“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country – bigger than all the Presidents together…We are still too near to his greatness,’ (Leo) Tolstoy (in 1908) concluded, ‘but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us’ ” (748).― Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
On Thursday, I finally finished Goodwin’s masterpiece on Abraham Lincoln. I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, but honestly, I couldn’t ever seem to find the reading time to devote to it. At 700+ pages of dense text, this book is a literal doorstop. This past October, though, I decided to give it another try–a third try to be be exact. I’m so glad I did.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s masterpiece of a book describes the unlikely rise of the “railsplitter” from Illinois to the highest office in the land, at perhaps one of the most crucial moments in our nation’s history. In fact, our country was fracturing even as Lincoln was traveling east to Washington for his Inauguration in 1861.
I’ve always known that Lincoln was a national hero, but until now I’ve never understood exactly why. Here is what made Lincoln great: it was his character. He lead with kindness and empathy. His gracious heart was able to turn his fiercest rivals into his closest allies. He chose his cabinet members not by how loyal they would be to him, but rather how he felt they would help him to lead the country. He was deeply humble, and he never took himself too seriously even in the depths of the Cival War. He was criticized at every turn throughout the war, but he never wavered in his purpose. He was deeply in tune with the needs of the country, and had a vision for America far greater than many of his contemporaries could see. When he died at the end of this book, I felt like I had lost a close friend—such was the power of Goodwin’s writing. Our country was truly blessed to have this particular man in the Presidential seat at this very critical moment in our country’s history. I am so glad I read his story.