Quoting Abraham Lincoln, world renown historian and writer Doris Kearns Goodwin says,”A good story for me is better than a drop of whiskey.” With philosophy like this, Goodwin never failed to engage the audience of McFarlin Auditorium with stories of not only past United States presidents, but also herself.
Brooklyn raised, Goodwin grew up with a passion for baseball, attending the game and racing back home to report the events of the game to her father–and thus a journalist was made. The consultant to Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary, Goodwin has carried her love of the game (and the Red Sox) into her professional and family life. As the first woman journalist admitted into the Red Sox locker room, the game holds a special place in her heart. When moderator Bill McKenzie asks why America is so infatuated with baseball, she explains, that today’s fast pace society does not have time to sit and chat and reflect. But baseball is slow moving and personal. “It’s part of being a town…If the Red Sox lose, I can’t read the newspaper the next day.”
The Pulitzer-Prize winning author has had now two of her books acquired by Stephen Spielberg, one of which was the Oscar winning “Lincoln” starring Daniel Day Lewis. Spielberg has recently bought the book rights to her new work, “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.”
Goodwin’s presence in film has informed her of the power and responsibility of putting history to the screen. She explains her disappointment in the recent film “Selma” and the false depiction of President Johnson. “They made it into a black moment, not a black and white moment. This was a moment of harmony in history, but it was a transcendent American movie. They screwed it up.”
Her books and stories have such an impact on us because of their reachability. Goodwin knows stories, and she knows stories well. From recollections of twirling on the dance floor with Lyndon B. Johnson to meeting her childhood crush Jackie Robinson, Goodwin illustrated her life through the stories of her past and our leaders. Her knowledge of deliciously detailed anecdotes of America’s figure heads seemed never ending and always new.
A woman obsessed with the past, Goodwin admitted,”I think I’m just meant to be in the past.”
She has adopted Franklin D. Roosevelt’s philosophy that “People will remember stories better than they remember facts.” What made men like LBJ, FDR, and Lincoln so great was their ability to communicate to their people. Goodwin explains that the power of the president’s communication has been diminished.
She also critiques the loss of humility in the more recent administrations. The answer to having flaws is not simply admitting them, but compensating for them and having someone opposite to him present. “The unconfident guy wants to be the only one right, while the confident guy is willing to admit flaws. That’s confidence.”
As for the future generation of leaders, Goodwin left the students with one challenge – get as many experiences with different groups of people as you can. “Grow in understanding of different groups of people. Recognize diversity. Go out and get inside their heads.”
Board member and alumnae, Mr. and Mrs. Albon and Debbie Head Jr. braved the storm and traveled all the way from Parker County to hear Goodwin speak. Mrs. Head claims this Tate Lecture as “the best she’s ever heard.”
“She’s one of the greats,” said Head. “Her beautiful grasp on not only America, but also the world was incredible to listen to.”