So President's Day is coming up soon, but I would venture a guess that most people think of this holiday only as a long weekend -- a mini vacation. Instead, I want to use the holiday to learn more about our country's great leaders, like Abraham Lincoln, one of my favorites. Lincoln was a great man, a great hero, a great leader to admire, respect and to learn from. And though he is most known for his honesty (Honest Abe, right?), wisdom, bravery, and patriotism, here’s a quality that we don’t hear often about: Lincoln was incredibly charitable.
According to Richard Behn, Research Director of the Lincoln Institute, Lincoln was known for his charity. Though growing up destitute himself, Lincoln seemed to have an innate sense of kindness toward others in need. He was frequently giving his services for free, or charging a great deal less than necessary. Lincoln was known to make financial donations to those who were in need or sick and unable to care for themselves. Whenever he saw someone or heard of someone in need, he was there, giving of himself in whatever way he could. Charity, it seems, was second nature to Abe Lincoln.
“Greediness of wealth was absolutely foreign to his nature,” writes Behn. “He wanted money sufficient to pay the ordinary living expenses of his household, but he did not care for gold just because he loved to have and handle it.”
One of Lincoln’s most famous speeches, his second Inaugural Address given on March 4, 1865, touched just slightly on the concept of charity. And yet, his one small sentiment echoes still today. With the country still gripped in a bitter civil war, Lincoln rightfully strayed from the pomp and circumstance of his First Inaugural Address in 1861. Instead, he chose to convey why he felt the fight against slavery was a moral and just fight. He tried to open up the hearts of his fellow Americans with these words:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the
right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the
work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who
shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all
which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves
and with all nations.”
“Charity for all.” “Bind wounds.” “Care for orphans.” “Lasting peace.” I can understand the type of man Lincoln was just by reading these few words of his. He was trying to make people see that slavery was wrong, that we must all call upon the charity in our own hearts to recognize when a wrong is being committed and to do all in our power to save innocent people from harm and injustice. Can we say the same for ourselves?
Lincoln left a legacy of charity that we can all learn from. We should all be as observant as Lincoln, and when we see tragedy and pain happening around us, we should do all we can to help ease that suffering.
Charity should be second nature to everyone. Maybe then, we’ll all be on the right road to becoming great leaders too.
Abraham Lincoln’s Personality
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