Guest Post :: What Would Lincoln Say?

Guest Bloggers: Melissa McCreery, VP of Development at Kilns College

My husband and I—along with a multitude of other people across the country—went to see Lincoln on it’s opening weekend. The movie brought in $21 million that weekend—quite a sizable income considering it was up against Twilight’s Breaking Dawn and Skyfall, the latest James Bond film.

I don’t know if viewers were drawn to the historic figure, portrayed by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, because the country is coming off a messy presidential election, because Abraham Lincoln has always been something of an American icon, or simply because the winter weather is beginning to settle in and people are flocking to the theaters.

If I asked the one thing Abraham Lincoln is best known for, I’d probably receive a range of responses. The Gettysburg address, the 13th amendment, the leader who held the union together at all costs, a strategic politician. Whether you think he was the greatest leader this country has ever seen, or simply another politician, it’s hard to argue against the fact that he possessed tremendous character and resolve when the country needed it most.

I wonder if he were alive today, what Abraham Lincoln would say about the overall lack of honesty and integrity that seems to be plaguing an increasingly large numbers of high school and college students.

One of our students at Kilns College recently sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal— “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” by HollyFinn, which addresses the rise in cheating among students today. The 5-second summary goes something like this: 125 Harvard students cheat on an exam and plead it as necessary for their academic success.

To be clear, this isn’t just an epidemic at Harvard, nor specific to the United States. No, I’m sad to say if you open almost any college newspaper today you’re bound to see an article about some cheating scandal or other. Additionally, according to Finn’s article, a 2010 study found a high rate of cheating on college admission applications in China and the UK.

Have the schools failed us? The churches? Have parents neglected their duty to raise morally responsible children? Has society failed to produce a present-day role model who lives with integrity? In all honesty, we probably have all played a role in our moral decline, which means we all have a responsibility to help restore integrity into the world.

One of Lincoln’s less well-known speeches, given during a law lecture states,

“Let no young man choosing the law for a calling, for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.”

Don’t put your career aspirations before your commitment to live an honest life. Live with integrity and the rest will fall into place.

Don’t aspire to succeed academically at all cost—as the Harvard students did. Aspire to succeed to become a better person in the process. Aspire to find success in helping the less fortunate. In using your career to bring about positive change.

I like to think people were drawn to Lincoln (the movie and the man) because of the leader he was and what he represents in American history.  Maybe today,we’re all just grasping for a role model to inspire us.

Melissa’s Bio: Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College.

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