Portraits of Encouragement

While John Keats was on the Isle of Wight at work on "Endymion," he asked his landlady to allow him to exchange a print of a French ambassador in his room for one of Shakespeare hanging in the hallway. When he was ready to leave, his landlady insisted that he take the picture of Shakespeare with him. By her generous act, she served literature in a way few have done. The picture always hung in the place of honor over Keats's writing desk, a source of continuing inspiration.

Above his desk, composer Richard Wagner placed a portrait of Beethoven and a title page from the "Nibelungenlied," the German epic that inspired "The Ring." In his house at Yalta, Chekhov placed a print of Pushkin and portraits of Tolstoy and Turgenev.

In the same spirit, I have placed two pictures by my desk: Chekhov and Lincoln. I may be the only lawyer in the world who has a picture of Chekhov on his office wall. He is my favorite writer. Only after reading and rereading his plays did I come upon an even greater treasure trove: his short stories. I have read more than 200 of them.

Advising a young author, Chekhov told him that a writer "must be humane to the tips of his fingers." In his art and in his daily life, he remained faithful to this precept. The son of a man born a serf - his father gained his freedom at 16 - Chekhov was a sympathetic observer of the human condition.

May the presence of Chekhov encourage me to look upon the world as he did, through sympathetic eyes.

I purchased my photograph of Lincoln for a few dollars at an old print shop. I put it in a frame costing 10 times as much.

The photograph was taken on Aug. 26, 1858, less than a week after his first debate with Douglas in the Illinois senate race. Lincoln's lack of sartorial splendor is evident, while the familiar face conveys intelligence, integrity, and sadness. He preserved the Union. He freed the slaves. His words are the most remembered of any American.

May the presence of Lincoln guide me in my life as a lawyer and as a citizen of this nation.

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