Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidential Dharma

Today, President's Day, we take a day off work (or at least many of us do), to honor all presidents, but mainly Washington and Lincoln. As a point of information, Washington's birthday is actually February 22, while Lincoln's is February 12. 

For today's blog, I had the notion of discussing the way Lincoln had overcome so many hardships in his life before he eventually made it to the White House. After all, overcoming obstacles by seeing them as opportunities is an effective and empowering way to live one's life. Like me, perhaps you have seen the long list of tragedies and setbacks that beset Lincoln through out his lifetime In fact, I used to have this list framed on my office wall to remind me to persevere in the face of hardships. 

However, after doing some fact-checking about this list, I have found that some of the setbacks he endured are either completely false, or misleading. This is not to diminish the greatness of Lincoln in any way. Actually, the real story lets us see even more clearly what a brilliant man he was, and how he was destined for great things.

So here is the "revised" list of accomplishments and crises of Abraham Lincoln:
1818 - Abe's mother died when he was only nine years old.
1831 - A business venture with which he was involved as an employee failed and he lost his job.
1832 - He lost a bid for a minor post in the Illinois state legislature. After this, he became interested in becoming a lawyer and began a process of self-education by reading law texts and observing court sessions.
1834 - Won a seat in the Illinois state legislature.
1835 - A woman with whom he has a romantic relationship died, an event which profoundly affected the young Lincoln.
1836 & 1838 - He was re-elected to the state legislature, and received more votes than any other candidate of either party.
1837 - The Illinois Supreme Court licensed him to practice law. He then partnered with one of the most prominent and successful lawyers in Springfield, Illinois.
1843 - Lincoln failed to achieve his party's nomination for the United States Congress (so the claim that he "ran" for Congress and lost are erroneous).
1846 - He won a seat to the U. S. Congress as a representative for Illinois.
1854 - His first try of a U.S. Senate seat fails.
1858 - He again failed to make it to the U.S. Senate. [It is often falsely reported that he "ran and lost" in these two tries for the Senate. In Lincoln's time, however, U.S. Senators were appointed by state legislatures, not by a direct vote of the people. Although Lincoln was considered the favorite candidate to take over Stephen Douglas' Senate seat, Lincoln's party failed to gain control of the state legislature. Therefore, Douglas kept his seat.]
1860 - Lincoln is elected 16th President of the United States.
So while he was not the life long failure that popular legend makes him out to be, Lincoln still had plenty of obstacles to overcome, and he prepared himself well to meet those challenges and turn them into opportunities.

Source: The Glurge of Springfield at


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