Lincoln's farewell to friends
It will come as no surprise to anyone knowing me that Presidents Day for me is “Lincoln’s Day,” with all due respect to other great leaders who held that office.
I’ve been a student of Abraham Lincoln for a number of years. I’ve come to love the old guy – “Father Abraham,” as he was called by the public. The more I read about him, the more I like him, warts and all. He was not a perfect man, but surely was the best man our country could have had in the Civil War era. He saved our country, making it the nation that grew into the wonder it is today in the world. And he gave his life in doing it.
It’s still a mystery how a backwoods boy with nearly no formal education rose up to become president when he was needed the most – while establishing with his words his position as one of America’s greatest speakers and writers.
I love his words and love saying them when I perform as Lincoln in my play “An Evening with Abraham Lincoln.” One of my favorite readings is not often printed – unlike his classic Gettysburg Address.
His words that follow are those he used, speaking from the back platform of the train taking him from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington in February 1861 to become our 16th president, to say goodbye to his friends of many years to face the greatest challenge ever faced by a new president.
The words are from his heart to those in his heart. Had Lincoln lived to serve out his second term, I think he would have used words like these to say goodbye to the nation and to us. I find them a nice way to remember “Ole Abe” this Presidents Day.
“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 may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. 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.”
May God bless all of our presidents.
Upcoming Program: An Evening with President Lincoln, presented by Mel Maurer. Thursday, Feb. 26, 7:15 p.m., Westlake Porter Public Library
Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.