A timeless classic

Abraham Lincoln (the sixteenth President of the United States) wrote this letter to his son’s headmaster. He is ranked by scholars among the top three US Presidents of all time. Simply put, the letter below is a timeless classic – as relevant today as it was when it was written.

Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his Son’s Headmaster

“He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero: that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader…. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend, it will take time, I know; but teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found…. Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy, if you can. Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick… Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books… but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.

In school, teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat… Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong… Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crown when everyone is getting onto the bandwagon, teach him to listen to all men, but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad… Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness… Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob… and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right.

Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient… let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to always have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

This is a big order, but see what you can do… he is such a fine little fellow, my son.”

4 Replies to “A timeless classic”

  1. I first read it in class ninth, It was the second chapter of my syllabus, at age of roughly 15, very young an age to decipher such intellect as this letter offers. But still it had a lasting effect on me. specially the line, Ponder over bees and clouds and mountain, the first time I learned the word ‘Ponder’ and it, in that line, appear so fascinating.

    Re-reading it brought back memories, good, bitter, worse. All in one flow. Quite reminiscing.


  2. I really appreciate what you have put up!!!

    For a moment i have stopped not what i read is instresting but made me think is what as a parent are we giving to our children and our next generation.

    Are we or anyone presently anywhere in the world is thinking in this fashion and is doing it or if not doing it atleast thinking on these lines?

    A really thought provoking act i must say

    Keep up the effort to wonder how we should spend our life, if not what islam say, then what others saying it which is on the good side.

  3. this is something every father/mother should write to his/her child’s teacher. For once i just oversaw writing the same to my future child’s teacher :). Very apreciable and worth-reading i just learned alot from it. Thankyou for sharing it 🙂

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