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Loneliness Stalks Where the Buck Stops

About halfway through (a PBS program on the Library of Congress), Dr. Daniel Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress, brought out a little blue box from a small closet that once held the library’s rarities. The label on the box read: CONTENTS OF THE PRESIDENT’S POCKETS ON THE NIGHT OF APRIL 14, 1865. Since that was the fateful night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, every viewer’s attention was seized. Boorstin then proceeded to remove the items in the small container and display them on camera. There were five things in the box:

  • A handkerchief, embroidered “A. Lincoln”
  • A country boy’s pen knife
  • A spectacles case repaired with string
  • A purse containing a $5 bill—Confederate money(!)
  • Some old and worn newspaper clippings

“The clippings,” said Boorstin, “were concerned with the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln. And one of them actually reports a speech by John Bright which says that Abraham Lincoln is “one of the greatest men of all times.”

Today that’s common knowledge. The world now knows that British statesman John Bright was right in his assessment of Lincoln, but in 1865 millions shared quite a contrary opinion. The President’s critics were fierce and many. His was a lonely agony that reflected the suffering and turmoil of his country ripped to shreds by hatred and a cruel, costly war. There is something touchingly pathetic in the mental picture of this great leader seeking solace and self-assurance from a few old newspaper clippings as he reads them under the flickering flame of a candle all alone in the Oval Office.

Remember this: Loneliness stalks where the buck stops.

Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, pp. 62-3