Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin Looks to Past Presidents for Lessons the World Could Use Right NowHistorians in the News
tags: doris kearns goodwin
That section is new. These–and the papers in dozens of colorful three-ring binders in a nearby room–were research materials for Goodwin’s new book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, out Sept. 18. Leadership guru is a role Goodwin, 75, has filled informally for years, as a frequent speaker on lessons gleaned from the Presidents who have been the subjects of her award-winning biographies. In her new book, Goodwin has taken “her guys”–Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Lyndon B. Johnson–and crafted elements of their parallel stories into a comparatively slim volume (read: nearly 500 pages counting the bibliography) for history buffs and C-suiters alike.
Goodwin says the writing experience reminded her of graduate school, when she and her friends would talk about how their studies might offer a path forward in their own lives. It felt like “coming full circle,” she says–and allowed her to feel like she was paying something of a debt to the leaders she has chronicled over the years.
“Each time I finished a project, I had to move that guy’s books to another room, and I always felt I was vaguely betraying him,” Goodwin says. “This time I could keep them all where they were.”
In Leadership, each President gets his start, faces obstacles personal and national, and achieves success. Some moments stand out: Teddy Roosevelt’s handling of a strike or FDR’s road map for the first 100 days, which became a staple for future Presidents’ first terms. From Lincoln comes the idea of writing “hot” letters, never to be sent, to get out one’s anger. It’s hard to imagine Goodwin angry–she won’t let TIME take an unsmiling photo of her–but she says anyone can use that tip. And a coda to LBJ’s story, about his lack of leadership on Vietnam, neatly highlights the stakes of her lessons. ...
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