Wednesday, January 04, 2006

FITS' Leadership Post I - The Slings and Arrows

Shakespeare called them "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," and whether you want them slicing their way through the air towards you or not, they are a de facto part of public life.

One example of dealing with these slings and arrows that came to FITS' attention recently is that of Abraham Lincoln while on his way to deliver what has become known as the "Gettysburg Address." What few know is that Lincoln was not the featured speaker that day in November 1863, nor were many in attendance particularly happy with his participation. Historian Shelby Foote describes the reaction of both newsmen and citizens to his announced presence as ranging from "bland to indignant."

But Lincoln went on to give what he later called "my little speech," saying first of the naysayers, "These comments constitute a fair specimen of what has occurred to me through life. I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice, and have received a great deal of kindness not quite free from ridicule. I am used to it."

The speech was, initially at least, a disaster.

Lincoln, whose two-and-a-half minute remarks followed a soaring two-hour speech from famed Massachusetts Orator Edward Everett, failed miserably to inspire the crowd of some 15,000 that had gathered to dedicate the new cemetary. He received only a smattering of applause, which witnesses called "barely polite," and his home state paper, the Chicago Times, said dismissively, "the cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."

Criticized in advance for even attending the ceremony, frowned upon by those present for his poor performance and ridiculed after the fact by the media, Lincoln's "little speech" nonetheless became the most famous, most quoted, most memorized and most memorable Presidential address in our nation's history.

Like him or not, Lincoln did not shy from "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." He did his job in spite of them.

As the 2006 Legislative Session convenes, FITS will be doing a series of periodic historical posts like this one designed to show leadership traits that we should look for in our current elected officials. Our next historical post will focus on Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) President Jefferson Davis.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding idea! Thank you!

10:03 PM


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