It actually happened – because Lincoln’s father was a shoemaker, and Lincoln became the president. The whole American aristocracy was very much shocked that they had to live under a shoemaker’s presidency. In the Senate they were all aristocrats, super-rich people. The first speech that Lincoln delivered on the inauguration of his first term was interrupted right at the beginning. A man, very arrogant and egoistic, stood up and showing his shoes said, “Mr. Lincoln, by accident you have become the president. But never forget that your father was a shoemaker. In fact, in my family your father used to come to make shoes for everybody. The shoes I am showing you were made by your father.”
The whole Senate laughed; they thought they had humiliated Lincoln. But it is difficult to humiliate people like Lincoln. There were tears in his eyes, and he said, “I am immensely grateful to you for reminding me of my father. He was a perfect shoemaker, and I know I cannot be that perfect a president. I cannot beat him. But I will try my best to at least reach close to his greatness.
“As for your family and the shoes my father has made, I can inform the whole Senate that there may be other aristocratic families that my father used to make shoes for. He has taught me a little bit of the art of shoemaking too. If his shoes are not working well – if they pinch you, if they are too tight, or too loose – I can always mend them. I am my own father’s son. Never feel embarrassed – just inform me. I can come and do my best. Of course, it will not be the same as my father, but he is dead.”
There was great silence…the senators could not believe it – what mettle is this man Lincoln made of? You cannot insult him. He can turn your insult into great respect. And he is so humble, how can you humiliate him? Only arrogant people can be humiliated.
A commune where rebellious people live will be non-competitive, will give equal opportunity to everybody to be himself. It will accept everybody the way he is. And all are needed – the shoemakers, and the toilet-cleaners, and the presidents – all are needed. In fact, there may come a time when there will be no need of presidents, no need of prime ministers, no need of government itself; but there will never come a time when there will be no need for a shoemaker or a toilet-cleaner. They are far more essential, they serve society in a more fundamental way. All respect is due to them.
When everybody is respected as he is, when his profession is respected whatever it is, you are cutting the very roots of crime, of injustice. And when there is no money as an agency for exchange, nobody can become richer and nobody can become poorer.