Doris Kearns Goodwin gives tips to analyze presidential hopefuls
Doris Kearns Goodwin was in York in November about her book, ‘Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.’ At the end of her speech, she gave tips to assess presidential candidates. Background posts: Goodwin cites York countian’s story to tell about Gettysburg Address, Follow the leader… George Leader and Presidents and presidential candidates have visited York for decades .
Doris Kearns Goodwin counseled a York County audience recently on qualities to look for in a presidential candidate.
Her well-received visit raised the question about who would follow her in an annual or bi-annual fundraiser for the York County Heritage Trust… .
Goodwin’s visit in November and David McCullough’s speech about five years ago set a high standard.
Other high-profile candidates would be Jeff Shaara (“Gods and Generals”), James McPherson (“Battle Cry for Freedom”) and Gary Gallagher (former Penn Stater), all three normally associated with Civil War history. Douglas Brinkley (“The Great Deluge”) is known as the best of the young high-profile historians. Ken Burns could help to raise York County’s awareness of World War II. Or bring back David McCullough (that’s my pick).
But here’s another idea: Fill in the off-year with local dignitaries of historical note or who could speak on historical topics. For example:
— Former Gov. George Leader could present with Daisy Myers. The two presented about five years ago at a black history conference. The governor sent state police to Levittown in the late 1950s to quell violence against Myers’ family.
— George Leader and his brother Henry Leader, George’s right hand man as governor, could present on those years in the governor’s office.
— Put up high-ranking leaders of both the Dems and Republicans for a presentation. Here’s the best combo: State Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf and former U.S. Rep. Bill Goodling.
— Put two senior York County historians on stage, namely Jim Rudisill and Charles H. Glatfelter.
Here, by the way, are a sampling of Goodwin’s tips outlined in the York Daily Record/Sunday News’ editorial:
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, in town recently, gave some apt advice for the presidential election year that starts today – New Year’s Day, 2008.
She delivered a well-received address at a York County Heritage Trust fundraiser about her most recent book “Team of Rivals.” That work shows how Abraham Lincoln deployed different, even competing voices, in his Cabinet to arrive at courageous decisions during trying times.
Lincoln and other top-tier American presidents share qualities that can be worked into a framework to help Americans assess candidates in the upcoming months.
* * *
Here are several leadership qualities to look for, according to the historian:
– The capacity to listen to varying points of view.
– The ability to learn on the job – to learn from mistakes.
– The magnanimity to share credit for successes. In other words, a leader can achieve as long as he or she doesn’t care who gets credit for accomplishments.
– The willingness to shoulder blame for failure, even if that defeat does not stem directly from one’s own actions.
– The development of an acute awareness of one’s own weaknesses.
– The ability to control emotions, when angry.
– The understanding about how to relax by taking advantage of diversions – such as going to the theater and humorous storytelling.
– The desire to keep in contact with troops and other people by going to the field or wherever they were – today often called “management by walking around.”
– The resolution to stick to long-term goals even when one’s own reputation is on the line.
– The capacity to communicate with a nation in understandable images via stories and metaphors.
* * *
These are perceptive tools we can all use to cut through the hair brushing and airbrushing that overlay the true qualities of candidates for this powerful job.
Doris Kearns Goodwin noted that Lincoln was able to laugh at himself.
She shared an incident in which someone accused Lincoln of being two-faced.
If I had two faces, why would I wear this one?
Today, many candidates have different faces for each audience they address.
Presidential hopefuls with just two faces would be rare, indeed.