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Feature: Remembering Bill Lincoln at FEI
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By Colin Gwin, LDS 423

Negotiating a peaceful transfer of power between the Sandinistas and the National Opposition Union in Nicaragua in early 1990 was not a sit-down job. Government records had been systematically destroyed, bribes payed, and laws broken. But change was in the air, and if two sides were at the table—no matter how acrimonious the relations—then both of them had something in common. 

Negotiating a pause in the 1964 Rochester race riots, to allow firefighters in to try to save the neighborhoods, wasn’t really a sit-down job either. From Afghanistan to Wounded Knee, Bill Lincoln often found himself an interesting footnote to some of the world’s most significant conflicts, and he probably liked it that way: His first lesson to potential mediators was, “Don’t make it about you.”

Yet that is where Bill found himself—the center of attention, sitting comfortably in front of a class at FEI in 2016, working through his Strategic Negotiation lesson plan and offering tales of the negotiations that almost went bad—tales that made more than a few students look around in disbelief. 

I was enthralled, just like every other government leader in the room. Bill exuded a patience and charisma that immediately commanded an audience and drew you in to the narrative. He would remind everyone that “If you’re at the table together, then there is some common ground.” 

At FEI we all wanted to be there with Bill, ready to go where he intended to take us, and I imagine that was a common feeling in the far-flung places and familiar cities where Bill left his mark. He will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him and had the pleasure to learn from him—no matter what side of the table they were on.

Bill passed away on March 21, 2020, due to complications from leukemia. 

To learn more about Bill, you can read his bio at the Lincoln Institute, which he founded, or read his obituary from The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, which he won in 2006.

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