The Thought for the Day – Fred Kaplan

…he must have wondered, why had he not achieved what his ambition and talent from early on had directed him toward? – Fred Kaplan, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer


Fred Kaplan is an American writer and a biographer of considerable distinction. He is also a professor of English at Queens College in New York City. This book shows Lincoln’s growth as a reader and a writer and the work he put in to become a man able to put complex ideas into words that could be grasped by everybody, including himself. It’s a side of Lincoln that a lot of biographies only touch on.

Abraham Lincoln, of course, was the 16th president of the United States. Revered by some as the man who saved the Union during our Civil War, despised by some as nothing more than a despot, he was one of a few people our species has produced that will live down the ages, being talked about as long as there are enough humans around to hold a conversation.

Today’s Thought comes from a period in Lincoln’s life where he had yet to achieve what he felt he was destined to achieve. We forget the exact time, but the context of today’s Thought makes this plain.

This had to be frustrating for Lincoln. We’re read our share of Lincoln over the years and we always felt Lincoln knew he would have a place in American history, specifically as president. He had things to do with his life, but the fates were not yet cooperating.

Perhaps you can relate to this. We know we can. Like you, perhaps, we’ve been chasing dreams our entire adult life. Some we caught, some eluded us and some we’re still chasing. Some attainments took – and, honestly, are taking – longer than we thought they should.

Lincoln chased dreams, too, and was unyielding in his commitment to living the life he was meant to live. Full measures of effort, diligence and patience eventually took him where was meant to go, and he lived the life he always felt he was destined for, probably including his assassination.

Effort, diligence and patience are lessons that will serve all of us well in every aspect of our lives. We all have talents and ambitions we were issued at birth and the happiest lives are spent by those who get the most out of those talents. Less happy lives are lived by those who ignore these talents and ambitions.

Our paths may not see us to living down the ages – or they might, you never know – but if we are going to look back on a satisfactory life we must follow our paths. We must follow our hearts and trust our instincts. It is the only way to ensure we live the life we were meant to live.

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