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.

3 Responses

  1. Fred Kaplan will be my guest at 5 PM New York time on Monday December 22 on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com to discuss his book and the comparisons being made between Lincoln and Obama.

    Please go to http://www.garybaumgarten.com and click on the Join The Show link to talk to him.



  2. Thanks Gary, that’s very interesting. One less well known parallel between Lincoln & Obama concerns place of birth. Many are of course aware that there have been some questions raised about whether or not Obama was born in the U.S., the authenticity of his birth certificate, etc. But relatively few will be aware that some have questioned whether Lincoln was actually born in Kentucky. There seem to be several different stories about Lincoln being the bastard son of one Abraham Enloe (rather than the legitimate son of Thomas Lincoln), and the one with which I am most familiar holds that Lincoln was actually born in Rutherford County, NC, near a place called Bostic. On a hill nearby (called Lincoln Hill) you can find rude foundation stones where the Enloe home once was. There are still die-hard adherants to this theory (the story has been around for many years), and there is talk of trying to use DNA testing to prove it. I myself think it is nonsense.

  3. […] Washington, following the same train route Lincoln did to his inaugural in 1861.  See also our post of Nov. 20th, which in part explores the Lincoln-Obama comparison. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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