INTERVIEWS WITH THE FAMOUSLY DEPARTED
Abraham Lincoln Speaks
Welcome back to our series, Interviews with the Famously Departed. Today, we talk to a man who is a twentieth of a score short of ten score years old, hails from Illinois by way of Kentucky, spent a few years in Washington D.C., and officially abolished slavery in the United States.
Born on February 12, 1809 and assassinated on April 15, 1865, we welcome President Abraham Lincoln.
WRR:Mr. President. Glad to have you with us. With all due respect for your great accomplishments, we’d like to speak with you on the conditions in the present. Do you have TV, the Internet? Where you are?
Well, currently I’m in the good company of Marian Anderson and Frank Sinatra, Picasso and Michelangelo, baseball greats Shoeless Joe and Babe Ruth, comedian Lenny Bruce; and Shlomo Abromowitz, the court jester for King David. By the way, are you calling from Iowa ?
WRR: No sir, but that brings me to my first question. What is the best thing that can be said about a political candidate?
I am not a Know-Nothing. (August 24, 1855 – Letter to Joshua Speed. In the 1850s, the American or “Know Nothing Party” was an anti-immigration party.)
WRR: Political Correctness?
The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity. (February 22, 1842 – George Washington’s 110th birthday – Springfield, Illinois Temperance Society)
WRR: What Clinton, Obama, and McCain are saying about the Media.
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations. (March 4, 1864 – Conclusion of Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address)
If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one? (Quoted by Senator John Edwards.)
WRR: Who’s right in Iraq?
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. (April 18, 1864 – Address at Sanitary Fair – Baltimore, Maryland)
WRR: Political speeches?
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words “And this, too, shall pass.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! (September 30, 1859 – Annual address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society.)
WRR: Let’s change gears and talk about a few of today’s issues:
These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel. (January, 1837 – Speech to the Illinois Legislature. This is Lincoln’s first reported speech, found in the Sangamo Journal (28 January 1837) according to McClure’s Magazine (March 1896); also in Lincoln’s Complete Works (1905) ed. by Nicolay and Hay, Vol. 1, p. 24.)
The Lord prefers common looking people. That is why he made so many of them. (Quoted in John Hay, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay, entry for Dec. 23, 1863; ed. Tyler Dennett, 1939.)
Important principles may and must be flexible. (Public Address, April 11, 1865)
Microsoft’s perspective of its Yahoo bid.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. (February 27, 1860 – Address at Cooper Union, New York City)
WRR: You were known as a great writer who wrote his own speeches including the Gettysburg Address. If you don’t mind we’d like to ask you a few questions about story telling:
What about bestsellers, formula books, great novels?
You may fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. (According to Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 3, p. 81 (1953), quote may have been in his Clinton [Illinois] speeches [September 2, 1858]. Not in any surviving documents though. Also attributed to P.T. Barnum.)
He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I ever met. (The quote is un-sourced (though believed to be about a fellow lawyer), but certainly part of Lincoln’s training as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was written on a napkin and was only 272 words.)
Ken Burns’s Civil War Series?
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. (March 9, 1832 – First Political Announcement)
All the books being written about you in honor of your 200th birthday in 2009?
I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot. (February 14, 1861 – Monongahela House)
I have stepped out upon this platform that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement I have the best of the bargain. (February 16, 1861 – Painesville, Ohio)
WRR: And that’s because you still have faith in mankind?
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. (December 1, 1862 – Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress)
The Gettysburg Address
Delivered November 19,1863
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Joe practiced law in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for 14 years and designed large scale databases for AT&T for five years. He currently works for NextLevel Web Strategies, a legal marketing firm based in Princeton, NJ. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, received his J.D. from George Washington Law School and he has a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Drexel University.
Joe’s book, Philadelphia Originals, was released for publication by Schiffer Publishing in 2009. The book shows that the unique styles (how Philadelphians paint, sing, practice law, tell a joke, cook) of Philadelphia’s most notable professions can be traced back to the perfect complement of the spiritual William Penn and the practical Benjamin Franklin.
His second project. Philadelphia Before You Were Born, is a study of the last time Philadelphia newspapers used artists for all their illustrations. It was published in 2011.
Joe’s many other published writings include a humorous look at book clubs for the Bucks County Writer and the literary stages of a baseball season for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also writes the Interviews with the Famously Departed Column for the Wild River Review.
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