Thanks to generous donations from our supporters, we created “Q & Abe” – a podcast that investigates real questions from visitors to the Cottage. This bonus episode accompanies the fourth episode of Season 3, Did Lincoln ever worry he was unqualified to be president?
As you know, sometimes our work answering questions for the show leads us to insights that are outside the main episode that we still want to make space to share with you. Normally, for a bonus episode, we share with you portions of our initial conversation with our guests, but today’s episode is a little different. We checked back in for a new conversation with Jared Peatman and Nancy Belmont just yesterday, after the election. What is the responsibility of the people being led?
In addition to the embedded media player below, you can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts or wherever you get podcasts. You also can read below for a transcript of the episode (transcript coming soon).
Episode 3.4 Bonus Leadership After the Election Transcript
Callie Hawkins: Hi everyone – This is Callie and Joan from Q&Abe, a podcast by President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Joan Cummins: As you know, sometimes our work answering questions for the show leads us to insights that are outside the main episode that we still want to make space to share with you.
CH: This bonus episode accompanies episode 3.4, Did Lincoln ever worry he was unqualified to be president?, so if you have not yet had a chance to listen to that episode, that’d be a good place to start.
JC: Normally, for a bonus episode, we share with you portions of our initial conversation with our guests. Today’s episode, though, is a little different. We checked back in just yesterday for a new conversation with Jared Peatman and Nancy Belmont, after the election, though the results remain uncertain. Having talked with them in the main episode about the responsibilities of leaders, we now wanted to know, what is the responsibility of the people being led?
Jared Peatman: In some ways it feels like a throwback, you know, the, the times when we – it took a long time from the end of the election until we actually knew who had won, and where things were going to go. Sometimes when I talk to people about Abraham Lincoln they’re confused by the fact that he’s not inaugurated until March 4th, and we’re all used to the president being inaugurated in in January now, and it is of course a recog- a recognition that in those days, it often took longer to know who was the president and then it also took longer to, to make that transition from one presidential term to, you know, to the next if, if the transition was going to happen. So, in some ways I think this, sort of moment of uncertainty that we’re in right now is – it feels new to us because we, we haven’t had that as much, other than 2000, in the last generation or two, but that used to sort of be the norm. I guess my feeling, and I think Lincoln echoed this, you know, famously in the blind memorandum – and I’ll come back to that in a moment – is: you gotta trust the process. You gotta let the process play out. I mean, there is a fairly very clearly defined process in place to decide this, the process is not dependent on having the result in a day or two, the process is dependent on having the result over a much longer time period. The Electoral College doesn’t meet until December 14th so, you know, there’s a lot of time to sort of figure this out. But Lincoln is very much a process guy, you know, he’s a lawyer, he’s very much about the rules and regulations, how do things work, what are the mechanics of it? Frankly it’s how he wins the, the presidency, is by working that process. But then also, you know, as we think about 1864, there’s this moment in August of ‘64 when Lincoln thinks he’s going to lose the election, he’s sure that he’s going to lose the election, um, and he writes this famous memorandum that he – in that document he lays out that they may well lose, and if they lose, it is his responsibility to cooperate with the incoming administration – sort of that idea of the, the peaceful turnover of power. Now he also says, if we lose, you know, essentially that we’ve got this four month transition to try to win the war if we can, but at the end of that we’re, we’re turning over the power. So, you know, some folks want to sort of declare things over now, in ways that are good or bad, you know, some folks are giving up, essentially, some folks are just wanting to, to declare victory and move on, and I think, you know, I think the lesson from Lincoln is you’ve got to trust the process and let it, let it play out.
CH: Yeah, and I think the part that I also keep getting tripped up on too is that, you know, there are so many people for whom trusting the process is not, not really an option that they have experience with having worked for them, you know? And I, I am also blown away just by the sheer number of people who voted, which is just incredible. I’m personally so glad you brought up the blind memorandum – I don’t know, Joan, if you remember this, but this is like my very favorite Lincoln thing. I think the, the trust or the, what ever they had in him, like I, I don’t even know if trust is big enough, like it just, it blows me away – so I, I thank you for bringing that up, I, any excuse to like, hear about that, or talk about that is always welcome.
