Leading ethically (thoughts provoked by the movie “Lincoln”)


I found “Lincoln” to be a great movie indeed.  Of all the US Presidents, Lincoln is probably the best known and admired by non-Americans (with the possible exception of Obama).

There is a scene in the movie where Daniel Day-Lewis says (something like):

I am the President of the United States, clothed in great power.  You will procure me those votes!

This is done through Lincoln insisting his inner-circle “procure” the ~20 votes he is short of getting the 13th Amendment (Abolition of Slavery) passed, after it had been defeated at a previous vote in Congress.  He was of course seeking to pass this Amendment during the Civil War when some Northern “doves” wanted to avoid offending the South (with the Abolition amendment) and so dissuading the latter from suing for peace…

His demand made me wonder whether by “stooping to buy votes”  Abe was unethical.

A visit to Wikipedia to check on descriptions of ethics revealed to me the three broad ethical “standards” of virtue, duty and consequences.  By all three I cannot fault what this courageous President did.  I must confess that I was comforted that he HAD acted ethically.

I am saddened that I dare not apply similar standards to many leaders in our times.  The answers would be heart-wrenching.  Perhaps better to “play ostrich”, then…

The only problem with that approach is then we get the leaders we deserve!


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