Lincoln’s Sense of Humor | Richard Carwardine

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2018: Book #32

There was an old woman in Sangamon County who was ill. The doctor came and prescribed some medicine for her constipation. Returning the next morning, he found her “fresh and well getting breakfast.” Asked if the medicine had worked, she confided it had.

“How many bowel movements?” he inquired.
“142,” she replied.

“Madame, I am serious,” the physician replied, “I know you are joking. How many?”

“142,” she said.

“Madame, I must know,” he insisted. “You couldn’t have had 142. It is necessary I have the exact number of movements.”

“I tell you 142,” she said, “but 140 of them were wind.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, that was one of the favorite stories of President Abraham Lincoln. He told it often.

(Keep reading; I’ll share a few more.)

It comes from the book, “Lincoln’s Sense of Humor” by Richard Carwardine, a retired professor from Oxford. Lincoln loved humor. If a crowd was laughing, he would go and ask to join the group that was laughing. Lincoln used humor to deal with depression.

“This was Lincoln’s self-diagnosis, too. He told an Iowa congressman that his recourse to humor was an essential relief from his ‘hours of depression.’”

Laughter was a coping mechanism. Lincoln’s humor was boyish, crude and often dirty. He loved to lampoon others and enjoyed humor at his own expense.

“…he ridiculed Lewis Cass’s campaign biographers for puffing up their candidate’s military prowess in 1812, and jestingly summarized Cass’s role: “He INVADED Canada without resistance, and he OUTVADED it without pursuit.”

“James Grant Wilson, a Union officer, recalled the president’s story of a southern Illinois preacher who noted in his sermon that the Scriptures told of only one perfect man, Jesus Christ, having lived on earth, and that they offered no record of a perfect woman. This prompted the intervention of a forlorn voice at the back of the church: “I know a perfect woman, and I’ve heard of her about every day for the last six years.”

“Who was she?” the minister asked.

“My husband’s first wife,” came the reply.

Carwardine’s book is full of the tales that Lincoln liked to tell. It’s a funny book…a shocking book…but also, hopeful.

Why hopeful?

Lincoln was flawed. His humor would go dark. And yet, this deeply flawed man was still able to change the world. He still impacted lives despite his humanity. I find that hopeful because I too, am deeply flawed and desire to impact lives.

A true 5 out of 5 stars!
This book is well worth your time.

That’s book #32 for 2018.
20 more to go before I reach 52 for the year.

Remember, all leaders are readers.
If you want to be a better leader…be a reader.
#52in2018

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