Sunday, November 25, 2007

Word power

This weekend, we traveled up north and took the ferry to Lummi Island. The cottage we rented was well stocked with books and magazines, and in an issue of Smithsonian, I found a book excerpt that was adapted from Ronald C. White, Jr.'s book about Lincoln's speech at his second inauguration. The introduction to that excerpt included the following:

"He was the average American, with only one year of education, a man who was really quite ugly in a certain sense—could he ever have campaigned today?—tall, awkward, gawky, clothes ill-fitting, with a tenor voice, almost a falsetto, and yet he was a huge man for his day, 6 feet 4 inches tall.Everything about him was against his being a powerful speaker. But once he began to speak, what people sensed was his integrity. He was not playing a role. And the audience of that day picked it up… He had the knack of asking these simple but very profound questions. In every crisis, whether it's September 11 or World War II, it is amazing how people return to Lincoln."

and then:

"…America had been flayed by four years of a war that had lasted longer than anyone thought it would."

Four years. I did the math, and then I flipped back to look at the date on the cover: April 2002, nearly a year before troops invaded Iraq.

I don't know whether these words of Lincoln can stir us now to listen, speak, and act.

What words inspire you? What words offer you solace?

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