"These are not the worst of times"

February 20, 2019 | Festival Boca

There are not many historians whose profile as a public intellectual is as prominent as Doris Kearns Goodwin. Surely not many historians have had a cameo on The Simpsons.
 
And while she has a great sense of humor about the attention she gets, she is dead serious about what her research into presidential lives can tell us now. 
 
When asked recently how her most recent book, Leadership in Turbulent Timescould help us navigate our current turbulent moment, Goodwin replied:

“We have to remember these are not the worst of times. Imagine Abraham Lincoln entering office with the country split in two, with a civil war that would leave more than 600,000 dead about to begin.
 
“Imagine Theodore Roosevelt thrust into office by the assassination of William McKinley at a time when the conflict between the rich and the poor, the capitalists and the wageworkers, was so intense that talk of revolution was in the air.
 
“Imagine Franklin Roosevelt coming into power when the Great Depression hit rock bottom. He feared the whole house of cards might collapse before he could take the oath of office.
 
“Imagine Lyndon Johnson taking office in the wake of Kennedy’s assassination, when racial issues threatened to tear the country apart and Kennedy’s civil rights bill hung perilously in the balance.
 
“At each crisis moment, healing change percolated from aroused citizens joining together in a moral purpose. We must remember, as Franklin Roosevelt said, that problems created by man can be solved by man, so long as we pull together toward a common end.”

The book, which Goodwin will present at Festival Boca on February 28, looks at four former presidents (Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson) and how each forged their character, responded to challenges, and led the nation through crisis.

“I believe history teaches that it is character above all that matters in our leaders, and also that leadership is a two-way street. Change comes when social movements from the citizenry connect with the leadership in Washington. We saw this with the anti-slavery movement, the progressive movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and the #MeToo movement. We ignore history at our peril, for without heartening examples of leadership from the past we fall prey to accepting our current climate of uncivil, frenetic polarization as the norm.” {emphasis added}

Goodwin will speak on February 28 at 7 pm, in Mizner Park Ampitheater. Reserve your seat for this important talk here, or reserve an All Authors Pass, which gets you into all six presentations, from Robert Pinsky to the Global Health Panel, from David Sanger to Jeffrey Rosen.

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