There’s a great scene in Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. It’s immediately after the Confederate army has surrendered and crowds have gathered outside the White House waiting for Lincoln to speak.
“The crowd is crazy to touch President Lincoln, to see him, to hear his voice. They continue calling out to him, the chant getting louder until the sound is deafening… He hears the hurrahs, along with again the single loud cry in unison of “Speech.”
…Lincoln, at heart, is a showman… He has waited so long for this moment, and yet he must hold back. These words cannot be delivered impulsively. Nor can he hope to be bathed in applause after they are spoken.
…The people need to hear the truth, even though that’s not what they want to hear… Lincoln would like to indulge them. But sentiments are half-formed and the words not yet written.” (pp. 89-90)
In our time of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle, how many leaders would show such restraint? How many would resist the urge to bask in victory, if only for a moment, in favour of telling hard truths?