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In his sermon "Loving Your Enemies," Martin Luther King, Jr., said:

When Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking about Lincoln. He said a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, "You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the president of the United States." …

Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.… Then came the time for him to choose a secretary of war. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. And when Abraham Lincoln stood around his advisors and mentioned this fact, they said to him: "Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Do you know what he as done, tried to do to you? Do you know that he has tried to defeat you on every hand? Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?"

Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said: "Oh yeah. I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job."

Mr. Stanton did become secretary of war; and…later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And if you go to Washington, you will discover that one of the greatest words or statements ever made about Abraham Lincoln was by this man Stanton. As Abraham Lincoln came to the end of his life, Stanton stood up and said: "Now he belongs to the ages." And he made a beautiful statement concerning the character and the stature of this man.

If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would not have transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.

[Martin Luther King, Jr., on Lincoln, Citation: Martin Luther King, Jr., A Knock at Midnight, edited by Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran (Warner Books, 1998) p.154]

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