FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK
I became acquainted with Lincoln the way everyone else does—in school. But I didn’t have a particular interest until my older sister, Marie, who is much smarter than I, thought I should know Lincoln better. She bought me the nine-volume Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln .
At the time I had no money of my own. We didn’t even have an encyclopedia in the house until we had our third child. The Collected Works to me was a treasure. And I actually read it—all of it. I still have it—the History Book Club edition, gray binding with blue trim—in my study at home, along with sixty or seventy other Lincoln books I keep close at hand.
My interest has never waned. I suppose part of the fascination is that Lincoln started from the bottom, and I started from the bottom. But there is more. Like Sir Thomas More, another man I admire deeply, Lincoln was extraordinarily talented, did extraordinary things, was mostly high-minded, but also profoundly imperfect. Both men were subject to all the frailties with which the rest of us suffer. Without those imperfections they would seem more like statues, difficult to embrace as useful models because of the distance between us and them. But they were human, which allows me to relate to them. Lincoln suggests that imperfect people can make important contributions.