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  Lincoln & Leadership
February 5, 2009
Guest Speaker
    Four historians from the Command and General Staff College discussed in open forum the legacy and leadership of Abraham Lincoln as part of the 
Kansas City Public Library's General Knowledge lecture series, Feb. 5.  This discussion kicked off a week of activities centered around Lincoln's upcoming birthday on Feb. 12.

Crosby Kemper, executive director of the library introduced the panelists, as representatives of "the premier academic institution," [CGSC] "and it's just a couple of miles away," he added.  He encouraged audience members to take advantage of the College's rich tradition, history, and knowledge base.
Dr. Ethan Rafuse, a professor in the CGSC Department of Military History, moderated the panel of his peers, comprised of professors from DMH and the Combined Arms Center's Combat Studies Institute.  Other panelists were Deborah Kidwell, Terry Beckenbaugh, and Kelvin D. Crow.

Rafuse opened the panel by providing a brief abstract of Lincoln's career, charting major milestones of success and failure, ultimately building to his assassination.  Kidwell spoke on Lincoln's legacy and the various uses of his image. She described how frequently he's referred to as "Honest Abe"  and remembered as an icon of persevering leadership.  She posited that although that memory is debatable, it is nevertheless an important example of how perception influences unity and effective government leadership. 

Following Kidwell’s remarks, Beckenbaugh emphasized the controversy surrounding Lincoln's leadership and governance, particularly between his junior and senior officers, the Republicans who supported Lincoln and the Democrats who did not, and between borders states with slaves and those without.  Notably, he asked the audience to consider whether the emancipation of slaves in the United States was a "top-down" effort (Lincoln led), or "bottom-up" (slaves igniting change, forcing Lincoln to respond). 

Rounding out the prepared remarks, Crow further examined the controversy introduced by Beckenbaugh.  He shared how Gen. 
McClellan, one of Lincoln's greatest dissenters, went so far as to declare, "The President is a well meaning baboon."  But despite the continual shift of American popular opinion regarding Lincoln's legacy, all would agree that he was a leader, a man of vision, and a powerful motivating force.

Following the formal presentation, the audience questioned the panelists on a range of topics including the impact of Lincoln's  leadership on the local areas of Westport and Kansas City, Mo.  Reflecting the people's appetite for knowledge and learning, the forum formally concluded well after the scheduled release time, with panelists taking additional questions after.

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Last Reviewed: February 9, 2009

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