Friday, January 1, 2010

Where Have All the Statesmen Gone?

What do you do if you're a well-to-do attorney from Illinois who wants to cultivate a homespun, down-to-earth image? I suppose these days you hire a team of consultants, but back in 1857 Abraham Lincoln decided to go with a portrait of him with tousled hair.

Lincoln himself said that unless he gave his hair a "bad tousle", he doubted folks would recognize him. And historian Harold Holzer said the new Republican party used the 1857 portrait to promote Lincoln because it, "seemed especially suitable for illustrating the Log Cabin to White House image his supporteres were cleverly crafting in the candidate's behalf."

I love this story because it demonstrates that before Lincoln could be a statesman, he had to be a politician. The same holds true for every one of our presidents. I wonder if sometimes we don't hold our modern politicians to a lower standard than necessary. History tells us its not only possible to be both statesman and politician, it's inevitable. So where the hell are our statesmen these days?