My wife Beth and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on January 17. It was cause for celebration and remembrances—one of which was simply that we had been married on a very cold and snowy day in Philadelphia’s City Hall in 1979.
Thirty years later, we found ourselves in Springfield, Illinois on yet another cold and snowy day, as we chose to celebrate our anniversary by visiting the Abraham Lincoln Museum. Beth and I had talked about going there ever since it had opened, and we were happy to make it a centerpiece of our anniversary weekend travels.
Like many Americans, we have been great admirers of President Lincoln and have read a number of books about him over the years. The Lincoln Museum, itself, was a potent reminder of the humility, sadness, and greatness that made up such a large measure of who he was. Everywhere we turned, we were reminded that Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest servant-leaders.
“Lincoln,” wrote Robert K. Greenleaf, “once said in a moment of crisis, ‘If we but knew where we are and whither we are tending, we might better know what to do now.’ He [Lincoln] stated the dilemma of all administrators.” [Robert K. Greenleaf, On Becoming a Servant Leader, 1996, p.204]
As I watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama several days later, I was reminded of Greenleaf’s reference to Lincoln, as well as this next quote from Lincoln, himself—
“It is very common in this country to find facility of expression and less common to find great lucidity of thought. The combination of the two in one person is very uncommon; but whenever you do find it, you have a great man.” [Abraham Lincoln to British journalist Edward Dicey, 1862]
It is my passionate hope and belief that President Obama carries within him the same rare combination of “facility of expression” and “great lucidity of thought” that President Lincoln embodied. I also hope that President Obama will, through his own example, continue to inspire many more servant-leaders across our country and around the world.
Larry C. Spears, President & CEO
The Spears Center for Servant-Leadership