As a resident for more than four decades of the state of Illinois, which proudly calls itself the Land of Lincoln, I’m happy to remind you that tomorrow we will be celebrating Abe Lincoln’s birthday. He was a truly remarkable man for many reasons, and he deserves his special day on our calendar. In Illinois, we honor him with a real legal holiday.
Many people believe that Lincoln was the best writer of all our U.S. Presidents. But how could a man with only one year of formal school outshine all those illustrious graduates of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other elite colleges? The first answer is that Lincoln was a reader, and he read voraciously. When he found passages that were instructive, he copied them. As a young man, Lincoln read Shakespeare and the poetry of Robert Burns. After he became a lawyer, he developed his talent as a wordsmith and perfected his argumentation. He would practice his speeches while chopping wood, delivering impassioned orations to the tree stumps.
Writing was a lifelong project for Abraham Lincoln, a tremendous opportunity to communicate, and he taught himself how to do that very, very well. Abe Lincoln’s annual messages to Congress are amazing examples of excellent writing. His Second Inaugural Address, along with the Gettysburg Address, are considered monuments of our national culture.
Abraham Lincoln refused to accept the notion that the Supreme Court could set public policy; that's the job of Congress. Lincoln accepted judicial review as binding in any specific case, but he rejected the notion that the Supreme Court can legislate new laws and policies for our nation. He warned that would effectively abolish self-government. Lincoln said, if we accept the supremacy of judges, "the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
Listen to the radio commentary here: