What do Abraham Lincoln and Jennifer Lawrence have in Common?

President Abraham Lincoln and actress Jennifer Lawrence each learned something that can help your fundraising efforts. Before I tell you what that is, let me share a bit of history with you.

Earlier this week, the USA celebrated Presidents Day. Congress originally established the Federal holiday to commemorate the birth of George Washington, the nation’s first President, born on Feb. 22, 1732. At some point, the holiday also began to include Lincoln, born on Feb. 12, 1809. Then, all of the US Presidents were lumped into the holiday. Well, sort of. Despite its commonly excepted name — Presidents Day — it remains officially Washington’s Birthday.

To honor a President this week, I thought I’d share some wisdom from one of them. Then, as I was preparing to write this piece, I stumbled upon an article about Lawrence, and realized she has learned the same lesson as Lincoln.

Paraphrasing 15th century poet John Lydgate, Lincoln is believed to have stated:

You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

Lawrence, definitely in a different league than Lincoln, has nevertheless learned the same lesson. While she likely had this insight well before this year’s British Academy of Film and Television Awards, she had a reminder of it resulting from an interview hosted by Joanna Lumley.

Lumley introduced Lawrence by saying, “And we start with the award for Outstanding British Film and who better to kick the whole evening off than the hottest actress on the planet? Soon to be seen in ‘Red Sparrow,’ it’s the ravishing Jennifer Lawrence.” The American actress then came out and modestly said, “Hi. That was a bit much, but thank you, Joanna.”

Following the exchange, the social media battle began. Some people thought that Lawrence was being “discourteous,” “a spoiled brat,” “rude,” and more. On the other side, there were plenty of people who sided with the actress with one even questioning, “How is that rude?”

Lincoln Memorial

Yes, you can never please all of the people all of the time.

That’s an important lesson for all of us.

Your fundraising plan will not make everyone happy. Your direct mail copy will not make everyone happy. The graphic design for your annual report will not make everyone happy.

At some point in your career, likely far more than once, you’ll hear, “We can’t do that here. We’ve never done it that way.” You might even have someone in upper management comment negatively on your direct-mail appeal because it’s not how she would write a letter to a friend — “Do you really need to use bullets and boldface?”

You get the idea.

You just need to understand that you will never make everyone happy all of the time. When confronted by senseless criticism based on emotion rather than knowledge, keep these five points in mind:

Stand Firm. As long as you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and can justify it with evidence, hold firm.

Teach. Look at unfounded criticism as a teachable moment and an opportunity to help others understand your actions.

Listen. Not all criticism will be senseless. Make sure you maintain an open mind. Then, use the valuable insights you learn while side-stepping the rest.

Remember. When it comes to implementing fresh ideas or innovative solutions, gaining advance approval can sometimes be a challenge. So, remember and live by these words from US Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopp: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Do What’s Right. Make sure to do the right thing for your organization’s mission, in terms of technique and ethics. As the great humorist Mark Twain has stated, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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6 Comments to “What do Abraham Lincoln and Jennifer Lawrence have in Common?”

  1. I say I couldn’t agree more. And thanks for giving President Washington his due on his real b’day. 🙂

    • Claire, thank you for your message. Much appreciated! To further honor President George Washington, I’d like to share a link to his Farewell Address. It’s an amazing document that highlights the founding principles of the nation and offers advice for our future. Almost all of it remains relevant today, some of it more so.

  2. Love it! Totally agree. Thanks, Michael.

  3. I don’t know the author, but the phrase which has stuck with me is: “Don’t apologize. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.”

    • Jay, thank you for sharing the terrific quote. It’s attributed to Ziad K. Abdelnour, CEO of Blackhawk Partners, a private equity firm. He’s made a great number of other pithy, wise statements as well.

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