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Doris Kearns Goodwin on Impulse Control



Bryan Series Q&A illuminates Doris Goodwin’s work

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in the Community Center and waited in anticipation for a chance to pose questions to presidential scholar, biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her 4 p.m. appearance on campus preceded her Bryan Series talk at the Greensboro Coliseum that night.

Goodwin was accompanied by her colleague Mark Updegrove, well known as a historian in his own right Updegrove introduced himself and Goodwin, revealing that he was a two-year student at Guilford College before transferring to a larger school.

Updegrove said he was “both excited and honored” to be back at the college that made such an impression on him. Then President Jane Fernandes spoke, giving a brief overview of the biographer’s educational background and what Fernandes described as a “great love of the liberal arts.”

During the campus event, the crowd had a wide variety of questions for Goodwin, ranging from how she became a presidential historian to what problems technology poses for presidential record-keeping.

Goodwin spoke of her childhood love of history, spurred on by a succession of great history teachers leading all the way up to her constitutional law professor, who advised her Ph.D. at Harvard University. Goodwin wound up serving first as a White House Fellow and then as a member of the 36th U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s staff around the same time that she was completing this degree, a time split which she said caused some friction as Johnson tried to convince her to become his biographer later on.

The assembled group had a few different questions about Goodwin and Johnson’s relationship, including Goodwin’s first impressions of the man she called “truly larger than life.”

During a dance at the White House, the 6-foot-4 Johnson, towering over the petite Goodwin, told her—in what Goodwin called his irresistible and charismatic “Johnson treatment” style— “You’re going to work for me here at the White House.”

White House Fellows are not granted jobs on a presidential staff automatically, since the position serves as a sort of internship, so Goodwin knew this was a chance not many people get. And as she developed a closer relationship with Johnson, she found herself drawn to this man who had a certain “indomitable will.”

Goodwin fondly reflected on the day she and Johnson agreed that she would take the position.

“On that last day (Johnson) was in office before handing the presidential power over to Nixon, he called me into his office and said rather gruffly ‘All right, part time,’” said Goodwin. “And that’s how I became his biographer.”

Both Goodwin and Updegrove spoke of Johnson as a complex, compassionate man who was troubled at times and haunted by the Vietnam War.

“He knew he wanted to be remembered by his work as a president with the civil rights activism of the time,” said Goodwin. “And even later on, his work with the Great Society. (The Vietnam War) was just something I knew he always regretted being handed––it was this huge mark on his presidency. But that’s a lot of presidents… Bush (Jr.), for one.”

Goodwin also spoke to the potential trouble biographers run into balancing a historical figure, particularly one they may have known personally, as a “character,” versus writing about someone as a real person. Both Updegrove and Goodwin praised actor Bryan Cranston’s recent portrayal of Johnson in the 2016 film “All the Way.” During the filming, Cranston sought Goodwin’s help since she worked as the film’s historical consultant.

“There is this temptation to fill in the gaps with what a person was thinking, what he was really meaning, but you can’t assume that unless it’s official record…” said Goodwin. “I think that’s where film can come in and fill those gaps, make that person into a character the audience can empathize with.”

Goodwin reassured the students in the audience that her path to presidential historian was not straightforward. However, she also said she was pleased with her life choices and what paths she had taken. She encouraged those present to seize once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when they arise.

“Looking back I am so glad I made that choice to say yes,” Goodwin said. “It would have been so foolish of me (to refuse the offer by Johnson), but you don’t think of those opportunities as life-changing then. You’re young and everything is about right now.”


Leaders’ empathy matters in the midst of a pandemic

By Jonathan D. Fitzgerald
Published May 10, 2020 4:29PM (EDT)

Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump (AP Photo/Salon)

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This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Resilience, communication skills, openness and impulse control top the list of six qualities that presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says are common to good leaders.

In her book "Leadership: In Turbulent Times," Goodwin surveyed the lives and leadership styles of four American presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson – in an effort to distill what characterized them.

