Renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin lectured on her new blockbuster bestseller, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln at the Nixon Library on Wednesday morning before an East Room audience of more than 500, many visiting for the first time.
Her other bestsellers include No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, Wait Till Next Year, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
Goodwin said she wrote the Lincoln book because she was looking for a subject to keep her interested for several years. “I embarked on this study ten years ago knowing only that I wanted to learn about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, even if it meant having a leap of faith that I’d come up with a fresh way of telling a story that had been told so many times,” said Goodwin.
“I had worried about moving back to the 19th century because I would have no access to interviews with people who had known my subject.” To her delight she discovered that unlike Lincoln, his former political rivals, who later became his cabinet, not only kept diaries but had written literally thousands of personal letters to their wives and children.
“This was a great relief,” said Goodwin. “I started learning more about these larger-than-life characters such as Seward, Chase, Bates and Stanton. For an historian, there’s nothing like letters filled with raw emotion and feeling to recreate an earlier world.”
During her talk, Goodwin shared many stories of Lincoln, his cabinet and his long-suffering wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. She also touched on stories about FDR, Churchill and the time she was invited by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton to spend the night in the White House – in the same room Churchill stayed in during his White House visits.
Following her talk, she signed books, declaring afterwards that her signing at the Nixon Library was the largest since the book was published.
She will be heading home to Massachusetts next week to spend Thanksgiving with her family, including her young son who has been on active duty in Iraq.