By Will KingFebruary 19, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, spoke about "Leadership in a Time of Crisis" at the 11th Annual Lincoln Lecture Feb. 12 at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan.
Caldwell highlighted several parallels between Lincoln's time and today, including war, difficult reconstruction efforts, a precarious wartime economy, a presidential election during war and divisive partisan politics.
"He presided as the president of our nation at probably the most difficult time in our history, and in doing so, through his perseverance and determination, saved our nation as we know it today," Caldwell said.
"I marvel at Lincoln's ability to remain calm at times of crisis," he said.
Caldwell said Lincoln's leadership during times of crisis serves as a continuing example for leaders facing equally challenging times today.
"Three simple things come to mind that we must do: We must demonstrate discipline, we must denounce division and we must deepen our devotion," he said.
Caldwell's speech was formed around those three points, and he offered examples about each point from Lincoln's time and from today.
"Lincoln's ability to denounce division and reconcile differences to the betterment of the nation proved to be equally timeless today," he said.
As an example, Caldwell said several of Lincoln's top advisers and cabinet members had previously been his chief rivals for the presidency, similarly as can be seen today in President Barack Obama's cabinet.
Caldwell also drew parallels between post-Civil War Reconstruction efforts and a similar process the U.S. and allies are undertaking now in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying in both instances progress and reconciliation was slow.
Throughout difficult wartime conditions, Caldwell said Lincoln was deeply devoted to the Soldiers entrusted to his care.
"President Lincoln never forgot the price paid by individual families for the difficult executive decisions he asked them to execute," he said.
Caldwell gave special mention to USM's Army ROTC program, noting that four of 11 officers commissioned since Sept. 11, 2001, have served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, with another two officers on orders to deploy soon. He also recognized the service of all veterans in attendance at the lecture.
Caldwell concluded his speech with a challenge for parents, teachers and leaders to inspire younger generations to be more like Lincoln.
"The qualities and traits Lincoln exhibited, and those he looked for in his own leaders, are the same ones needed to lead America today and tomorrow. Just as Lincoln did two centuries ago, it is up to each and every one of us to educate, train, mentor and inspire them to greatness," Caldwell said.
"With hope, vision and a lot of hard work, dreams can still be realized," he said.
Sister Diane Steele, USM president, said Caldwell was chosen to speak at the event last September by the university's Lincoln Lecture Committee.
"It's an honor to have the general with us tonight. I think his remarks about Lincoln speaking on discipline and putting something greater than yourself above it, definitely relates to us here at Saint Mary," she said.
Steele said service is part of being a good person and something USM seeks to instill in its students.
"The whole idea of discipline and being able to set differences aside is absolutely what our world needs right now. So, I think he's (Caldwell) got a message for us that speaks to all of us," Steele said.
Caldwell's speech was the centerpiece of the evening, but there were other Lincoln-themed events at the lecture as well.
Before Caldwell spoke, the USM Concert Chorale sang "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic," both popular songs from Lincoln's time.
Winners from several categories of the Honest Abe Lincoln Drawing Contest were announced at the lecture. Bradley Elementary School fifth-grade student Sara Hutchens won for best use of color, and received a coin from Caldwell in addition to her award. The drawing contest included several Leavenworth and Lansing-area elementary schools, and Hutchens was the only winner from Fort Leavenworth.
All of the drawing contest entries and several pieces of Lincoln memorabilia were on display at a reception after the lecture.
USM has a 10,000-piece collection of Lincoln memorabilia donated by Bernard Hall. The collection includes an original copy of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln, currently on loan to Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., for "The Tsar and the President" exhibit. In Kansas City until April 19, the traveling exhibit examines the lives of Lincoln and Tsar Alexander II through their personal memorabilia.
The USM Lincoln Lecture series began in 1999, and this year's event took place on the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. The lecture was co-sponsored by USM De Paul Library Lincoln Collection and the Lawrence D. Starr Global Studies Institute, with additional support from MidAmerican Bank & Trust Company.
The full text of Caldwell's speech is available on the CAC Web site at http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/selectedspeeches.asp.