Sunday, November 23, 2008

Abraham Lincoln to his son's school teacher

With the 'Teach for India' initiative gaining ground, I thought this piece would be relevant.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America (1861-1865), is one of the world’s greatest leaders of all time. Here is a letter written by him to the headmaster of a school in which his son was studying, a letter so typical of the man who bore malice towards none and had charity for all.

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, but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned, is of far more value than five found. Teach him to learn to loose and also to enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy, if you can. Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early, that the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him if you can, the wonder of books, but also give him quiet time, to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill side.

In school, teach him that it is far more honorable to fail, than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him that they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength to not follow the crowd, when everyone is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men, but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the truth that comes through.

Teach him if you can, how to find laughter when he is sad. Teach him also, that there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidder, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob…and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right.

Teach him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

This is a big order ; but see what you can do… he is such a fine fellow , my son.

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