Another of the leadership traits Goodwin lists turns out to be of great value during these pandemic days: empathy.

The leaders who exude empathy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are experiencing surges in popularity. The New York Times has called Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York "the politician of the moment," noting, among other things, his briefings, which now regularly reach national audiences and are "articulate, consistent and often tinged with empathy."

Even Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who is known for his businesslike demeanor, has shed tears during press briefings several times in recent weeks. When he recently recounted how his best friend lost his mother to the disease, he choked up.

"I pay attention to the numbers but what I really think about mostly are the stories and the people who are behind the stories," Baker said.

This experience, Baker added, caused him to think about "the importance of loved ones putting it all out there and making sure they don't leave anything unsaid," confiding that with his own father, "I try to say more."

Empathy contagion

In my ethics courses, as well as in my scholarship, I emphasize the importance of empathy in moral decision-making.

Michael Slote, a moral philosopher and author of several books on the resurgent 18th-century movement known as moral sentimentalism, writes, "empathy involves having the feelings of another (involuntarily) aroused in ourselves, as when we see another in pain." This he likens to an infusion or, more appropriate to our current moment, a contagion of "feeling(s) from one person to another."

Nell Noddings, one of the foundational voices of the Ethics of Care, an ethical theory that highlights the importance of empathy, writes that when one empathizes with another, the person doing the empathizing becomes a "duality," carrying the other's feelings along with their own.

The nonempathist

President Donald Trump is not known for his empathy. Nearly every evening as the president addressed the nation through his televised briefings, he has had the opportunity to show he "feels your pain," to quote one of Trump's predecessors, Bill Clinton.

But this president can't seem to overcome what CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger calls his "empathy gap."

"Empathy has never been considered one of Mr. Trump's political assets," writes Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. Indeed, at his briefings, Trump shows "more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents," Baker writes. At best, Trump seems to be able to muster something more akin to sympathy.

But sympathy is not the same as empathy. Sympathy feels bad for others. Empathy feels bad with others. Sympathy sees what you're going through and acknowledges that it must be tough. Empathy attempts to go through it with you.

Trump has done little more than acknowledge suffering, as he did last month when he refused to condemn protesters rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, instead saying "they've been going through it a long time … and it's been a tough process for people … There's death and there's problems in staying at home too … they're suffering."

Leverage with voters?

Now it looks like Trump's apparent lack of empathy is being used as an election issue by Democratic party leaders.

In a recent town hall, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pointed directly to Trump's behavior as a crucial failing: "Have you heard him offer anything that approaches a sincere expression of empathy for the people who are hurting?"

By way of contrast, as endorsements begin to pile up for Biden, empathy is on the tip of his supporters' tongues. In his endorsement of his former second-in-command, President Barack Obama praised Biden's "empathy and grace." Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Convention, noted that the tragedies that Biden has experienced in his own life, including the 1972 death of his first wife and 13-month-old daughter in a car accident and, more recently in 2015, his son's death from brain cancer, "have given him the empathy to lead us forward."

And, in her endorsement of Biden, former rival Elizabeth Warren highlighted the way his experiences "animate the empathy he extends to Americans who are struggling." She goes on to state unequivocally, "Empathy matters."

Effective leaders empathize

While there is no definitive list of qualities that all great leaders must possess, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes, "we can detect a certain family resemblance of leadership traits" through history.

Empathy has played a pivotal role in American history when presidents feel with, and act in response to, their constituents' needs. Indeed, leaders who empathize, who relate to and feel with their people can ask them to do difficult things.

That aptly describes New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was recently profiled in The Atlantic magazine. The article's headline, perhaps hyperbolically, suggests that because of her ability to empathize, Ardern may be "the most effective leader on the planet." One of Ardern's forerunners sums it up: "There's a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy."

And empathy works the trust that New Zealanders have placed in Ardern, along with her government's strong measures to stem COVID-19, are both credited with dramatically reducing the outbreak's severity in her country.

