Happy Presidents’ Day

“Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.” ― Abraham Lincoln

This is an interesting quote considering Abraham Lincoln struggled with clinical depression his whole life.

Abraham Lincoln experienced a major amount of loss in his family life and failure in many career pursuits from the time of his birth in 1809 to his election as President of the United States in 1860:

• 1812 – his brother Thomas died in infancy
• 1818 – his mother Nancy died of illness
• 1820 – his sister Sarah died while giving birth
• 1831 – he failed in business
• 1832 – defeated for State Legislator
• 1833 – he failed again in business
• 1835 – his fiancée Ann Rutledge died
• 1835 – he had a nervous breakdown
• 1843 – defeated in run for Congress
• 1848 – defeated in another run for Congress
• 1850 – his son Edward Baker Lincoln died at 3 years, 11 months
• 1851 – his father Thomas died
• 1855 – defeated in run for US Senate
• 1856 – ran for Vice-President and lost
• 1859 – ran for US Senate again and lost
• 1862 – his son Willie died

Lincoln, Commander-in-Chief during the Civil War, which by far generated the most casualties of our nation’s wars also acutely felt the immense loss of so many young lives.

Additional stress resulted from Lincoln’s decision to appointment his most prominent political enemies; Henry Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon Chase to his cabinet after and had to endure the endless intrigue of Salmon Chase and General McClelland to replace him as President in 1864. He overcame much to preserve the Union, end slavery, and become, along with George Washington, one our most revered presidents in US history.

I am fortunate to work mostly with people who have great attitudes yet we all know well those with poor attitudes as well. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found 87.5% of workers satisfied with their job in April 2011. The 2011 Ottawa County Employee Satisfaction Survey reported that 87% of County employees are somewhat, very or completely satisfied with their jobs. Sometimes it only takes one very bad attitude to ruin the work experience of many other employees.

I posted the following quote on each of our children’s bedroom doors shortly after discovering it many years ago:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
― Charles R. Swindoll

Ultimately, the attitude of an entire organization is cumulative of the attitudes of the employees that it is comprised of. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity, a smile and friendly word for a difficult person, and putting aside personal differences to solve a problem for the good of the order are worthy goals for each of us to strive for. Considering the major adversity that Abraham Lincoln overcame to save the Union and eliminate slavery, I believe he would have it no other way.

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8 Responses to Happy Presidents’ Day

  1. Sandy Castle says:

    Happy Presidents Day back to you!!! Just this morning, I told someone that it is great to work for Ottawa County as they give us a choice of holidays we choose to take off in our floating hours.

    Let’s hear it for President Lincoln!! What a wonderful quote from Charles Swindol! we should have that as one of our Anniversary Gifts on a nice plaque:)) Just a thought!!!

    And…no bills today…yes:)))

  2. Spencer Ballard says:


    Thanks for the reminder, Lincoln’s story really puts things in perspective.

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thanks, Spencer. Many times we don’t know how someone will handle a job of great responsibility until they assume the position and face significant challenges. Fortunately for the USA, Lincoln had great capacity to grow and adapt to and successfully what were perhaps the greatest challenges in our history.

  3. Rachael Harper says:

    Very appropriate and affirming quotes.

  4. Karel Rodgers says:

    Thank you Al. I have always had a great fondness for Mr. Lincoln. I beleive he was a very wise man as born out by anything you read which was penned by him. As is Mr. Swindoll.

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