Must See: General John Borling Recites the Gettysburg Address


men we love -men-we-love-john-borling-feature

Photo by John Reilly

Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg Address remains as powerful, compelling and true today as when he delivered it in 1863.  It reminds us that our country was founded on the compelling principles of liberty and equality, that good men perished in pursuit of this worthy cause and that as a nation we must continue to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Last year, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation published a book,Gettysburg Replies,” containing 272-word essays responding to the Gettysburg address  from modern-day political, business, academic and business leaders – including all living U.S. Presidents and Stephen Spielberg. They reveal the intense hold this speech still has on our collective American psyche.
Three contributors to “Gettysburg Replies” recently taped a WTTW/PBS television show at the Pritzker Military Library with the CEO of the Lincoln Library, who also edited Gettysburg Replies, Carla Knorowski, Ph.D.  I enjoyed the good fortune of being in the small audience for the taping – particularly because I am a fan of all three contributors – Newt Minnow, former FCC Chairman and longtime Sidley Austin partner; Sam Harris, Holocaust survivor, proud American citizen, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center Founder and New Trier Alumni Hall Of Honor inductee; US Air Force Major General John Borling, a pilot shot down and imprisoned for seven-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War and published poet.

Borling deeply inspired me when I interviewed him for the Make It Better “Men We Love issue in June 2013. But his recitation of the Gettysburg Address at the taping took my admiration to new heights. I doubt there was a dry eye in the audience afterwards.

Minnow declared that “General John Borling’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address is unforgettable. It should be heard in every classroom in America;  students should be told how General Borling survived being a prisoner in Vietnam by reflecting on  President Lincoln’s historic definition of democracy.” And I agree.

Therefore, please stop, drop and watch this short video clip from the taping of the General reciting the Gettysburg Address to enjoy a most inspiring reminder of what it means to be an American:

Sam Harris’ essay “The Best Place On Earth,” which he discusses in the show and you can read in this recent Make It Better post about Lincoln’s legacy, is another reminder for us, too. It was written by him in 1951, only a few years after he had escaped the concentration camps.  He explains, “I had written this essay as an assignment at New Trier High School, when I was a sophomore…[then entered it] in the Lincoln Essay Contest when I was in my late 70s and I still think the United States is the best place on earth.”

Be sure to watch:
Premiering Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. CST on WYCC-20, Chicago and online at

To Quit Is To Die

“To Quit Is To Die,” declared Major General John Borling, USAF, Ret. several times during our dinner last night. That attitude, and his poet’s soul, has lifted him from failure to greater success than he imagined possible. It also lifts up others – including servicemen and civilians alike. And me.

General Borling, who earned 5 Stars and many high-level commands around the world (Don’t you just love the Make It Better orange flight suit? He “won” that from a German fighter pilot)

Borling’s greatest loves are his wife, Myrna, and being a fighter pilot. He was shot down during the Vietnam War and held as a prisoner of war in conditions of extreme deprivation for more than 6 1/2 years. He kept himself and the other prisoners in the “Hanoi Hilton” going by tapping messages on the walls, including his own poetry.

That attitude also helped him become of the most decorated soldiers in our country too.

Included in this photo are a Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars and 2 Purple Hearts.

That attitude also pushed Borling to recently publish Taps On The Wall – Poems From The Hanoi Hilton. He is promoting the book and his belief that each person “has a responsibility to renew yourself and your country” around the country. I recommend his poems and other inspiring messages to you.

You will learn more about John in the June issue of Make It Better magazine. We’ve very proud to be featuring him and other outstanding men.

“Values come from people,

Assessing their amounts.

Those worthy of respect and pride,

All know the striving counts.”

(Excerpt from “This I Believe” on p. 74 of “Taps On The Wall”)