Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Team of Rivals

Anyone out there like biographies? 

I never really got into them before the last couple of years, but now I think they are my favorite type of books. I love the insight that I glean from the way people handled their trials. Reading biographies - especially from those of earlier generations - always challenge my comfortable, convenient, modern day American way of thinking. 

I'm currently reading a book on Abraham Lincoln called 'Team of Rivals'. I know this is going to paint me as the book nerd I am, but I think about this book alot. I actually can't wait to read it each night before I go to bed. It tells the story of Lincoln's rise to political office, along with the stories of his three chief competitors. The author does a fabulous job of weaving all of their histories together. 

A number of things have stood out to me so far (I'm in Chapter Eight). First, Lincoln was a man of principle and integrity. When he made a promise, he did all in his power to fulfill. Therefore, he was slow to make promises. That should be a lesson for us all. 

Second, Lincoln was decidedly anti-slavery. Politically, he was unwilling to initially call for the abolition of slavery in the south, though he was strongly opposed to the spread of slavery throughout the union. As I read these speeches being given, trumpeting a cry of dignity and equality for the black man, I am caused to marvel at where we are as a nation. There are many policies in which I disagree with President Obama, but it is remarkable that a country so divided in this book could be so united around an African-American. We should celebrate the accomplishment - it truly is amazing. 

Thirdly, Lincoln was an excellent public speaker. He won his early followers through the choicest of words. I love the closing of his inaugural address. He promises to hold and protect all non-slave states from the spread of slavery, without communicating aggression towards those who currently held that view. His closing words were so well penned:

"I am loathe to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet again swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature."


Lastly, he was a shrewd politician. He was inexperienced to a degree, but what he lacked in experience he made up for with natural political acumen. Even in the first eight chapters, he navigated very delicate situations with the most unusual sense of balance and composure. And all of this before the Civil War even started. 

There are sure to be more posts from me to come on this amazing man and inspiring book. Press on, Mr. Lincoln! Press on. 

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