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

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Apr 08, 12

bookshelves: history, american-history, biography, non-fiction
Read from March 03 to April 08, 2012

When considering Lincoln, there's an assumption of greatness. But, perhaps, also a dismissiveness - a man of his time, caught up in an historical maelstrom, that did whatever any man thrust into the same position would have done. Sure, he did it with his homily charm and ornamented action with oratorical genius, but he was as much a player as a pawn. For my own part, I never really examined that train of though. This book, however, demolishes it. I now have a deep appreciation and admiration for Lincoln as a politician and a force that shaped events. But I also feel an emotional connection to his humanity, wisdom, humility.

Thinking about that classic hypothetical question - "if you could have a conversation with any person, living or dead, who would you choose" - Lincoln now rises towards the top. Going into that conversation with a Napoleon or a Caesar, language problems aside, I can't imagine what you'd actually talk about. Lincoln would just tell you a bunch of humorous stories that would later turn out to have a useful moral force, and you'd leave entertained, enriched, and with a greater love for the man.

On a different note, I'm also left with the impression that the civil war may be THE defining historical event for Americans. More so, even, than the revolution. I feel like we still live in its wake. I grew up in the pacific northwest, thousands of miles from any ground touched by the civil war, and yet somehow I harbor vague ill will towards the south. I'm sure in the south, particularly in battle grounds along the ravaged trail of Sherman's march or around the besieged cities of Richmond, Fredericksburg, Chatanooga, etc, the wounds must be much deeper. Coming into an election year, though the parties may have switched sides, I can't help but see the forces at play in the civil war still at play today.
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