Aren’t we not destroying our enemies when we make friends with them?

On May 18th 1860, four Republicans awaited the news that would change their lives forever. William H. Seward, New York Senator and former governor; Salmon P. Chase, Ohio Governor; Edward Bates, former Missouri Attorney General and Abraham Lincoln, former Illnois Representative. The Republicans were to select one of them to contest as the 16th President of the United States of America.

Despite being the least popular among the four of them during that era, Abraham Lincoln became the victor in the Republican nominations. He then proceeded to win the presidential election.

As many have known President Abraham Lincoln, he is widely famous for his death by assassination, the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves and his role in the American Civil War especially the Gettysburg Address which is given in just a few minutes.

But very few have learned that one of his significant decisions as a newly elected President is on his appointment of his members of the Cabinet. Not only did he appoint capable leaders as his teammates to lead the country, he has appointed a group of his fiercest rivals to be in his Cabinet.

Lincoln recruited Seward as the Secretary of State, Chase as the Secretary of Treasury and Bates as the Attorney General. He has also appointed Edwin Stanton from the Democratic Party as the Secretary of War.

Later on, Joseph Medill, editor of the Chicago Tribune asked Lincoln why he had chosen a cabinet composed of enemies and opponents. He particularly questioned the president’s selection of the three men who had been his chief rivals for the Republican nomination, each of whom was still smarting from the loss.

Lincoln’s answer was simple, straightforward, and shrewd. “We need the strongest men of the party in the Cabinet. We needed to hold our own people together. I had looked the party over and concluded that these were the very strongest men. Then I had no right to deprive the country of their services.”

Not only that this remarkable leader has managed to bring all his rivals together, but two of them; William Seward and Edwin Stanton, have grown to become the closest people with Lincoln. So close was Stanton with Lincoln, that he stood by his deathbed, and uttered one of the most memorable quotes, “Now he belongs to the ages” and “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”

The rest was as written in the books of history, Abraham Lincoln became one of the greatest American Presidents that the world has known.

Rivalries can be so destructive that we can hardly ignore them, especially when one’s rivals are so strong. Great leaders instead will take the opportunity to turn their rivals into allies for the better good of any movement, organization or country.

Sadly, we can hardly see such a scenario happening in the leadership of any political movement in Malaysia.

The only time when we see rivals share the same tune is when the country cheers for sports. When we cheer for Dato’ Nicol David in squash championships; when we cheer for the Malaysian badminton team in Thomas Cup competition and when we cheer for Harimau Malaya in the AFF Suzuki Cup Tournament. That is when all Malaysians regardless of race, religion, gender, age or political affiliation shouted and cheered for the same cause.

In our country’s politics, leaders often try to eliminate each other or at least prevent the other from climbing higher in the hierarchy. Potential leaders and ambitious youth who outshines their superiors while scaling the ladder are often “politically-murdered” before they could cling to a strong enough power. The incumbent leaders are usually afraid that their power might be seized by the new ones.

When will we be able to see political rivalries turn into alliances for a better cause for the community and country?

Imagine it if in the General Elections, capable representatives were elected to the Parliament regardless of the political party that they are representing. We would have an effective Government and also Opposition. Decisions and Bills tabled in the Parliament will be debated solely for the betterment of the country, and not because they debate due to them being in the opposing factions. The country would have flourished.

If leaders were pushing for excellence in their respective organizations, they wouldn’t be afraid of others excelling over them. Real leaders would have encouraged others, even those who are better, to work together, to form an ultimate team, even if they are rivals.

Unfortunately, we humans are so afraid of losing our power and positions that we turn defensive when threatened. We tend to think more for ourselves, that we forget when we work together as a great team; we are doing it for ourselves too.

Thinking twice, aren’t we not destroying our enemies when we make friends with them?