Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president of the United States, emancipator of the slaves, and lanky-top-hat-wearing-American-icon. How did he do it? How did he go from dirt-poor boy with a knack for telling stories to one of the most revered men in the history of America? What challenges did he face and how did he face them? How did he endear himself to the soldiers of the Union who were fighting for him? What mistakes did he make? And what is the full story behind his assassination? Did you know he wasn’t the only one targeted that fateful night?
In her book Team of Rivals Doris Kearns Goodwin tells Lincoln’s story. Every aspect of it from the personal to the political, the campaigns for Senator and Presidency, the beginning of his life to the end of it- everything is detailed in this incredible book.
Intriguing as the questions surrounding Lincoln may be, even I was at first a little daunted by this massive work. And yet as soon as I finished the first couple chapters I was so captivated by the words, the way the words went together, and the story they so descriptively depicted that I forgot it was a history book. Kearns Goodwin is such a masterful writer that she captures the essence of Lincoln and educates readers about his life in a way that doesn’t read like many biographies- dry, and maybe a little informative. Instead this story is just that- a story. It may not be a rollicking adventure with dragons or pirates or princesses, but it is a story, and perhaps all the more wonderful because of its truth.
So why Team of Rivals? What is the meaning behind the title? It is just one example of Lincoln’s genius in the office of the presidency. Instead of playing favorites, rewarding friends at the expense of enemies, Abraham Lincoln composed a cabinet made up of his fiercest rivals. His reason? They were the best in the field. Why should the country suffer because he didn’t agree with them? And the more strong, educated opinions you have in a room, the better the chance of determining the right stance, the policies that are best for the nation, the strategy to prevent the United States from falling apart. So as Lincoln held his divided cabinet together, so he saved his divided country. And he did it all without holding grudges, without severe reprimands. Why yell when a meaningful story will do the trick?