David Herbert Donald: He told stories; often it involved political reasons, as in the White House, for instance. He insisted on keeping open doors. So anybody who wanted to could come to the White House, and they did, and they came in wanting one thing after another. People would come in with some great scheme they wanted. They wanted to interest him to do so and so, and he would say, “You know, that reminds me of a story I heard out in Indiana when I was growing up.” And he would start telling it and would go into great detail about who it was that was telling it, and where it was, and how long it went on and so on. And at the end of it, his face would break into that marvelous smile, and he’d slap his thigh like that and get up and say, “Oh, Mr. So-and-So, it’s so nice of you to come see me,” pushing them gradually out the door, and his visitors often had no idea. “What happened to me? I was making an appeal for something, and I’m shown out of the room in the most genuinely gentlemanly way that you could think of.” It was useful for him. Telling stories also was a useful way of avoiding quick answers, easy answers, and finally, telling stories on himself was one of his favorite devices to put himself down. This is a good thing for politicians to do, to minimize the ego. For instance, one of his favorite stories — one of my favorite stories, too, has to do — he’d tell it: “When I was a boy growing up in Indiana, and I was chopping wood out in the woods by myself, a woman came by on horseback, and she stopped, and she looked at me and said, ‘My lands, you are the ugliest creature I have ever seen.’” And taken aback, Lincoln said, “Well, ma’am, there isn’t a lot I can do about it.” She said, “Well, you could have stayed at home.” And I have often thought that’s a wonderful retort for a politician or a public figure: “You could have stayed home!”