Near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. lies the towering marble figure of President Abraham Lincoln. The formidable shadow cast by the 19-foot-tall statue reminds us of the impact that Lincoln’s words, work, and resolve left on our great nation. His vision for America—unity, justice, and reconciliation—were all key points of his addresses to a country divided, at war with itself. 158 years after his election we find ourselves struggling to fulfill that vision.
Although Lincoln warned us that “[a] house divided against itself cannot stand,” we consistently see candidates stoop to the lowest levels of rhetoric and vitriol to destroy their opponents. Millions of dollars have been poured into attack ads and negative campaigns. Concurrently, trust levels plummet year after year for our government officials. Any time tragedy strikes, the two political parties draw a line in the sand and focus on the details that help their agenda, denigrating the loss of life that just occured. Tweets, insults, threats, and venom inundate the 24-hour news cycle pushing us further and further apart by the minute. Many of us retreat to our echo chambers and refuse to listen to or work with anyone from “the other side.”
A UNITED AMERICA, A WORK IN PROGRESS
Tragically, while the political elite bicker and argue about red and blue, millions of Americans will be left behind. The fourteen-year-old kid on the south side of Baltimore will be stuck in a bad school. The Salt Lake City mom, struggling with an opioid addiction, won’t get the help she needs. Communities as a whole will continue to see taxes increase, businesses leave, and opportunity dwindle. This paralyzing partisanship is a national crisis of the highest degree. We are still trying to form that perfect union, to establish justice, and to ensure domestic tranquility.
Who better to look to for lessons in leadership than President Lincoln? He presided over our country at its most divided time — the Civil War. The last line of the Gettysburg Address gives us a roadmap for the future. Lincoln solemnly declared that with the sacrifices of so many in mind, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Our leaders need to be reminded of who their employer is: we the people. We the people have a part to play in this process —we must vote and be politically active, holding our elected officials accountable and making sure they get things done.
President Lincoln had grit. His entire tenure took place during a crisis.There was no down time, no presidential vacations. His ironclad resolve was essential in preserving the union. He could not afford to be offended by every whim and whisper. Personal matters were brushed off for the good of the country. Throughout his career President Lincoln’s looks and personality were constantly bombarded by detractors and political cartoonists. Although I am sure it hurt, his vision for a greater and unified United States of America propelled him beyond the critics and focused on what mattered most. We as Republicans must key in on the major issues that affect Americans and leave the name calling behind.
In his reconstruction agenda, Lincoln extended a hand to the millions of freed African-American slaves living in the South. It was a concerted effort to right the wrongs of the past. Education, economic freedom, growth, and strengthened constitutional protections were key components of this agenda. Although as a country we have made immense strides with regards to civil rights and equality of opportunity, much work remains. Widespread Republican apathy towards communities of color is not only a repudiation of Lincoln’s legacy but also a major reason why many of these problems persist to this day. When we have cities in crisis —failing schools, high crime, and an American dream out of reach —we need to step up to the plate. If we continue to turn our backs to impoverished communities and let Democrats set the agenda, we should not expect their trust, much less their vote.
It’s time for conservatives to take after the patriarch of our party , Abraham Lincoln, and ensure we are the party that “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” stands true for the values and policies we believe in. The American people deserve better than the lesser of two evils. As President of BYU College Republicans and a leader in the next generation of conservatives, I hope you’ll join me in sparking a new wave of conservatism that emphasizes fiscal responsibility, principled and resolute leadership, along with bold ideas to expand liberty and opportunity, solidifying our sacred American Dream.
Our country desperately needs leaders, our country desperately needs heroes… our country desperately needs YOU.
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