In an era that lives by self-promotion- an era that takes someone like Donald Trump seriously as a presidential candidate- Presidents' Day is a day to remember that greatness still resides in what one does, not what one claims to be.
That is why Abraham Lincoln will always belong to every age. Because Lincoln was not just a great president; he may have been one of the greatest men that this country has yet produced. His rare combination of self-confidence and humility produced the archetype of "the American, this new man," who is still universally admired.
While many of our heroes have lost their gloss, Abraham Lincoln still shines brightly for many Americans because there is so much to learn from his life.
Lincoln was once criticized over the publication of a private letter he sent to an actor because it dared express Lincoln’s opinion on William Shakespeare. Although Lincoln did not write the letter for public circulation, in those days it was common for private letters to end up in the newspapers.
Lincoln was well-read in Shakespeare. It was evident in the fluidity of much of his writing that he got some of his short, Anglo-Saxon style from Shakespeare. While Lincoln would never match the volume of the Bard, in his own way, Lincoln’s contribution to American letters ranks probably just below Mark Twain’s own accomplishments.
“The novelist William Dean Howell’s claim about his friend Mark Twain,” writes literary biographer Fred Kaplan, “that he was the ‘Lincoln of our literature,’ can effectively be rephrased with the focus on our sixteenth president: Lincoln was the Twain of our politics. Since Lincoln, no president has written his own words and addressed his contemporary audience or posterity with equal and enduring effectiveness.”
Critics, however, in Lincoln's day thought it pretentious for a man without any formal training in “literature” to express opinions about Shakespeare.