Abe Lincoln in the News

Speaking of past presidents, Abe Lincoln is again in the news.  When asked, during his recent 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, what he was reading as he was contemplating his new administration, President-elect Barack Obama said he was “spending a lot of time reading Lincoln.  There is a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.” 

And check out this Newsweek article, in which Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe argue that Lincoln could indeed serve as a valuable model for Obama to draw upon as he seeks to transcend our divisions and unify the country.  As they point out, Obama himself once said that next to the Holy Bible, the book “he would find essential in the Oval Office” would be historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’ s Team of Rivals, in which she “recounts how Lincoln surrounded himself with advisers who were better educated and more experienced and who made no secret of coveting Lincoln’s job.”  News that Obama is exploring some bold choices for his cabinet — perhaps even his former foe Hillary Clinton and some Republicans — suggests that Obama is unlikely to surround himself with “yes men.”

Unrelated to President-elect Obama was also news that a famous Lincoln letter, the so-called Bixby letter, had turned up in the archives of the Dallas Historical Society.  Though the copy found is not yet definitely authenticated, the Bixby letter was a condolence Lincoln wrote a woman upon hearing that she had lost five sons in the Civil War.  Considered to be one of the most extraordinary examples of presidential prose (not unlike his Gettysburg Address), the letter received considerable attention in its day and seems to have even influenced the plotline of Steven Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan.     

All this attention to Lincoln reminds me of a time many years ago when I was in an antiquarian bookshop and the bookseller there handed me a very tiny book, about the size of my thumbnail, on which I could see the words, “Littlest Lincoln Book.”  It was meant as a joke, owing to there being so many books about Lincoln.  Certainly he is the most written about of our presidents.  And naturally Greensboro Public Library has its share.

If you’d like to read about Lincoln, here are some of our recent titles:  “We are Lincoln Men”:  Abraham Lincoln and His Friends by David Herbert Donald; Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally; Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory by Barry Schwartz; The Age of Lincoln by Orville Vernon Burton; The Gettysburg Gospel : the Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows by Gabor Boritt; Giants:  The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer; Lincoln:  A Life of Purpose and Power by Richard Carwardine; Lincoln by David Herbert Donald; Lincoln:  The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan; Lincoln President-elect : Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 by Harold Holzer; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:  The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo; Mr. Lincoln Goes to War by William Marvel; Our Lincoln:  New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World edited by Eric Foner; President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman by William Lee Miller; and The Real Lincoln:  A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas J. DiLorenzo.

President-elect Obama: The Transition

Until President-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20th, the news media will be chock full of articles on the transtition from Bush’s administration to his, speculation on various appointments, some of which will no doubt be controversial, as well as the issues the new president will face, especially on the economic and foreign policy fronts.  Even the Obama family’s housekeeping details will be under the microscope, as within the last few days, when Mr. Obama visited with President Bush in the Oval Office at the White House, the President-elect was even reported to have taken a look at what will be his daughters’ bedrooms!

Barack Obama is so popular that most of the library’s copies of books by him (Dreams From My Father; The Audacity of Hope) or about him (Barack Obama:  This Improbable Quest by John K. Wilson; Barack Obama, the New Face of American Politics by Martin Dupuis; Obama:  From Promise to Power by Davaid Mendell; Obama’s Challenge : America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency by Robert Kuttner) stay checked out or, as in the case of the last named title, are currently on order, but Greensboro Public Library has an impressive collection of books on recent past presidents in Dewey # 973.9. 

Some see parallels between the economic and war-time challenges facing Franklin Roosevelt — 973.917 & B R778 — and our new president-elect.  If you’re interested in the Roosevelt analogy, you may want to take a look at some of these:  The Age of Roosevelt by Arthur Schlesinger;  Backlash:  The Killing of the New Deal by Robert Shogan; The Defining Moment:  FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter; Kenneth S. Davis’ multi-volume study, including FDR, the New Deal Years, 1933-1937, and FDR, the War President, 1940-1943; FDR’s Folly : How Roosevelt and his New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression by Jim Powell; FDR:  The First Hundred Days by Anthony J. Badger; Franklin D. Roosevelt:  A Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank Freidel; and The New Dealers’ War:  Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War Withing World War II by Thomas J. Fleming.

The Troubled Economy

Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson has just announced at a press conference that the government’s $700 billion dollar plan to purchase troubled mortgage assets from banks would not be implemented as originally planned, but instead efforts would focus upon continuing the recapitalization of banks through stock purchases, assistance to borrowers in danger of losing their homes, and support for financial markets which supply consumer credit for auto loans, student loans, credit cards, etc.  

Our financial leaders have gone from one proposal to another.  One may thus wonder:  Does the government really have a well-conceived plan to deal with the crisis?  How bad is this credit problem anyway?  Are we headed for recession or even a depression? 

Perplexed and confused by all this?  So are we all.

If you’d like to read more about the financial crisis, try CQ Researcher Online’s detailed report on the Financial Bailout.  Use your library card number to access this resource.    

Let me add that I’ve found some excellent web sites with insight from professional economists which have helped me to stay abreast and navigate through all the complexity.  The blog of Paul Krugman, this year’s Nobel Prize winner, and Nouriel Roubini’s RGE Monitor are just two that come to mind. 

The DJI (Dow Jones Industrial Average) has had a lot of tough days lately.  Keep in mind that Greensboro Public Library card holders have complete access to the Value Line Research Center.

As our economic woes deepen and we likely move toward recession, some folks here in Guilford County may lose their jobs.  But if you’re unemployed and looking for work, Greensboro Public Library has a great links page to help you get started on your job hunt.  We also have a careers collection on the second floor at Central Library, as well as a full-time employment counselor, Ms. Doris Jessup.

Hopefully America will meet these economic challenges with all the success with which it has faced others.

Not voted yet?

By this time, you’ve probably already decided which candidate has your vote, or maybe you plan to cast a straight party ballot.  Keep in mind that there will be choices that will be neither Republican, Democrat or 3rd party. Judges and school board officers, as well bond issues are included.  For last minute research check out these voter information links. You can view a copy of you ballot at the Guilford County Board of Elections.