Ever since I watched the Abraham Lincoln Biopic ‘Lincoln’ a few months ago I have been enamoured with the man that was the sixteenth president of the United States. Whilst I am still to read his autobiography I have made it my business since to read up as much as I can on the man from what is available online. His greatest legacy is that under his presidency the United States abolished slavery. Abraham Lincoln was a man of great conviction, a humanitarian, forward thinker, revolutionary, a political genius and a great leader.
The biopic itself covers the American civil war in which Lincoln a Republican was fighting the Southern states over his proposition to emancipate African slaves in the United States. Lincoln despite fierce resistance from within his own party as well as the South managed to convince the House of Representatives to vote to abolish slavery. One of the ways he was able to achieve this was through the many letters he wrote to Generals and Senators. Lincoln was a letter writer of note and some of his letters where the highlight of the biopic for me. As such in my reading up on Lincoln’s legacy I have been partial to the letters he wrote in his life time.
One of my favourite letters is one he once wrote a letter to his son’s teacher. Although this letter was written over a hundred years ago, it is not imprisoned by the past. It reads as if it was written just yesterday. The letter reads as follow:
“He will have to learn,I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero: that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader.
Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. It will take time, I know – a long time, but teach, if you can, that a dollar earned is of more value than five of found.
Teach him, to learn to lose. And also to enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy, if you can; teach in the secret of quiet laughter.
Teach him, if you can the wonder of books. But also, given quiet time, wonder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on the green hillside.
In a school, teach him, it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.
Teach him to have faith in his own idea, even if anyone else tells him they are wrong.
Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with tough.
Teach him to listen to all men. But teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good one that comes through.
Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tear.
Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidder but never to put a prize tag on his heart and soul.
Teach him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes the fine steel.
Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have some sublime faith in mankind.
These are big orders, but see what you can do. He is such a fine fellow, my son…”