Friday, February 12, 2010

Woodward: Abraham Lincoln

I think it can fairly be argued that Abraham Lincoln was the most subtle thinker and the most elegant prose stylist of all American presidents. Here, in his own words supplied to a Chicago newspaper in June 1860, is an account of his formal education.

"Abraham now thinks that the aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year. He was never in a college or academy as a student, and never inside of a college or academy building till since he had a law license. What he has in the way of education he has picked up. After he was twenty-three and had separated from his father, he studied English grammar--imperfectly, of course, but so as to speak and write as well as he now does. He studied and nearly mastered the six books of Euclid since he was a member of Congress. He regrets his want of education, and does what he can to supply the want."

All education, in the last analysis, is self-education. Abraham Lincoln simply exemplifies that truth more dramatically than most people.

Care to speculate on how many current members of Congress have "nearly mastered the six books of Euclid"?