I am attending the Lincoln Forum this weekend at Gettysburg. This is a superb event in every way. I so enjoy this time each year with about 200 people who love all things Lincoln as I do. The lectures and conversations here are always superb. Lincoln, in my judgment, was our greatest president. He is still a man who attracts incredible scholarly and popular interest the world over, 141 years after his death.
The lecture tonight was titled: "Abraham Lincoln: The Humble Military Genius." The presenter was Dr. John Marszalek, a professor of history (emeritus) at Mississippi State University. How could Lincoln, clearly a political genius by all accounts, also be seen as a military genius? He had no military training and learned everything that he knew on the job (during his presidency). He had no combat experience either. (Lincoln actually went to the Library of Congress on a number of occasions to study military tactics during his time in the White House.) The answer to this question, said Professor Marszalek, lies in the word "humility." Lincoln learned how to develop a war plan that eventually led the Union to triumph, after making many mistakes. Why? Marszalek suggests that it was his ability to question 19th century rational certainity and thus to operate outside the box. This allowed Lincoln to see that conquering armies was more important to final success than securing cities and territory. Marszalek said Lincoln’s willingness to adjust his thinking to new realities was one of his greatest strengths. This willingness lay in his humility. I was moved once again to ask God for this kind of spirit in order to be a true lifelong learner. My pride is a great hindrance to my being a good leader. I learned again tonight how important humility is to really effective leadership.