- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

By preserving the Union and ending slavery, Abraham Lincoln earned accolades as perhaps America's greatest president. Yet that only partially acknowledges Lincoln's democratic contributions. His profound worldwide influence on democracy continues unabated as the 2009 bicentennial of his birth approaches.
One gauge of his relevance is that more books have been written about him than about any other democratic political leader in world history.
Lincoln's example for the world ranks with the American founders' creative approach to governance by federalism. He confirmed his commitment to democratic leadership, for example, by insisting that the 1864 presidential election be held in the midst of a bloody civil war, despite his certainty that he would lose. A forgiving Reconstruction policy removed any doubt of his democratic commitment.
The echoes of Lincoln's leadership are stronger in Latin America than in other foreign regions. Recognition of his stature preceded his assassination and thrives there today. Argentina's writer-president Domingo F. Sarmiento (1811-1888) idolized America's 16th president and wrote the first Spanish biography of Lincoln. Argentines named a new city in Lincoln's memory soon after the assassination.
In the 1950s, composer Aaron Copland visited Caracas, Venezuela, to conduct his "Lincoln Portrait" before a crowd of 6,000 in an outdoor stadium. As a Venezuelan actress recited the famous Lincoln line defining self-government, the first public demonstration against that country's contemporary dictator erupted in the audience. He fled the stadium and was soon deposed.
In Mexico City and Juarez, outdoor statues memorialize Lincoln. The one in Juarez is especially appropriate because the city is named for Benito Juarez (1806-1872), "the Abraham Lincoln of Mexico."
A neighborhood in El Salvador's capital bears Lincoln's name. Honduras has the only postage stamp bearing the images of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, although many countries have issued stamps with Lincoln's likeness. Nicaragua and Honduras have issued more Lincoln stamps than any country except the United States.
In Central America, Lincoln enthusiasts come from both the right and the left. Jose Marti (1853-1895), the great Cuban poet and hero of the independence movement against Spain, was among Lincoln's great admirers. Cuba issued Lincoln stamps both before Fidel Castro and under his regime. Coincidentally, in Elian's Cuban village, his best friend was named Lincoln Anthony, an example of prevalent contemporary usage of Lincoln's name among our neighbors to the south. Ecuador's capital, Quito, boasts an Abraham Lincoln Library, and in 1998, Joyce de Ginatta used images of Lincoln in a media campaign seeking to replace the sucre with the U.S. dollar.
European aristocracies were not simpatico with America's great experiment in democracy, but 19th-century Western and Eastern Europe embraced Lincoln's ideas and leadership.
A Lincoln statue in England's Westminster Square and streets named for him in France and Belgium suggest his European prominence. Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) admired Lincoln so much that he volunteered to lead an army against the South. While writing from London about the Civil War for American and Austrian newspapers, Karl Marx came to understand Lincoln's role in ending slavery.
From the late 1940s and 1950s, Lincoln's words were imprinted on West German stamps. A replica of the famous log cabin where Lincoln was born was constructed in Denmark. To Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Lincoln was a Christlike figure. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) had a lifelong fascination with photographs of Lincoln.
Tomas Masaryk (1850-1937), founding president of Czechoslovakia, admired Lincoln. Vaclav Havel, founding president of the Czech Republic, not only admired Lincoln, but emulated him by trying to keep Czechoslovakia together after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, though eventually Slovakia peacefully seceded.
Louis Kossuth (1802-1894), the Hungarian patriot president, also admired Lincoln, as did young rebels during the Hungarian uprising nearly a century later. In 1956, the last words broadcast from Free Hungarian Radio were from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Even before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Poland's Solidarity movement expressed interest in Lincoln's thoughts about democracy.
Lincoln's political ideas transcend cultural barriers that divide the East and West. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), founding president and father of modern China, adapted Lincoln's "Gettysburg" definition of self-government to Chinese culture. Lincoln Island off Taiwan and his image on a postage stamp he is the only non-Chinese so honored are tributes to America's greatest president. Chinese students at Tiananmen Square waved banners with Lincoln quotes. The communist country's current president, Jiang Zemin, first learned about Lincoln as a student and can recite the Gettysburg Address.
The world's largest parliamentary democracy was founded by Indian leaders who were knowledgeable about Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) considered him "the greatest and the noblest" man of the 19th century. Imprisoned by the British, Jawaharlal Nehru, India's founding prime minister, wrote that Lincoln was "among the world's great men." A replica of a sculpture of Lincoln's hands from Nehru's office desk and a painting of Lincoln from his office are displayed at the Nehru Memorial Museum in New Delhi. Hindu India and Muslim Indonesia agree on Lincoln: Both have issued Lincoln postage stamps.
Recent American presidents have sought to invoke Lincoln's democratic legacy by taking Israeli leaders to Gettysburg. King Hussan II (1929-2000) of Morocco requested a visit there. The Ben Gurion House in Tel Aviv displays a bronze sculpture of Lincoln, and a street in Jerusalem is named for him.
Both the socialist and traditionalist factions in Yemen featured Lincoln on their postage stamps during their civil war. Iranian poet Basij Khalkhali in 1970 published a work that included "The Epic of the Woodcutter," a tribute to Lincoln's humble and peaceful nature.
Modern sub-Saharan Africa owes its modern borders to European colonialism but its democratic inspiration to Lincoln.
At least in philatelic terms, it almost equals Latin America in the number of stamps featuring the Great Emancipator issued since the 1950s. Ghana exemplifies the interplay between Lincolnian ideals and Africa's emerging independent states. It probably is no coincidence that Ghana has repeatedly featured Lincoln on its stamps, for Ghana's founding president, Kwame Nkrumah, attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
At a time when political correctness seems to eclipse basic democratic values in the United States, a cursory survey of Lincoln's legacy suggests that he remains a touchstone for democratic leadership.

William D. Pederson is chairman of the American Studies Department at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.

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