The bearded one is known as The Great Communicator, but his methods might seem primitive compared to a 21st-century president: few speeches, avoiding the public rostrum, only speaking with a prepared text, even answering a critic in a newspaper. But in an essay collected in Lincoln: A President for the Ages, Lincoln scholar Douglas L. Wilson says the 16th president wrote speeches himself, took public opinion seriously, and had an unwillingness to demonize his adversaries—all admiring ways that can actually teach modern politicians a lot.
Douglas L. Wilson is George A. Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and codirector of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. His work on Abraham Lincoln has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, American Heritage, Time, The American Scholar, as well as other magazines and scholarly journals, and has resulted in six books. Lincoln Before Washington: New Perspectives on Lincoln’s Illinois Years (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1997) is a collection of essays on Lincoln’s prepresidential years. Herndon’s Informants: Letters and Interviews about Abraham Lincoln (1998), Herndon’s Lincoln (2006), and The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (2008), were all coedited with Rodney O. Davis and published by the University of Illinois Press. Wilson’s book on Lincoln’s early life, Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Knopf, 1998), and Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words (New York: Knopf, 2007), a study of Lincoln’s presidential writings, were both awarded the Lincoln Prize.