It would probably embarrass him to be known as such, but the fact is that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, has become an archetype of the role. That is to say, Lincoln is the President against whom the succeeding Presidents have been compared. It doesn’t matter which political party the President claims, Lincoln is seen as one who goes beyond partisan politics and is available for such comparison by both primary parties.
Currently there is a huge affection for the person of Abraham Lincoln. It will be interesting to see what that looks like next month when we observe his birthday on February 12. There is a stated President’s Day which comes a week or so later, but I suspect that this year there will be somewhat of a flurry around the 12th. The movie, Lincoln, a Steven Spielberg masterpiece, has affected the thinking of anyone who pays attention to history or to political theory. There are some detractors who believe the movie takes liberty with the persona, but for the most part, the nation is enthralled with the film and finds itself in a new love-fest with a President who thought “outside the box” and was willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve a major feat: the recognition of the sin of slavery. It is a belief that evolved in Lincoln, not realizing full development until he was actually serving as President. But once he recognized it and embraced it he was tenacious, often jarring those around him who supported him. There was nothing, not even the end of the Civil War, which could deter him from seeing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution come into fruition.
Carl Jung, the psychologist, adopted the term archetype to describe aspects of our behavior which reflect inborn patterns which dwell deep in our psyche.
“…Jung used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters—archetypes—reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions.” *
This is, of course, a different way of describing archetype, but it demonstrates the same point. There is a model (in this case psychological) which exists against which we tend to define ourselves or others.
The more common use of the term is to relate to actual people, such as Lincoln. Their behavior, their choices, their method of relating to people, their humor or lack of humor, and other personality characteristics stand out and are enviable. Lincoln was not a “pretty” man; to the contrary, he was quite ordinary or even unattractive in his appearance. So it is not a physical factor which endears him to us. It is who he was that is remarkable.
Photo Credit: Abraham Lincoln, is shown in a Nov. 8, 1863 file photo.Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2010/08/joel-fox-writes-novel-about-li.html#storylink=cpy