsibility are part of the care ethic. He showed this by his love for his intimate relationships and by his need to take care of his responsibilities. As you pointed out, Lincoln demonstrated compassion, honesty and humility and was an eloquent communicator.

The ethic of justice weighs competing rights and seeks to find fairness. President Lincoln’s fight to free the slaves showed his desire to weigh the rights of the slaves vs. the rights of the slave owners and strive for justice. His strong belief in democracy underscored this sense of justice.


Johannesen, R. L. (2008). Ethics in human communication (6th Edition ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.


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