The State of The Union and A State of Mind

Picture 4“His melancholy was stamped on him while in the period of gestation.
It was part of his nature.” –Henry C. Whitney

Tonight is the President’s State of the Union address. In honor of this important American tradition, I tried to come up with something linking psychology with the American Presidency. Perhaps not surprisingly, I actually found something!

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln wrote eloquently about depression (melancholy)? I think it’s pretty common knowledge that President Lincoln was known for his “gloomy” temperament. But it’s probably less well-known that he wrote poetic and touching letters to grieving citizens and friends at various times during his life.

Here’s a great page about Lincoln and his depression from a website devoted to Abraham Lincoln research. Called the Abraham Lincoln Research Site, it was created by an ex-history teacher named Roger J. Norton for “students, teachers, schools, and anyone interested in…Lincoln.”

The page on depression is a pretty quick read and engaging from start to finish. So I definitely recommend just reading that. But here are a few quotes, written by Lincoln, that stood out to me:

“Remember in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again.”
“A tendency to melancholy…let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.”
“You can not now realize that you will ever feel better…and yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again…I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.”

Book links for further reading:

“Lincoln’s Melancholy,” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.
“The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln,” by Michael Burlingame.
“Herndon’s Life of Lincoln,” William H. Herndon.


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