It is easier to trust an empathetic leader their empathy is better assurance than the weak sympathy of a leader who grieves the loss of his own power over the loss of life.

It turns out, most of us just can't empathize with a person like that.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The nonempathist

President Donald Trump is not known for his empathy. Nearly every evening as the president addressed the nation through his televised briefings, he has had the opportunity to show he “feels your pain,” to quote one of Trump’s predecessors, Bill Clinton.

But this president can’t seem to overcome what CNN’s chief political analyst Gloria Borger calls his “empathy gap.”

“Empathy has never been considered one of Mr. Trump’s political assets,” writes Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. Indeed, at his briefings, Trump shows “more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents,” Baker writes. At best, Trump seems to be able to muster something more akin to sympathy.

But sympathy is not the same as empathy. Sympathy feels bad for others. Empathy feels bad with others. Sympathy sees what you’re going through and acknowledges that it must be tough. Empathy attempts to go through it with you.

Trump has done little more than acknowledge suffering, as he did last month when he refused to condemn protesters rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, instead saying “they’ve been going through it a long time … and it’s been a tough process for people … There’s death and there’s problems in staying at home too … they’re suffering.”

President Donald J. Trump speaking at a coronavirus task force briefing April 23, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Getty/Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post


Fitzgerald: Leaders’ empathy matters in the midst of a pandemic

The leaders who exude empathy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are experiencing surges in popularity.

Resilience, communication skills, openness and impulse control top the list of six qualities that presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says are common to good leaders.

In her book “Leadership: In Turbulent Times,” Goodwin surveyed the lives and leadership styles of four American presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson – in an effort to distill what characterized them.

Another of the leadership traits Goodwin lists turns out to be of great value during these pandemic days: empathy.

The leaders who exude empathy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are experiencing surges in popularity. The New York Times has called Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York “the politician of the moment,” noting, among other things, his briefings, which now regularly reach national audiences and are “articulate, consistent and often tinged with empathy.”

Even Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who is known for his businesslike demeanor, has shed tears during press briefings several times in recent weeks. When he recently recounted how his best friend lost his mother to the disease, he choked up.

“I pay attention to the numbers but what I really think about mostly are the stories and the people who are behind the stories,” Baker said.

This experience, Baker added, caused him to think about “the importance of loved ones putting it all out there and making sure they don’t leave anything unsaid,” confiding that with his own father, “I try to say more.”

In my ethics courses, as well as in my scholarship, I emphasize the importance of empathy in moral decision-making.

Michael Slote, a moral philosopher and author of several books on the resurgent 18th-century movement known as moral sentimentalism, writes, “empathy involves having the feelings of another (involuntarily) aroused in ourselves, as when we see another in pain.” This he likens to an infusion or, more appropriate to our current moment, a contagion of “feeling(s) from one person to another.”

Nell Noddings, one of the foundational voices of the Ethics of Care, an ethical theory that highlights the importance of empathy, writes that when one empathizes with another, the person doing the empathizing becomes a “duality,” carrying the other’s feelings along with their own.

President Donald Trump is not known for his empathy. Nearly every evening as the president addressed the nation through his televised briefings, he has had the opportunity to show he “feels your pain,” to quote one of Trump’s predecessors, Bill Clinton.

But this president can’t seem to overcome what CNN’s chief political analyst Gloria Borger calls his “empathy gap.”

“Empathy has never been considered one of Mr. Trump’s political assets,” writes Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. Indeed, at his briefings, Trump shows “more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents,” Baker writes. At best, Trump seems to be able to muster something more akin to sympathy.

But sympathy is not the same as empathy. Sympathy feels bad for others. Empathy feels bad with others. Sympathy sees what you’re going through and acknowledges that it must be tough. Empathy attempts to go through it with you.

