Leadership, Love and Lincoln

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
Historical Images from the Library of Congress Digital Collection

“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves.  Love, therefore, is its
own reward.”
Thomas Merton

On this Valentine’s Day, Kitch and I would like to share a few of the things we learned about love from our 16th president, AbrahamIMG_9232_250 Lincoln, during our Face of America journey.

Ten months ago, we were recording scenes for our documentary Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg. During the presentation of the living historian who was interpreting Abraham Lincoln for the students from North Plainfield High School, I asked this question:

Help these students understand the importance of these two words compassion and tolerance?

He answered with words I did not expect to hear:


It’s hard for me, because when you are talking about ‘oh tell us about your leadership style…’

A lot of it you just do because you think it is the right thing to do and it comes from …love. Love of my fellow man.

I was a politician because I loved people.  I loved being a politician because you can help people. I think if you come from a position of love of your fellow man, I don’t think you can go wrong.

I think that out of love comes all of the actions. It’s the fountainhead. That’s what I try to do…and to me that’s all it takes, love and effort.

Granted this was an actor playing Lincoln, but in so many ways his words ring true.

When I think about the greatness of Abraham Lincoln, I think about a leader who personified:

Courtesy not acrimony;

Understanding not hostility;

Thoughtfulness not theatrics;

Kindness not callousness;

Giving not taking;

Magnanimity not meanness;

Love not enmity.

So what does this have to do with our national day of love?

In my opinion, a great deal.

In all things great and small, Lincoln gives us a blueprint of what America is on its best day.  He reminds us of what we can be at our very best, and it’s all about love of country, love of our neighbors, compassion for those who are hurting, and tolerance for those who are different.

You may not find specific quotations from Lincoln about love, but you can find many examples of his kind and gentle heart reaching out to help others in need, and his steadfast determination to preserve the union and promote equal opportunity for everyone.

Of all the lines he authored, this is his most inspirational thought for me:

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.”

And what animates that light?


Happy Valentine’s Day.

Please provide feedback to: