It's not because I'm a Kentuckian...well, it's sort of because I'm a Kentuckian.
I always loved Lincoln in an obligatory way. I knew he had saved the Union. I knew he had freed the slaves. I knew all the facts...including that he was BORN IN KENTUCKY. (I'm looking at you, Illinois.)
However, my interest never went beyond my interest in all historical figures. That is to say I liked him but I didn't love him. Until I read Team of Rivals.
Doris Kearns Goodwin's historical account of Lincoln's presidency and the men who filled is cabinet should be required reading for all Americans. She brilliantly takes this man - this character - out of the two-dimension story we all know and recreates the person he really was. Her central tenet being that Lincoln's strongest political asset was his incredible empathy. From the book:
"Though Lincoln's empathy was at the root of his melancholy, it would prove an enormous asset to his political career. 'His crowning gift of political diagnosis,' suggested Nicolay, 'was due to sympathy ... which gave him the power to forecast with uncanny accuracy what his opponents were likely to do."
The concept that the strength of this icon of American history was found in his sensitivities floored me. I loved the stories of him pardoning deserters and feeling a heavy sense of obligation to any citizen who crossed his threshold.
At the end of the book, with his assassination playing out in heart-wrenching detail I wept.
My husband sweetly pointed out I knew how the book ended before I started reading it.
However, I couldn't help myself. To fully appreciate the personal and political genius of Lincoln is to fully appreciate the tragedy of his death. Not to mention, I couldn't help but think how everything would have been different for the South had the Reconstruction been lead by Lincoln as opposed to his successors.
Everything I learned about Lincoln while reading that book was so inspiring my personal obsession was a foregone conclusion by the last page. Plus, realizing this man came from the same land I did made everything that much better.
~ Sarah Stewart Holland