Monday, February 19, 2007

On Presidents 

Today is Presidents' Day in the US -- a national holiday. When one looks back on the history of Washington and Lincoln, it is interesting that only one of the two men kept a strong public image while alive -- Washington. Lincoln didn't gain his stature until just before he was shot. Both men lived in turbulent times, Washington at the founding of the country and Lincoln at a time when a divisive principle of the union was forced to resolution.

Washington by all accounts was an individual of bearing -- always set apart and always a leader -- even when he enjoyed himself. He was a man of courage as well. His troops were stunned when in one battle he rode to within 20 yards of the advancing British to rally his troops without getting gunned down. Washington kept even bitter opponents pulling together in his administration.

Lincoln, on the other hand, had no military experience and he was a self-educated man from the frontier of Illinois. Lincoln thought deeply about things and was eminently practical in hiring and firing generals until he found one who could fight -- Grant. Lincoln too was able to keep opponents together -- men who knew they could run the job better than Lincoln.

But for these two men the US wouldn't be here today. Leaders do make a difference. The US was favored with two at critical times in its history.

The success or failure of any public relations campaign is directly dependent on leadership -- the ability of the individual in charge to do the right things under pressure. It is not about spin. Washington was concerned for his image, but he also was concerned about getting a job done correctly. Lincoln understood he was in for a great deal of criticism, but he knew that the union had to be preserved, so he put himself in harm's way. There are clear reasons why the two largest memorials in Washington DC are for these two men.


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