Abraham Lincoln, wearing his signature beard and dressed in a suit, is seated for a formal portrait. He is photographed from the waist up and looks directly into the camera.
Photo courtesy of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.

Why Lincoln Matters: As a Leader

3 min read

Lincoln was seemingly a natural born leader. With his ability to command a room, give a powerful speech and negotiate, he is regarded as one of the best presidents in American history. As a leader, Lincoln was determined to hold together a nation that was falling apart at the seams. Without his leadership during the tumultuous Civil War, it is difficult to imagine where the United States would be today.

In preparation for the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination in April 2015, we asked our staff, collaborators and you “why does Lincoln matter today?” We are fascinated by your answers. We’ve noted a few below.

Dawn Tailman, Ford’s Theatre Fan: Lincoln matters because he is an iconic figure whose qualities of personal integrity, vision and perseverance have become an ideal for leaders in all times. People collect Lincoln items to bring themselves into proximity with his stature. In times when tearing down famous figures seems rampant, Lincoln’s character and just plain goodness still shines. And we the people sorely need to be reminded of our own inherent great good possibilities.

Abraham Lincoln image courtesy Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.

Bruce Canty, Ford’s Theatre Fan: [Lincoln] set precedents for all future leaders to follow. And, despite racial issues, which still plague the country today, he ensured freedom, to some extent, for all.

Ashley Doherty, Manager of Membership/Annual Giving: Lincoln held the country together at a point when there was a very real threat of the “great experiment” called democracy failing. The U.S. may be a young country, but it is the oldest democracy. We should take great pride in that, and without Lincoln, the U.S. may not exist. I also appreciate how Lincoln tried new things and understood that great sacrifice was necessary to keep this country going.

Barry Graham, Ford’s Theatre Fan: Mr. Lincoln’s sacrifices and leadership during what many consider the most troubling period in American History epitomizes the highest standard for selfless service to the Nation. His untimely death at the conclusion of the conflict marks him as perhaps the consummate model for giving the last full measure possible to the greatest of American struggles.

Watch what Richard Hellesen, playwright of One Destiny and our History on Foot walking tours has to say about Lincoln’s relevance today:

Sarah Jencks, Director of Education Programming: Lincoln provides us with a model of great leadership, although most people didn’t think so in his own time. Lincoln’s humor, his careful approach to difficult situations, and his political acumen make him a fascinating and crucial figure in the history of the United States. Watch more about Why Lincoln Matters to Sarah.

Tracey Avant, Curator of Exhibitions: Lincoln is important to me because of his lasting legacy in both words and deeds. He accomplished so much as president, in basically only one four-year term. As if masterfully managing the Civil War, preventing the dissolution of the Union and putting African Americans on the road to equality with the Emancipation Proclamation weren’t enough accomplishments, Lincoln was instrumental in the passage of several important legislative acts.

Find more thoughts on our website.

Claire Gallo is former Ford’s Theatre Marketing and Communication Intern and graduate of American University with a double major in Public Relations/Strategic Communications and Sociology.

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Claire Gallo is former Ford’s Theatre Marketing and Communication Intern


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