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Richard Norton Smith

Noted presidential historian delivers Kenan Lecture on Abraham Lincoln

Presidential historian Richard Norton Smith extolled the moral vision and political accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln in his Kenan Lecture presentation in Haggin Auditorium on February 16.

“Abraham Lincoln put principle above popularity and became the greatest communicator and politician ever to inhabit the White House,” Smith said. “He led America through its great passion play, the Civil War. I believe he is the President against whom all others must be measured.”

Smith is a scholar in residence at George Mason University, ABC News presidential historian, and political analyst for PBS. His speech was part of Transylvania’s celebration of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial.

Smith said it was Lincoln’s ability to grow intellectually and morally throughout his lifetime that allowed him to confront the critical moral issue of his time, slavery.

“Lincoln came to understand that it was hypocritical for a nation conceived in liberty to keep millions in slavery.”

Smith said that Lincoln’s wife, Lexington native Mary Todd, played a pivotal role in her husband’s success.

“He and Mary formed a political partnership,” Smith said. “If she were alive today, she could be a candidate herself. She saw his potential and encouraged him to run again after his election defeats.”

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