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Award-Winning Historian Visits Missouri Western

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, focusing most of her work on the lives of US Presidents.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Doris Kearns Goodwin talks to a packed house at Missouri Western State University.

Dr. Goodwin quite literally wrote the book on several U.S. presidents.

She's written bestsellers about Lyndon Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Kennedys, and more recently, Abraham Lincoln.

"When you write about him, you're glad to be writing about him," Dr. Goodwin said.  "I knew from friends who have written about Lincoln that they think it was the best experience of their lives.  And weirdly enough, it turned out that way.  Lincoln's character traits seem to seep out onto the biographers."

Those at Missouri Western say they were very excited to bring her to their Convocation on Critical Issues.

"Doris Kearns Goodwin has a reputation as being a historian who presents terrific information, solid information, in a very engaging way," said Kent Heier, the assistant director of communication for the university.

During her speech at Missouri Western, Dr. Goodwin focused mostly on lessons learned by the leadership of Lincoln and FDR.

In her book about Lincoln, Team of Rivals, she talks about the former President filling his cabinet with political rivals; it's a strategy she says might not work today.

"The thing that made it possible in Lincoln's time is that it wasn't just that they were from opposing factions.  When they argued it wasn't public," Dr Goodwin said, noting the flaws in the 24-hour news cycle.  "When you hear today what was happening in Lincoln's cabinet - that some of them are calling each other traitors or some leave the room when another guy comes in.  If that were ever on public display today, it would make it impossible."

Team of Rivals is the book that inspired Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film Lincoln, 2012, a film Dr. Goodwin says she enjoyed.

"What mattered to me was did the film bring the Lincoln I knew back to life," she said, smiling.  "And even though it was just a small story from my big fat book, I had worked with Tony Kushner the scriptwriter, and I had worked with Spielberg throughout it.  They found a story that exemplified the Lincoln I thought I knew, who told stories, who was funny, who was politically smart, whose face lit up when one of those stories came, and who understood how to get something done."

Dr. Goodwin speaks about Presidents like they're her friends, and it's a style that seems to resonate with everyone in the packed hall.

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