JP: You know and when you talk about trust the process, you know he’s, he’s willing to, to let that go, you know, it’s the middle of a war, he’s not gonna call off the election, he’s not gonna, you know, he’s, he’s hoping things will change – and of course they do a few weeks later with the, the capture of Atlanta, but that’s, that’s sort of a trust-the-process moment for, for Lincoln. I think your, your comment about some folks not feeling like they can trust the process, though, is a really important one, and I think, you know, in the aftermath of these elections, it’s worth looking back at them and saying, you know, what – as you would if you were in an organization or, you know, corporation or government agency – saying, we just got through this big project, what worked and what didn’t? What worked, what didn’t, what might we want to change, you know, next, next time around, you know, what, what things didn’t quite get us the results that, that we wanted to get? So, I don’t know, we’ll see if, if places do that. There of course have been some changes, you know, after 2000 you saw quite a few, you know, quite a few changes, after 9/11 you saw changes to how presidential transitions are handled in the funding for that ahead of time to make sure there’s not a big lapse – so you do see changes to the process, but you know we’ll, we’ll see if more come in the wake of this, this election as well, regardless of whichever way it goes.
Nancy Belmont: [breath] Yeah, I think the first thing, what I just did right now is take a deep breath, [laughs], right? You know, talk about disassociating. I think what happens is many of us step into fear. So fear, when we’re living in fear, it drives restriction, it drives being closed off, it creates disempowerment, it creates victimhood. And so – how can I take agency for myself? And how can I step into a place where I am going to create the energy and the thoughts and the mindset that I want in my mind, and not let the fear take over me, but to say, I am going to create a me that has choice, and agency, and self-efficacy, so that I can move forward, and no matter who the ultimate leader of the country is, I have something that I can do in my little universe that helps me live by my values, and helps me make an impact to be the leader that I want to be. Who do I want to be? What country do I want to live in? Why is it up to one guy to create that for all of us, for millions of people? It doesn’t make any sense, right? Like, we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for. It’s not someone that’s on the ballot somewhere, it’s us, we have the ability to make change far beyond what we ever think is possible. You know, but we have to take action, we have to believe that in ourselves, and we have to not give up. Yeah, if that can be a start of thinking, what do I believe in? What’s the vision for the place where I want to raise my kids? And so, if the guy doesn’t get, or the gal doesn’t get elected, that you want, then it’s up to you, right? We all have so much power that we leave on the table and sometimes, you know, an election can give someone kind of this permission to take power, but we need to give ourselves the permission to step into our power and live into that fully, and I think most of us don’t give ourselves permission to do that. You can be so filled with anxiety when you wonder, well what is he or she gonna lead me into now? As opposed to, what do I have control over, what can I do? And so I think, you know, for people who are feeling that anxiousness and waiting for what’s next, you don’t need to look outside, you need to look inside and ask what does my heart tell me, what does my intuition tell me? And then do it. As long as you’re following your own values, and your own true north, I think we can’t go wrong.
CH: We hope that you and yours are well and safe, and that you continue to find ways to be civically engaged.
JC: Thanks for listening and for coming along for the ride with us on Season 3, and we’ll talk with you again soon. This episode was produced by me, Joan Cummins, and Callie Hawkins, with backup from the President Lincoln’s Cottage team. Music for Q&Abe was written, performed, and is copyrighted by Clancy Newman.
CH: Q&Abe is possible thanks to generous supporters of President Lincoln’s Cottage, including the National Endowment for the Humanities. To find out how you can support this podcast and other programming, visit us at lincolncottage.org. You can also write to us at [email protected].
JC: President Lincoln’s Cottage is a home for brave ideas. Stay curious!