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Courage and Moral Leadership1

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican State Senator from Illinois had to face the Democrat incumbent Stephen A. Douglas, in the race for US Senate. At the center of the debate was the issue of allowing slavery into the newly acquired western territories, a very important question that dominated all political races at the time. During the debates, the two candidates gave a series of speeches to express their opinions on the national questions of the day. Even though his adversary won the coveted senate seat, Lincoln was still convinced his position and vision were right and he grouped all the speeches he gave and had them published in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 3. At a time when fears were prevalent among the Whites that the amalgamation of races was bad for the white race and the country, Abraham Lincoln courageously attacked those commonly held beliefs. Abraham Lincoln, early on displayed personal courage by going against the grain when he expressed his opinion of slavery which he labeled the peculiar institution of the south for it being against the spirit of the basic tenet of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. Lincoln supported the interpretation that it applied to all, including Blacks. In earlier years he may have been embattled between the constitution which allowed slavery and his own moral opposition to it. Students of history would speculate endlessly about the reasons why he did not voice firmer and stronger opinions earlier or why he remained open about the option of maintaining slavery to preserve the union. W. E. Dubois, for instance who praised him for being a great man who could think beyond the prejudices of his contemporaries, criticized him The very man who is called the Emancipator declared again and again that his object was the integrity of the Union and not the emancipation of the slaves; that if he could keep the Union from being disrupted, he would not only allow slavery to exist but loyally protect it.

Courage and Moral Leadership2 (Frederickson 2008) As a leader who can read his environment, Abraham Lincoln states I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. . . . And yet I never understood that the Presidency conferred on me the unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment or feeling. (Hirschfield 2012) At the risk of alienating many political allies, he did not hesitate to express a very controversial opinion, while acknowledging that constitutionally he was restricted. Tactfully managing to express the personal opinion and its conflict with the text of the constitution is an honest undertaking in itself, earning Lincoln the support of some abolitionist groups while sparing him the anger of some of his fellow Republicans. The Republican Party was anything but a homogenous group with identical interests. It was rather an amalgam of regional interests that the party managed to hold together through different compromises. Abraham Lincoln showed an understanding of group dynamics by adhering to the partys strategy to avoid strong statements about slavery at the time. This understanding of personal emotions and those around us (social awareness) is also an important strength that leaders need to draw on in order to accomplish goals. The series of speeches he gave during the Illinois Senatorial debates and the landmark speeches given after the Battle of Antietam, the famous Gettysburg Address, and the various presidential speeches all testified to Lincolns understanding of the importance of communicating effectively in order to share his vision and energize people to achieve meaningful goals that affect them as individuals, their communities, states, and nation as a whole. The House Divided speech and the Gettysburg Address are just two of the greatest testaments to his skills as an effective communicator. In addition, he was an effective listener who valued input from other people around him. When he first wanted to declare the Emancipation Proclamation, he had to wait until after an important win, as suggested by

Courage and Moral Leadership3 Secretary of State Seward; Lincoln agreed and understood that the proclamation should not sound as a desperate measure or as he put it our last shriek, on the retreat (Beschloss, 2009). This leadership quality allowed him to inspire trust, loyalty, and respect. It gave his followers the sense that they and their input were valued and also that their leader was serving the common goal honestly, with integrity, and above personal consideration.