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Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Unprogrammed Moment of Nobility

The story is told that Abraham Lincoln once visited a slave auction. He did not go to buy a slave but merely to watch the proceedings. As he watched he was more convinced than before of the indignity of selling and buying a fellow human being. As a result of the experience he was overcome with rage.

In this state he observed a young woman being brought to the auction block. She was obviously difficult to manage as she rebelled against the possibility of being sold to a stranger. She probably had known this experience in the past as owners had used, abused and then disposed of her.

Lincoln did something that was out of character. He joined the bidding and he continued to raise his offers until he was awarded the sale of the slave girl. After paying the price and he strode over to where she was being held. Her defiant anger was now focused on him. To her disbelief he said, “You’re free.” She vehemently expressed her disbelief. Lincoln insisted. “You are free. You can go wherever you want and do whatever you want.” The truth of the matter was finally grasped and she said, “Well, if I am really free, than I’m going with you.”

Leaders may at times confuse those who observe their decisions and actions.  Lincoln displayed depth of character by 1) his actions being based on principle rather than popularity, 2) his concerns being centered on the needs of others rather than the approval of the majority, and 3) his integrity which caused him to carry through with his noble act even when he was rebuffed by the benefactor.  We can learn a lot by observing this unprogrammed moment of nobility.

By Dr. Gayle Woods

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