Lincoln on Democracy

By Mario M. Cuomo; Harold Holzer et al. | Go to book overview

Preface to the Fordham
University Press Edition

Fifteen years ago, when we launched the New York State Lincoln on Democracy project to provide readers in Poland with access to the words of America’s greatest and most eloquent president, we had little reason to imagine that the idea would blossom into something of an international phenomenon.

At the outset, our goal was simply to supply a text for library shelves in a newly emerging democratic republic—shelves that stood barren after years of Communist censorship. Our response was to offer the words of the world’s most recognizable and inspiring apostle of freedom and equality. Teachers from Poland’s Solidarity Union had come all the way to Albany, New York, to visit the Governor’s office and ask if there was some way to generate such a collection.

These brave and modest educators might well have settled for a Xeroxed edition bound in notebooks. But thanks to the work of a team of dedicated scholars and advisors, a gifted group of translators, a visionary publisher, and of course the timeless impact of Lincoln’s brilliant writing, a modest printing project grew into a serious and, we learned, widely appealing book.

Lincoln O Demokracji appeared in Warsaw early 1990, followed quickly by the English-language edition, Lincoln on Democracy, which went through five hardcover printings and then a successful pa- perback edition that remained a staple in college courses for years.

The critics were kind. “This isn’t simply another Lincoln book,” wrote the Chicago Tribune. “In an America where the gap between

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