M. Sher Khan Farook Meyer, a friend from school days dating back to Lawrence College, Murree Hills in the late 1940s, and now a big entrepreneur in the sports and surgical goods industry in Sialkot, phoned some time ago to make an odd request. He was planning to give a talk to young entrepreneurs and wanted to refer to a letter that Abe Lincoln, President of the US, had written to his sons teacher in mid-19th century, and asked me to dig into my files and email it to him. He perhaps had remembered that many years ago I had written about this letter in the press. I also sent a 'Soldiers Prayer for his son, penned by General Douglas Macarthur in the Second World War when things were going badly for him in the Pacific, and also a hypothetical letter that I had penned myself reflective of our generally prevalent sense of values. (Recall how when forced to flee the Philippines for Australia during the Japanese invasion of the islands, he said his memorable words, I will return and how he did so after some time and waded ashore?). The letter and the prayers are worth sharing with the readers again, although my version was not too well appreciated by my mentor and teacher from NDC days, General Jehangir Kara-mat, then the COAS, as he once let it be known at the Army House during a courtesy visit over Eid. (I continue to hold him in the highest regard for being a thorough professional and a true gentleman). Times and values change, some times for the better, at other times for the worse; all the more reason to look back and make a course correction, if necessary, as they say in the aviation industry, if one has strayed from the desired path. The letter and the two prayers are reproduced below; they are as relevant today as when I first wrote them several years ago. Abraham Lincolns letter to his sons teacher: He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every little selfish politician there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. It will take him time, I know, but teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found. Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy, if you can. Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him to learn that the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him, if you can the wonder of books, but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside. In school teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with the gentle people and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when every one is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men, but teach him to filter all on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through. Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him that there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to the howling mob, and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right. Teach him gently, but do not cuddle him because only the test of time makes fine steellet him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to always have sublime faith in mankind. This is a tall order, but sees what you can doHe is such a fine little fellow, my son. A soldiers prayer (General Douglas Macarthur) for his son: Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, and who will be proud in defeat, humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes do not take the place of deeds, a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the spur of difficulties and challenges. Let him stand up to the storm; let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son, whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who masters himself before he seeks to master other men; one wholl reach into the future, yet never forgets the past. And after all these things are his add, I pray, enough sense of humour so that he may always be serious yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom and the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, I have not lived in vain. A hypothetical Pakistani fathers prayer for his son: Give me a son, O Lord, whom I can raise in comfort and luxury, giving him all the good things that were not my lot as a child. Make him of sound body and limb so that he can qualify for a military academy, or better still, for the CSS. Let him, O Lord, have a smooth sailing in his cadet years and let him be awarded the coveted Sword of Honour even if he does not deserve it, after which let me keep him in the comfort of my home as my aide decamp. Let him, O Lord, have a good time and the highest grades in his courses, and let him have the choicest postings, far removed from hot spots and hard areas. And throw in, for good measure, some long and lucrative deputations abroad. Give me the connections, O Lord, to get him inducted into a choice civil career on the military quota at the first opportunity, and throw in a moneyed bride for good measure, if you will. Then, O Lord, I will proudly proclaim from the rooftops, I have not lived in vain The writer is a retired brigadier.