Wisdom of “That Lincoln book lady”

Yes, that Lincoln book lady, I texted my sister back as I tried to explain whose speech I needed to go hear this morning. I went back to my alma mater to see the presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin speak today to the Class of 2009 (She’s the Pulitzer-prize winning author of “The Team of Rivals” and is a frequent guest on Meet the Press). Until after I graduated from this school did they start having this type of pomp-and-circumstance events. Sometimes I wonder if these kids know just how lucky they are.

In general I didn’t really love my college experience. Almost all of it was mired in terrible depression, which was already there before I came to college. I barely went to any of my commencement events, so to actually make it to someone else’s years later seems kind of strange but also reflects  on the fact that I am a lot less depressed now than I was around this time six years ago (For example, I don’t think I even got to sending graduation invitations on time to my parents).

Or maybe it just means I really like Doris Kearns Goodwin enough to go to the event. I had been excited about the news of her coming for over a month. And what a lovely speech it was. She was just like the person that she is when she’s a guest on any television show. And her calm, quiet yet strong voice carried throughout the gym as her words seemed to capture the audience. Goodwin’s speech wasn’t littered with those motivational quotes that one might hear during this type of event, but she was just herself, telling stories about herself, LBJ, and of course, Abraham Lincoln. Goodwin did have a larger point in telling these interesting tales. She tied all these historical moments up to say to these soon-to-be-graduates to live a life that you could be proud of so that your memories could live through your family and friends.

In listening to Goodwin’s speech and going to this Senior Class Day event in general, it wasn’t nostalgia that I felt but a strong desire to have that time over again. This isn’t regret and I know those four years of time cannot come around again. But when one realizes what all had been lost –and moreover, what all the possibilities could have existed– I do wish I could do it over again.

But of course, living with the decisions that you’ve made (regardless of what state you were in at the time) is what you must do. You can’t change those past choices, but I guess you have choices ahead that can change the future.I just don’t really like where I stand right now (that sounds so selfish).

But then I return to those stories of Lincoln as told by that warm, motherly voice of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s. Lincoln lost many times before he became the leader of our nation. It’s never too late to succeed; you just have to keep on trying. Before, such advice would’ve just felt like some impossible task.  Today, as her stories repeat over again in my head, I begin to feel a little calmer and try to accept my current state while realizing that as long as I am moving one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly, I’ll eventually end up where I need to go.

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