March 8-21, 2002
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At the Virginia Festival of the Book
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Lincoln personified ethics in politics
Budget Q&A -- second in a series

Lincoln’s Virtues Lincoln personified ethics in politics

Abraham Lincoln, commonly referred to as “Honest Abe” — both now and within his own time — is widely considered one of the most honorable, ethical persons ever to have led this country. We are so used to thinking of Lincoln this way that one must stop for a moment to realize how this contrasts with current sentiment, that today’s politicians are anything but ethical.

Where and how does one develop such virtues, such values?

William Lee Miller, a retired U.Va. professor of political and social thought who is now Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, considers this question in his recently published book, Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography. He will talk about Lincoln March 20 at 4 p.m. at the Miller Center, as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Miller will also participate in a book festival panel discussion on writing about the lives of great individuals March 23 at 10 a.m. in the University Bookstore.
Lincoln was raised in one-room houses with dirt floors, received maybe a year of formal schooling and never joined a church. He didn’t have a close relationship with his father, and his natural mother died when he was 9. “This is a man with virtually no mentors,” Miller says, yet he became well-educated and a “moral exemplar.”
“I have called this book an ethical biography,” writes Miller. “An ethical biography presupposes the freedom of the subject, within some limits, to choose different courses of action.”

Excerpted from a review by Rachael Kelly.


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