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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. What does the following quotation mean to you in the present context?

    “Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” - Abraham Lincoln

    10 Feb, 2022 GS Paper 4 Theoretical Questions


    • Begin by defining the meaning of the given statements in your words.
    • Justify the statement with examples from different fields.
    • In conclusion, try to link this statement with governance and policy implementation


    According to Lincoln adversity was not a true barometer for judging a man’s character. According to him, a person’s inner character is more likely to be revealed through their use of power than through their response to adversity.

    As adversity offers fewer options. When faced with adversity, the most pressing need is survival. On the other hand, those who have power have choices and control over situations. Along with the various choices comes the freedom to choose amongst them. People in positions of authority can make decisions that people without authority cannot make and with the freedom to choose comes the freedom to choose rightly or wrongly. Such power reveals the character of the person with power. This is why people in history with power have made such a profound impact on the world. For example, under colonialism, third world nations put up resistance against the colonial powers. However, once they became independent their leaders soon turned to dictatorship themselves. The only exception being India, which even today exudes the same fervor and principles that it fought before its independence.

    People with power often use it for evil or self-serving purposes. They use their power to advance their own agenda and fulfill their own selfish ends. They disregard the implied trust that comes with their power. So they wield it in ways that bring harm to others rather than good. Again, it’s their power that reveals their true character. In ways that adversity never does. Without the power to choose, our character remains hidden. With the power to choose, our character is revealed.

    In the present society, this argument holds great lessons for those who are responsible to the people. People are entrusted with authority and power so that they can work for the needy. Thus it can be truly established that power can both make one Muammar Gaddafi or Nelson Mandela, depending upon one’s character

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