Shri Mataji has often mentioned the greatness of America`s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Speaking of Lincoln, Shri Mataji said: “Everyone… an American… should think of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln believed that everybody must have freedom. And that government should be for the public, for the people. Whatever he talked, he practiced. Whatever he believed in he worked it out, and he gave his life for it. That’s why he’s a great man.” Lincoln – a ‘realized soul’ – was born with a a deep spiritual nature that he reflected throughout his life through his display of humility, simplicity, humor, diplomacy, sweetness, compassion, and a sense of collectivity and equality.
Abraham Lincoln was not a lucky man, at least when it came to material prosperity. He was born into a life of poverty, lived in a three-walled log cabin during his childhood, and lost his mother and a sister to the rigors of American frontier life. However, the difficulties that Lincoln faced during his youth elicited within him a sense of simplicity and humility that many across the world continue to admire.
President Lincoln had no formal education. In fact, until the age of 15 he did not know how to write. When he went to Congress in 1847 and filled out a biographical blank, he came to the question, “What has been your education?” He answered it with one word – ‘Defective.’ However, Lincoln conquered his broken education with his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Sitting by candle-light till the early hours of the morning, he studied books on law, philosophy, and algebra, and he spent hours lying under Illinois’s greenest trees, memorizing his favorite poems. To himself, to his friends, and to fellow politicians he encountered during his political career, Lincoln often recited the following line from one of his favorite poems: “Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?”
In 1837, Abraham Lincoln rode into Springfield, Illinois, to begin what he then called his “experiment as a lawyer.” Comparable to India’s Mahatma Gandhi, Lincoln carried all his earthly possessions in a saddle-bag. A few years later – still unemployed and in debt – Lincoln made his first public address. Using the speech to announce his candidacy for the Illinois State Legislature, Lincoln proclaimed through the dirt roads of Springfield: “I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relatives or friends to recommend me.”
Indeed, Lincoln had few friends when it came to politics. When he became a United States Congressman, his peers on Capitol Hill simply viewed him as the tall, lanky, self-educated lawyer. To them, Lincoln was the biggest joke that walked through the halls of Congress. Nonetheless, Abraham Lincoln proved his political brilliance through his presidential campaign debates with Stephen Douglas. He also displayed his great power as an orator through his numerous public speeches, the most notable being his Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln proved to Washington D.C. and the rest of the world that intelligence and responsibility must not be supported with arrogance and over-confidence, but rather with humility and wisdom.
In addition to humility, President Abraham Lincoln expressed many divine qualities through his life experiences and through his discourses to the American people. Lincoln’s expression of diplomacy was truly unique in American politics. To the surprise of many, Lincoln – upon being elected as America’s 1st Republican president – appointed numerous campaign opponents to his executive cabinet. He contended that this diplomatic strategy would benefit the American people, for the executive branch of government would not express solely the opinions of one person, but rather the contradicting opinions of many experts.
President Lincoln also implemented the quality of collectivity in many of his political endeavors. Lincoln knew, better than anyone, the value of personal liberty and the individual pursuit of the American Dream. Indeed, his own life was the very definition of the American Dream. Nonetheless, Lincoln had a firm belief in the power of collectivity and in the responsibility that government held by being an instrument of that power. “The legitimate object of government,” he wrote, “is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, by themselves.” At a recent event commemorating President Lincoln’s 200th birthday, President Obama stated that “Lincoln recognized that there are certain things we can only do together. […] Only by coming together, all of us, and expressing that sense of shared sacrifice and responsibility – for ourselves and one another – can we do the work that must be done in this country.” Lincoln’s emphasis on collectivity elicited the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order that granted freedom to slaves in America. Yet another democratic ideal – equality – permeated throughout America, due to President Lincoln’s actions.
Abraham Lincoln also held the strong opinion that human beings are simply instruments of the Divine, and that they must recognize and witness their place in the Divine’s play. The following lines on this topic, which President Lincoln wrote in his personal diary during the Civil War, display his wisdom:
“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party — and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true — that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”
President Lincoln faced numerous obstacles during his political career. Upon being sworn in as president, he become responsible for ending the Civil War and for resolving the impending social issue of slavery. Americans could not have asked for a more honest, wise, and humble Commander-in-Chief during this time. Born with deeply spiritual qualities, Lincoln constantly expressed humility, diplomacy, kindness, and compassion. Furthermore, through his actions, the Union was kept united and collectivity truly reigned.
It is apt to conclude this brief account of America’s most humble statesman with the following eloquent words that he said during his first inaugural address:
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”