Bridget's Reviews > Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Aug 01, 11

Read in May, 2011

If you decide to read ANY book this year, make it this one. It is a fascinating account of the life of Lincoln and the men of his Cabinet that provides incredible insight into the way that Lincoln navigated the many challenges that he faced as President. "Team of Rivals" is filled with great stories and depictions of the great figures of the time from their own words and the accounts of those who interacted with them - from Lincoln's Secretary, John Hay, who remarked that he "would rather make a tour of a small-pox hospital" than be forced to ask Secretary of War Stanton a favor, to Navy Secretary Welles' account of Lincoln's joy at hearing about the fall of Vicksburg, to Lincoln's remarks about the local political demands of the time for geographical balance in the Cabinet - "I suppose if the twelve Apostles were to be chosen nowadays the shrieks of locality would have to be heeded." It took me a while to get through it, since it's 749 pages long, but don't let its length deter you. Even dipping into it from time to time will be rewarding, as you are likely familiar with the broad arc of the narrative. Yet I will point out that even so, the author somehow manages to make the account feel suspenseful.

I was really struck by how Lincoln at the start of his political career fretted that his generation would have no opportunity for greatness, in the way that the men and women of the revolution did. We do not face the challenges he did then, and most of us will never hold power in the way that he did, but I think that reading of the way that Lincoln lived his life may provide inspiration for all today who seek to be a part of efforts to remake our country into an even greater place, more full of opportunity for people of all backgrounds. He was practical, but held his ground on what he believed to be right; he was politically savvy, but time and time again forgave others, following his credo that "no man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention." After reading this narrative, which allows me now to know in much greater detail all that Lincoln did, I hold him in even higher esteem than I did previously.
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