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Civil War Saturday: Tom Wheeler: Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails

Tom Wheeler has been CEO of multiple high-tech companies, as well as CEO of the National Cable Television Association and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. Presently, he is a managing director with Core Capital Partners and a member of the boards of directors of numerous technology companies. He is the author of Take Command!: Leadership Lessons from the Civil War, named one of the Top Ten Historical Leadership Books, and his op-ed commentaries on the historical analogues to current events have been published in the Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and other leading publications. Wheeler was appointed a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by both President Clinton and President Bush. He is chairman and president of the Foundation for the National Archives, the nonprofit organization dedicated to telling the American story through its documents, and a director of the Public Broadcasting Service.

About Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails
The Civil War was the first "modern war." Because of the rapid changes in American society, Abraham Lincoln became president of a divided United States during a period of technological and social revolution. Among the many modern marvels that gave the North an advantage was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field in almost real time.

No leader in history had ever possessed such a powerful tool to gain control over a fractious situation. An eager student of technology, Lincoln (the only president to hold a patent) had to learn to use the power of electronic messages. Without precedent to guide him, Lincoln began by reading the telegraph traffic among his generals. Then he used the telegraph to supplement his preferred form of communication-meetings and letters. He did not replace those face-to-face interactions. Through this experience, Lincoln crafted the best way to guide, reprimand, praise, reward, and encourage his commanders in the field.

Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails tells a big story within a small compass. By paying close attention to Lincoln 's "lightning messages," we see a great leader adapt to a new medium. No reader of this work of history will be able to miss the contemporary parallels. Watching Lincoln carefully word his messages-and follow up on those words with the right actions-offers a striking example for those who spend their days tapping out notes on computers and BlackBerrys.