Introduction

Abraham Lincoln was a great President of the United States of America. He once wrote a letter to his son’s teacher with instructions about the values and lessons that he must teach his son. This chapter presents this letter in the form of a poem. It is 60 lines long and written in free verse.

Line 1- 8

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 for every enemy there is a friend

Lincoln says that his son will have to learn that all men are not just and true. But he still requests his son’s teacher to teach him that for every scoundrel there is a hero, for every selfish politician there is a dedicated leader, and for every enemy there is a friend. He wants his son to understand that there are both good and bad people in this world.

Line 9- 17

It will take time, I know;
but teach him if you can 10
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… 

It will take time but the teacher must try to teach Lincoln’s son that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found. This will help him understand the value of hard work. Earning money honestly is far better than simply getting it by luck. He must teach him to learn to lose, but also to enjoy winning. The poet tells the teacher to steer his son away from envy and to also teach him the secret of quiet laughter.

Quiet laughter lets a person be inwardly happy without offending anyone, which is a great tool in polite society, so he wants his son to learn it. His son must be allowed to learn early that the bullies are the easiest to overcome. He must not be afraid of bullies and stand up to them instead.

Line 18- 30

Teach him, if you can,
the wonder of books…..
But also give him quiet time 
to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun,
and the flowers on a green hillside.
In the school teach him,
it is far honorable 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. 

Lincoln tells the teacher to teach his son the wonder of books. But his son must also be given quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and the flowers on a green hillside. He wants his son to gain the knowledge of the world through both books and nature. In school he should be taught that it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat.

This will help him become an honest person. The teacher should teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. This will help him have confidence and conviction in himself. He should also teach him to be gentle with gentle people, and tough with tough people. It is important to treat people in the same way that they treat you.

Line 31- 40

Try to give my son
the strength not to follow the crowd
when everyone is getting on 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, 

Lincoln asks the teacher to give his son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the bandwagon. His son must be allowed to form his own opinions instead of blindly following what the majority of people believe. The teacher should teach him to listen to all men but also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth.

He should learn to tell truth from lies and take only the good that comes through. He should not only teach his son how to laugh when he is sad but also that there is no shame in tears. This will help him get through tough times and be more in touch with his emotions.

Lines 41- 48

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 soul.
Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob
and to stand and fight
if he thinks he’s right.

Lincoln’s son must be taught to scoff at cynics and to beware too much sweetness. This will help him judge people’s internal character and be careful of the ones with bad intentions. His teacher should teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidder, but to never sell his soul.

His strength and intelligence can be used for his own profit but he must maintain the integrity of his soul and never sell it. He should also teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. He must fight for his own beliefs even if everyone is against him.

Lines 49-60

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 always
to have sublime faith in himself
because then he will 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!

The teacher should teach his son gently but not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel. A balance between gentleness and strictness must be maintained by the teacher. His son can become a fine man only if he goes through tough training. He should let his son have the courage to be impatient and the patience to be brave.

In this way he will become a courageous and strong person. His son should be taught to have sublime faith in himself because that will make him have sublime faith in mankind. Lincoln says he knows this is a big order but the teacher must try to follow it because his son is a fine little fellow.

Conclusion

This poem gives us an extensive moral lesson that everyone can follow to become strong and capable. Lincoln’s instructions are relevant to this day, and both teachers and students can benefit through teaching and applying the things he talks about.