Thursday, May 23, 2013
By JOSEPH McDONNELL
(Continued from page 1)
They follow Douglas when they look to localities rather than the national government as the proper jurisdiction for difficult decisions.
But they are descendants of Lincoln when they take a principled stance and yet propose a moderate course of action.
Lincoln teaches today's public officials to be principled but practical because he recognized that public opinion constrains leaders to make compromises.
Leaders in a democracy must be responsive to the sentiments of the public, but Lincoln reminds us that public opinion is malleable, and the job of public officials is to persuade -- to shape the public mind to move in the right direction.
We know the country did not choose the moderate path on the slavery issue, and within a few years it had plunged into a civil war that threatened to tear the country apart.
We can only hope that our generation of leaders learns from the past, forges a middle ground and works to unite a divided country.
Joseph McDonnell is dean of the College of Management and Human Service at the University of Southern Maine and faculty member in the public policy and management program in the USM Muskie School of Public Service.