By Dave Wieczorek
When slipping into the past she loves so much, renowned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is fond of quoting lines from Emily Dickinson: There is no Frigate like a Book / to take us Lands away. Of Goodwin it could be said that there is no frigate like a biography to sail us through the deep, rich currents of American history.
She has launched a fleet of numerous best-selling biographies to prove it: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism; Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (on which the 2012 movie Lincoln was based); the Pulitzer Prize-honored No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II; Wait Till Next Year, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.
Says Goodwin: “I shall always be grateful for this curious love of history, allowing me a lifetime to look back into the past, allowing me to learn from these large figures about the struggle for the meaning of life, allowing me to believe that the private people we have loved and lost in our families and the public figures we have respected in our history, just as Abraham Lincoln wanted to believe, really can live on so long as we pledge to tell and retell the stories of their lives.”
She shares her insights about the lives and politics of our country’s “large figures” – past and present – in “Leadership Lessons of History: Doris Kearns Goodwin on the American Presidents” during her appearance Wednesday (April 15) as part of the 2015 Broward College Speaker Series, co-sponsored by City & Shore Magazine and presented at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.
“What’s rewarding for me as I move from one president to another is that you do see traits in one president that another president might share,” Goodwin says. “Some universal traits I’ve seen in these leaders when I’ve looked at them over time are the ability to trust people within their inner circle, the ability to communicate with stories or metaphors or language that’s understandable, the ability to acknowledge errors and the ability to learn from mistakes.”
The 72-year-old, Brooklyn-born Goodwin took her first swing at history as a young girl, when her father taught her to keep score of baseball games so she could run down the “history” of that afternoon’s game when he arrived home from work.
That love, Goodwin recalls, “got translated into the presidency when my parents took me to FDR’s house, and seeing the house when he was no longer alive but feeling his presence still there. The leash for his little dog was on the chaise lounge next to his bed. He had left his glasses on the desk. So I said to the tour guide, ‘He must be coming back because his glasses are here.’
“There was a sense that you could bring these people back to life.”
Which is exactly what Goodwin has been doing for decades, writing one best-selling frigate of history after another.
Tickets for the Broward College Speaker Series, presented at the Broward Center by Hoffman’s Chocolates, a BBX Capital Company; are available through the AutoNation Box Office at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 954-462-0222, or visit BrowardCollegeSpeakerSeries.com. The next speaker in the series will be Chris Berman, host of ESPN’s NFL Sunday coverage, on May 20. Berman has been named Sportscaster of the Year six times by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He and his various shows have won 10 Emmy Awards and 12 Cable ACEs. Speaker topic: “Thirty Years at ESPN: How a Startup-run-out-of-a-trailer Became the Biggest Media Behemoth on the Planet.”