I’ve always been amazed by Abraham Lincoln. He literally came from nowhere, and saved the country at its darkest hour. He righted the worst wrong, while giving us bits of wisdom and insight that will ring true forever.
I have a Lincoln desk calendar in the office where I work, but since I can go weeks at a time without going into the office, I look forward to my return in an odd way. I spend the first few minutes tearing off the days, one by one, until I’m caught up to the most current date. It’s like a concentrated dose of lincoln, which never fails to give me new ideas to consider.
The calendar entry for Monday, November 7 is a case in point. I held onto it for future reference, and it repeats Lincoln’s advice to one one Isham Reavis in an 1855 letter. This would have been before Lincoln reentered politics in 1856, by joining the nascent Republican party. He was still a private citizen when he advised his friend to “always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” He was right, of course. Lincoln realized that, in order to succeed, you must first be determined that you will succeed. A century and a half after Lincoln penned these words, they’re still just as true today.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. The text is astonishingly brief–just 272 words in all. According to my word counter, I’m nearly at 272 words for this post already. And I’m going to keep going on, long past Lincoln’s brevity in summing up the entire Civil War. As Garry Wills said in Lincoln at Gettysburg, “The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration.”
Lincoln casts a long shadow in here Chicago. The bed that he died on in Washington DC is in the Chicago History Museum. An original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation was here, until the city burned to the ground in 1871. And he may or may not have lived out his post-presidential life here, if Booth had not intervened. But Chicago is the home of several Lincoln statues, including Standing Lincoln, which was created by renown sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. A century and more has gone by since it was unveiled in 1887, it’s still the standard for other Lincoln sculptures to measure up to.
The sculpture shows Lincoln clutching his lapel, in order to gather up his thoughts. Perhaps it was meant to show him delivering an address to Congress, or perhaps it was just saying a few words to a friend or advisor. Whatever it was, the logic and the eloquence and the humanity that seem to characterize the things that he said were sure to follow.
There are other reminders of Lincoln nearby, and I’ve already discussed one of them here. Others will follow, no doubt, since I take my inspiration wherever I can find it, and Lincoln is one source that I can’t imagine will ever run out.