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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


David Herbert Donald

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

David Herbert Donald: Lincoln loved to ride the circuit over many counties all over central Illinois. He turned up at circuit after circuit. This was not altogether enjoyment. This is the way he made his living, and often he was away from his wife and his family for weeks at a time, and poor Mary suffered as a result, but this is the way he made his living. It was very important for him to be able to go into a county that he didn't live in, quickly identify himself, and have young attorneys come up to him and say, "I have this kind of case, and I am not sure about my brief. Would you be co-defendant with me?" And he would pick it up, and within a day, he would have a marvelous way of putting the issues, so the judge would be able to follow. Now, this gave him, first of all, a very wide constituency. In central Illinois, there was hardly a person who did not know Abraham Lincoln at least by sight, and in turn, Lincoln had a very wide following of people that he knew. He had a tenacious memory. So that he would encounter somebody in the streets of Springfield and say, "Oh, I remember we were in Logan County together, weren't we?" And the fellow would say, so proud, "Mr. Lincoln remembers me." All of this built up a constituency for him. He understood very well that a public man has to have that kind of following, and he had it as a lawyer. He had it as a state representative. He had it as he ran for the Senate, and especially after he became president.
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David Herbert Donald

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

David Herbert Donald: Stanton first met Lincoln, I believe, in a trial case in Cincinnati. Lincoln had been brought in to have a true Western lawyer on the team. He had worked very hard on the case, drew up an elaborate brief, was all ready to make the argument, and when he got to the courthouse, he found that Stanton and the people he had already chosen had made the arguments, and he had no role at all. When word came to Stanton that Lincoln expected to speak, Stanton said, "That gorilla from Illinois?" and he just wouldn't let him get in front of the courtroom. Lincoln was terribly hurt. He had not only wasted a lot of time, but also he was not used to being looked down on, and so for a time then, there was friction, and one might want to have said there would be mortal friction. When Lincoln became president and when his first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, did not work out well, Lincoln knew that it's time to have somebody very able, very skillful, and as blunt as Stanton had been to him in Cincinnati. So he called Stanton in. Stanton was dubious. After all, he didn't know anything much about Lincoln. Lincoln had little experience at that time. Maybe Lincoln would try to dominate him. Lincoln brought him into the family. He listened to him very carefully. He took great interest in the Stanton children. The Stantons often summered out at the Soldiers Home where Lincoln and Mary Lincoln summered. He got to know them that way, and gradually the Lincolns and the Stantons became really quite good friends, and Lincoln trusted him. Stanton I'm not sure ever trusted anybody, but as far as Lincoln was concerned, that was nearly as near a person he could really confide in. So by the end of the war, they were thinking about the same things in the same way, and Stanton had become a true ally.
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David Herbert Donald

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

David Herbert Donald: Lincoln had, I think, as little experience as anybody who has occupied the White House. Think back on it. He had served one term in Congress without distinction. He had never been mayor of his town, never been governor of his state. He had never been a member of a Supreme Court. He was very little known, and there was a feeling that he had never actually done anything much. He was recognized as a good lawyer, but he was the head of a two-man law firm only, not one of the big Chicago firms. They did try to enlist him, by the way, to come up to Chicago and live. He said no. He was used to a really small firm in Springfield. So how did a man like that learn experience? How did he learn to cope with people, how to lead? Well first of all, he had an innate tact. Second, he started off with some bad blunders. It took time for him to get on his feet, so to speak. Almost any new president, as a matter of fact, it took time to learn the ropes in Washington. He worked at it very closely and very hard, and by the middle of his first term, he was already a master politician, well endowed with the knowledge it takes to rule in Congress, to make suggestions, and to get your way, but it was not something that came easy for him. He had to work at it.
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Sam Donaldson

ABC News Correspondent

I threw everything I owned into a car and I went to New York City, because I just knew that New York was ready for me, and that they would welcome me. "Here he comes! Boy, how great! Where have you been all our lives?" Well, you know the rest of that story. They laughed at me, I couldn't get a job. I went and I made the rounds. I met every news director. I mean, it was awful. And they thought I was awful, or at least not anyone they should pay attention to. But I'd also applied at a station in Washington, D.C. And so, about the time my last dollar was about to leave me, they called me in Washington and they said, "Come on down, we want to take a look at you." And they did, and they hired me.
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Sam Donaldson

ABC News Correspondent

I got to Washington, I got in the news business, then I devoted myself single-handedly, single-mindedly to it. I mean, I lived, and breathed, and ate it. I worked 24 hours a day. That's an overstatement, obviously, but almost. I wasn't married then, and I devoted myself to it. And I tell people today, if you're going to succeed, yes, you have to prepare yourself. You have to have some background, you have to have some education, you have to have those kinds of obvious things without which, even though you have drive and ambition, you can't really get far, because the playing field will not be level for you. But once you have those things, the way to succeed is just do it the way the old Horatio Alger says it. You have to work harder than the next person. You have to take the dirty jobs. You have to work for less money than you can live on, or certainly than you want, and certainly than you think you're worth. You have to work on the weekends, you have to work nights, you have to get up at 2 o'clock in the morning. You have to skip your birthday, your anniversary, the kid's birthday.
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Rita Dove

Former Poet Laureate of the United States

Hemingway once said that more writers fail from lack of character than lack of talent. You know? It is not a question of sitting down under a tree and having inspiration come down. If you wait for inspiration, inspiration's going to go away and look for more fertile ground to work with. There's a lot of work involved in it too. There's a lot of feeling that you're almost there, but you don't even know how to get to that point in the poem, and then you just simply keep working. You keep writing, you keep re-writing. And to know that everyone goes through that -- and that's part of the process and it's actually a fun part of the process -- is very important too.
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