For a number of years, Paul Harvey was one of the highest rated and most popular radio personalities in America – with over 1,200 stations broadcasting his segments three times a day. He would share a historical story which would leave the listener assuming a certain ending. Then after a commercial break, he would come back on and say “and now, the rest of the story.” The endings were surprising, comical or tragic, but always unexpected.
While reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I felt that if Paul Harvey were alive today, he could find ample fodder in the back-stories which hovered around Lincoln’s life.
The theme is Lincoln’s ability to incorporate and use people who might have been smarter or more popular, those with greater resources and connections, both friends and enemies, to better his administration. In using others to accomplish his wishes, he revealed his true leadership genius. Former rivals began supporting him. He wasn’t afraid of good or bad advice and sought out guidance even from those he didn’t like.
Family problems plagued Lincoln. Mary was not sane – at least some of the time – and racked up nearly a million dollars in today’s currency refurbishing the White House and he was ugly (he probably wouldn’t have been electable in today’s media driven world). But they were in love at one time and Mary had her good points such as forcing Lincoln to take a daily drive with the family– to clear his head.
Lincoln’s job was to hold a nation together in spite of vast differences. But the back-stories or the “rest of the story” is what I would have liked.
I want to understand Robert E Lee more. We praise him because of his loyalty – but loyalty toward a geographic location (Virginia) over the anti-slavery principles that he espoused? Is loyalty above the law? Do we obey the law until it conflicts with our loyalty to family or location etc.?
I was immediately drawn to the Rhode Island governor Sprague because of his diminutive height – the same as myself. He flourished and became a rich and powerful person but succumbed to drunkenness and a failed marriage – attempting to throw his wife from a balcony. What’s the “rest of the story” in his case?
Or, what would history look like if it was told from a women’s perspective, such as Julie Bates, with her 17 children and a life of pregnancy? Or the New York congressman who murdered the The Star Spangled Banner author’s son – Daniel Sickles – but became a favorite of Mary’s dinner parties.
Or the surprising friendship between teetotaler Lincoln and the hard drinking, smoking, cussing Episcopalian Seward, and that he actually used his time with his advisor for relaxation despite their differences.
As one who loves geography, I remember when St. Louis ceased to be a travel hub for the now defunct TWA and later American Airlines. Both airlines have since pulled out, leaving the city that Bates described as becoming the “ruling city of the continent” (67), a secondary city with little importance. What factors contributed to its decline?
I wish Paul Harvey were still alive. Perhaps he could acknowledge the importance of Lincoln’s leadership and his military intelligence but then share some of the backstories and “rest of the stories” that permeated his presidency.