It’s a February 12 Kind of Day: Lincoln, Liberty, Leadership, and a New School

It’s a February 12 Kind of Day: Lincoln, Liberty, Leadership, and a New School February 12, 2018

Do something good today, something positive, that will set captives free. That’s a February 12 kind of day!

Three years ago on February 12, Hope and I got a chance to try something new. It was fitting that this freedom came on Mr. Lincoln’s birthday: a family hero. Our greatest President led us through a rebellion to a “new birth of freedom.” Reynolds’ family memory extends to that time when Abraham Lincoln, greatest for his Emancipation of the slaves, also gave the mountaineers of West Virginia a home free from the Slavocrats. Few family feasts are complete without a chorus of Lincoln and Liberty Too

So when we thought about a new kind of college, one integrated into the life of the church, part of all the education a student had received to that point, Hope and I could draw on Mr. Lincoln and the ideas that inspired him. As the third anniversary of that exciting day comes, Hope and I recall the moment on February 12, 2015, when Father Richard Petranek suggested a greater work in Houston than we had ever imagined and liberty became the theme for the year.

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is a good day to do something new on the Earth!

If you are discouraged, then recall the son of Kentucky (the hero of Hoosierdoom too) and try something new. Lincoln shows leaders can come from anywhere.

If you have little formal education, fear not! Lincoln made up for his disadvantages by hard work. Start learning. God can call you to a great work and you can write some of the greatest prose in American literature and the most concise and accurate exposition of God and His work in history we have. Lincoln went from skeptic to a profound belief in God and the work He has given to each human.

Lincoln was a leader and as we dreamed of a new college and school in Houston, an Orthodox school serving the church and the entire community, Mr Lincoln was a worthy (if imperfect) guide for unworthy and imperfect people! Here are some lessons in leadership from Lincoln if you too are called to do something new:

Lincoln was a reformer, not a revolutionary.

Lincoln looked back to the American “Revolution” and saw goodness, just like Rev Lemuel Haynes. He knew th Union was worth preserving and that the despots of the world hoped for our failure. Abraham Lincoln also knew we were an imperfect union, a house half slave and half free. He knew this could not endure.

Lincoln knew the American Revolution had succeeded where most revolutions fail (see France), because the American revolution was deeply conservative. Minutemen like Haynes were fighting for their rights as English people and not for heaven on earth. Abraham Lincoln made many mistakes as President, some serious moral failings. He got the one big thing of his administration right: save the Union, end slavery.

Lincoln had one goal.

There are many ills to cure, many wrongs to right, and countless evils to oppose. Lincoln dedicated his presidency to one goal: save the Union. He hated slavery, but he knew slavery would not die if he did not save the Union. He had ideas about tariffs and internal improvements, but none of that mattered if he did not save the Union.

Lincoln saved the Union.

Too often leaders are distracted and move from one idea to the next. Even if the ideas are good, they never finish what they start and accomplish less than might have been. Worse is when the “one goal” is unworthy or foolish. In education, this happens when we lose sight of serving students and begin to build a campus or numbers as our central goal.

If we were going to lead like Lincoln, we needed one goal, but a worthy one. In our case, it was college that began in kindergarten!

Lincoln was ready to do great good within his one mission.

Lincoln hated slavery and was ready to give it a direct death wound when he could while saving the Union. Of course, he knew, as the leaders of the rebellion did, that a Union victory would indirectly destroy slavery. The rebels were right: slavery was doomed in a Republican controlled United States. Republicans had not needed the slavers to win and they would govern without them.

Lincoln did not change his goal, but when a compatible (even greater) deed could be done, he did it. He emancipated all the slaves in the states in rebellion. Soon he was advocating for a constitutional amendment that would end slavery in all the United States.

As we dreamed of a new college and school on February 12, Hope and I knew that we had to keep that goal in mind, but that other great goods might come. In our small way, we wanted to do good within our mission.

Let’s lead like Lincoln: finish the main job while doing good as we can.

Lincoln built a “capacious temple.” 

If there is one constant in Lincoln’s life, it was adherence to the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal. In some details, he would forget and fail, but whenever great men like Frederick Douglass would call him back to the ideal, Lincoln changed.

The song that made him President got him right:

We’ll finish the temple of freedom
And make it capacious within
That all who seek shelter may find it
Whatever the hue of their skin.

There is something wrong when Christian education in this great republic is not a capacious temple, but segregated by wealth or color. We were determined to open a temple for Holy Wisdom built in a great God blessed city, Houston. It might be small, but in terms of who could go it would be capacious within. That was our dream and our priest blessed it from the start. Would it be possible? Who knew?

Whatever your task, be like Mr. Lincoln and make a capacious temple of freedom!

Lincoln was willing to fight.

Lincoln wanted peace, but he was not too proud to fight. To save the Union, he called his nation to great sacrifice. Whatever we are called to do will be (thank God) much smaller, less costly, and surely less important than the job God gave Mr. Lincoln, but we can take the same attitude.

Isn’t it time to drive debt out of college education? Shouldn’t all God’s children, not just the rich or honor’s students, have access to the riches of classical, Christian, education? Shouldn’t that curriculum grow to embrace the whole church from the saints of Syria, Ethiopia, France, Britain, America, Japan, China, Russia, and every other nation of the Earth? What if we were governed by teachers and not administrators?

We could fight for those goals. If my great-great-grandfather could leave his horse in the field to go join a great crusade for the Union and liberty, couldn’t I do a much smaller job? Our little school was born in the absolute conviction that we did not need to whine, but to fight!

God help us. I am not sure how we got into something new, but it began with a good word from a priest named Richard on Mr. Lincoln’s birthday.

Is it possible that this could be sung about education too?

Success to the old fashioned doctrine
That men are created all free
And down with the power of the despot
Wherever his stronghold may be.

We decided to try. Maybe you can too in whatever field you find yourself!


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