The mob’s adulation was not lost on his many critics, North and South.
Thousands willingly followed his lead in those dark days of war because he possessed a personal quality most politicians couldn’t hope to touch: honesty.
When he stepped into a public square in Gettysburg, Pa., Abraham Lincoln was visible only because he stood a head taller than everybody else. First on foot and later riding a horse, he went to dedicate a national cemetery to the Civil War dead. One observer along the route saw a modest but dignified man with “dreadful responsibility” on his shoulders.
People bowed and cheered, “Hurrah for Old Abe.”
“Such homage I never saw or imagined could be shown to any one person as the people bestow on Lincoln,” wrote Josephine Roedel, a native of Gettysburg. “The very mention of his name brings forth shouts of applause. Even his enemies acknowledge him to be an honest man.”
Lesson: In times of crisis, your actions speak louder than ever.
—Adapted from “For Us the Living,” Gabor Boritt, American History.