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In a recent column in the New York Times, David Brooks confesses two personal traditions that he upholds during presidential election season. First, Brooks reads a book about Lincoln. Second, he ends each election night by visiting the Lincoln Memorial.
Why does Brooks maintain these traditions? He explains:
I begin by reading a book about Lincoln not because it’s fair to hold any of the candidates to the Lincoln standard, but because he gets you thinking about what sorts of things we should be looking for in a presidential candidate. Any candidate worthy of support should at least have in rudiments what Lincoln had in fullness: a fundamental vision, a golden temperament and a shrewd strategy for how to cope with the political realities of the moment.
In the rest of his opinion piece, Brooks says more about Lincoln’s vision, temperament, and strategizing. Of Lincoln’s temperament, he writes:
Lincoln’s temperament surpasses all explanation. His early experience of depression and suffering gave him a radical self-honesty. He had the double-minded personality that we need in all our leaders. He was involved in a bloody civil war, but he was an exceptionally poor hater. He was deeply engaged, but also able to step back; a passionate advocate, but also able to see his enemy’s point of view; aware of his own power, but aware of when he was helpless in the hands of fate; extremely self-confident but extremely humble.
Now there’s something to inspire and challenge those of us who are leaders in any sphere, not just politics. I commend “What Candidates Need” as a good reminder of what is essential to wise and effective leadership.