On June 16, 1858, at the Illinois Republican Convention, Abraham Lincoln was chosen as his party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate to run against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.

In a memorable speech to his Republican colleagues, Lincoln said these thoughtful words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically foolhardy in giving this speech. Indeed, Lincoln lost that election.

Reflecting on it several years later, Herndon said the speech did awaken the people, and despite Lincoln’s defeat, Herndon thought that the speech made him president.

“Through logic inductively seen,” he said, “Lincoln as a statesman, and political philosopher, announced an eternal truth – not only as broad as America, but covers the world.”

If we were to propel Lincoln’s most thoughtful thinking into our present day, his words might be that a world divided against itself may not survive.

A great divide is deepening around the world. We are polarizing ourselves into insular pockets with those who think most like us.

When we talk in our circles only with those of like minds, we are feeding, sustaining and deepening the divide between “us” and “them”: rich versus poor; educated versus illiterate; liberal versus conservative; American versus immigrant.

Whom do you talk with more: those who share your opinions or those with different opinions?

What do you talk about in your conversations: the rightness of the opinions that you share, or the wrongness of opinions that differ from yours?

Divisiveness will not serve us well as a species. When will we ever learn? With the advanced means that we have to divide and to destroy, we hold the capacity to annihilate ourselves.

The future does not make itself. We make it with both our actions and our inactions. For our species to have a viable future, we need to focus on our common ground.

We are all human beings. We all came from a family. We all have our cultural heritage, which, in today’s open world, offers us a richness of diversity.

For a hopeful outlook for mankind, we need to stay attuned to our most common denominator: We all belong to the human species. A universe awaits us.

Let’s keep alive the human race. Each of us can begin by staying open to talking with and listening to people with different points of view.

Seek opportunities to listen to and to exchange points of view with those who think differently than you – not with the goal of convincing them that you have the better or the right point of view, but with the goal of trying to expand and deepen your understanding of others who live on earth with you.

Opportunities for those conversations abound with family, friends and strangers. If you hear someone say something about, say, immigration, presidential candidates or gun control issues that is different from what you think, be the one to speak up and invite an exchange.

For example: “I heard you say that you think we should not have any more immigrants from Syria come into our country.” Or: “I heard you say that we should not have any more mandated gun control laws.” Then: “I have a different point of view than you, but I am interested to hear about how you formed your opinion. Would you be willing to tell me about that?”

Then listen – actively. Ask further questions. And if the other person is open to it, ask if they have an interest in hearing your point of view. Whether their answer is a “yes” or a “no,” thank them for willingly sharing their opinion.

It is critical that we focus on our common ground as human beings and commit ourselves to do a better job of caring for each other worldwide. We need to mature. We all are on planet earth spinning through space.

The future does not make itself. We – individually and collectively – make it, both with our actions and with our inactions.

To guide us, evolution in the types of leaders that we elect are needed. For our common future to prosper, we will need leaders who can build a community that considers all of us of value and seeks to represent the many – a community that is inclusive, not exclusive. We will need leaders who want to listen and to lead us forward with civility and morality.

Someone like Abraham Lincoln for today’s world. Have you seen a man or a woman like Lincoln in the making?

Nancy P. Boucher is a resident of Westbrook.

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