Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Lincoln's Birthday

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, it's only fitting that we pay homage to one of the greatest achievers of all time. .

Abraham Lincoln’s greatness is indeed humbling, but he provides a lifetime of lessons for anyone striving to improve, anyone confronting serious challenges, anyone who is serious about becoming a better human being.

It is within this spirit, as we continue to confront this financial crisis, that it's appropriate to honor Lincoln by reflecting on some of his comments delivered in a time that makes our challenges pale in comparison. First I will share some quotes and conclude with a favorite short personal speech.

"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."

"It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues."

"In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years."

"Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them."

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much higher recognition."

"No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar."

"I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded in this connection of a story of an old Dutch farmer who remarked to a companion once it was not best to swap horses while crossing streams."

"There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All these are links in the endless chain stretching from finite to infinite."
"Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today."

"Property is the fruit of labor…property is desirable…is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built."

"If I were to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business."

"I do the very best I know how -- the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end."

"Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition."

"He who has the right to criticize, has a heart to help."

"Everybody likes a compliment."

Amongst treasure chest of timeless speeches, one that doesn’t get as much attention had always struck as a glimpse into the soul of this magnificent man. It was delivered at the back of a train, in what appeared to be a spontaneous manner, as Lincoln was leaving his hometown, Springfield, Illinois, for the White House. It’s known as his Farewell Address:

"My friends – No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I many return, with a task before me greater that that which rested on Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot success. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

Abraham Lincoln never returned to Springfield.

Lincoln would recoil at the thought of the increasing levels of adulation he receives, and it seems to grow year by year. Rather than be hero-worshiped, Lincoln’s life should be examined and used as a template, a model, for winning in tough times. If Father Abe was alive and coaching you, he’d likely tell you a story, share a humorous but poignant anecdote, and tell you take advantage of the opportunities of today.

Happy Birthday Uncle Abe.

(the text of this is copied from a mass e-mail by Russ)

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