How you end a letter is as important as the initial greeting. The salutation sets the tone for the coming content, and the complementary close sums it all up with a flare. If you study Paul’s letters in the New Testament, you will see him include others in his close. In Romans 16 he mentions Timothy, Lucius, Jason and others. In II Timothy he sends greetings from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia.
In six of his letters, Paul closes with a benediction of sorts; he calls God’s grace to be with each reader. In the book to the Romans, he specifically mentions that he is using a scribe and dictating the material. But in I Corinthians, Colossians and II Thessalonians, Paul notes that he is writing a greeting in his own handwriting.
We are simply not sure if he wrote all or most of those three letters by his own hand, or just the closing. But it is interesting to think about the job of signing letters.
In my own world, I hand sign anything that is sent by “snail mail” and is directly addressed to someone in particular. I figure if I want them to read it, I ought to take the time to actually sign it. On a big mailing, I can be signing thousands of letters. The signature gets greatly abbreviated and much harder to read towards the end of the pile!
Well, apparently there are a great many people who are interested in how presidents sign their letters. Generally speaking, they use an autopen of some sort. Not much is spoken about the process, but an autograph dealer named Stephen Koschal has authored three full books on the subject.
It seems that the first President to use such a machine was Thomas Jefferson. He used something called a “pantograph.” The first President to use a machine to sign a document while he was gone was Dwight Eisenhower. When he ran Columbia University he used a De Shazo machine that looked like a table with mechanical arms.
By the time of John F. Kennedy, all the Presidents used them routinely. Most recently, President Obama had to authorize the use of his machine to sign the extension of the Patriot Act. He was away in France and that piece of legislature needed to be signed in a very timely manner. So the machine scribbled his giant “B” and “O” with a squiggly line or two. It looks just like his real signature.
Thinking about our signatures might be a good time to consider what that signature stands for. It is our declaration that everything in that memo or letter is indeed from us and that on our honor we stand by what it says. This week, as you sign a check or a credit card slip or an actual letter-think about the character that needs to stand behind that scribbling. The world desperately needs more people of honor (even those with lousy handwriting!)
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel