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Redwood's CEO Compares His Life to Lincoln's After 67 Years of Operation

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, and John Francis, CEO of Redwood - Northern Kentucky’s non-profit special needs facility - have so much in common, yet they never met.

Lincoln celebrates his 211th birthday on the 12th of this month – Francis trails by a good 150-plus years.

But what they have in common is television - or lack of it.

Lincoln didn’t have television since the first electronic set wasn’t invented until 1927, Francis lacks a set by choice.

“My wife and I enjoy talking, spending time together and doing other things like reading, walking and listening to CDs and the radio – I really enjoyed Marty (Brennaman) and The Cowboy (Jeff Brantley) do Reds games,” Francis said. “We haven’t had a TV for at least 10 years – I wish we got rid of it sooner.”

It was more than a lack of watching TV that piqued Francis’ interest in the former president. 

“I worked The Children’s Home in Peoria, Ill.,” he said. “And we went to meetings in Springfield.”

That’s where Francis noticed Carl Sandburg’s six-volume set of books on Lincoln – The Prairie Years and The War Years.

“I was hooked,” he said, “I broke down and bought the entire set. Sandburg did incredible research on Lincoln.”

Francis attributes his leadership style at Redwood to those books.  

“I’ve tried to learn his strategies – I listen, I ask, I get outside and I walk around the facility,” he said. “I try to influence people through storytelling. That’s a page out of Lincoln.”

Redwood celebrates its 67th anniversary in 2020 – Lincoln will be 211 this year.

Francis said that he, like Redwood, is still growing.

“Becoming a leader like Lincoln is a life-long process,” he said.

And the story isn’t shared on his TV set.

-Staff report

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