Trump has done little more than acknowledge suffering, as he did last month when he refused to condemn protesters rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, instead saying “they’ve been going through it a long time … and it’s been a tough process for people … There’s death and there’s problems in staying at home too … they’re suffering.”

President Donald J. Trump speaking at a coronavirus task force briefing April 23, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Getty/Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Now it looks like Trump’s apparent lack of empathy is being used as an election issue by Democratic party leaders.

In a recent town hall, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pointed directly to Trump’s behavior as a crucial failing: “Have you heard him offer anything that approaches a sincere expression of empathy for the people who are hurting?”

By way of contrast, as endorsements begin to pile up for Biden, empathy is on the tip of his supporters’ tongues. In his endorsement of his former second-in-command, President Barack Obama praised Biden’s “empathy and grace.” Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Convention, noted that the tragedies that Biden has experienced in his own life, including the 1972 death of his first wife and 13-month-old daughter in a car accident and, more recently in 2015, his son’s death from brain cancer, “have given him the empathy to lead us forward.”

And, in her endorsement of Biden, former rival Elizabeth Warren highlighted the way his experiences “animate the empathy he extends to Americans who are struggling.” She goes on to state unequivocally, “Empathy matters.”

Effective leaders empathize

While there is no definitive list of qualities that all great leaders must possess, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes, “we can detect a certain family resemblance of leadership traits” through history.

Empathy has played a pivotal role in American history when presidents feel with, and act in response to, their constituents’ needs. Indeed, leaders who empathize, who relate to and feel with their people can ask them to do difficult things.

That aptly describes New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was recently profiled in The Atlantic magazine. The article’s headline, perhaps hyperbolically, suggests that because of her ability to empathize, Ardern may be “the most effective leader on the planet.” One of Ardern’s forerunners sums it up: “There’s a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

And empathy works the trust that New Zealanders have placed in Ardern, along with her government’s strong measures to stem COVID-19, are both credited with dramatically reducing the outbreak’s severity in her country.

It is easier to trust an empathetic leader their empathy is better assurance than the weak sympathy of a leader who grieves the loss of his own power over the loss of life.

It turns out, most of us just can’t empathize with a person like that.

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is an assistant professor of Humanities at Regis College. He wrote this for The Conversation.


Why Leaders Matter During a Pandemic

Resilience, communication skills, openness and impulse control top the list of six qualities that presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says are common to good leaders.

In her book “Leadership: In Turbulent Times,” Goodwin surveyed the lives and leadership styles of four American presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson – in an effort to distill what characterized them.

Another of the leadership traits Goodwin lists turns out to be of great value during these pandemic days: empathy.

The leaders who exude empathy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are experiencing surges in popularity. The New York Times has called Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York “the politician of the moment,” noting, among other things, his briefings, which now regularly reach national audiences and are “articulate, consistent and often tinged with empathy.”

Even Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who is known for his businesslike demeanor, has shed tears during press briefings several times in recent weeks. When he recently recounted how his best friend lost his mother to the disease, he choked up.

“I pay attention to the numbers but what I really think about mostly are the stories and the people who are behind the stories,” Baker said.

This experience, Baker added, caused him to think about “the importance of loved ones putting it all out there and making sure they don’t leave anything unsaid,” confiding that with his own father, “I try to say more.”

Empathy contagion

In my ethics courses, as well as in my scholarship, I emphasize the importance of empathy in moral decision-making.

Michael Slote, a moral philosopher and author of several books on the resurgent 18th-century movement known as moral sentimentalism, writes, “empathy involves having the feelings of another (involuntarily) aroused in ourselves, as when we see another in pain.” This he likens to an infusion or, more appropriate to our current moment, a contagion of “feeling(s) from one person to another.”

Nell Noddings, one of the foundational voices of the Ethics of Care, an ethical theory that highlights the importance of empathy, writes that when one empathizes with another, the person doing the empathizing becomes a “duality,” carrying the other’s feelings along with their own.

The nonempathist

President Donald Trump is not known for his empathy. Nearly every evening as the president addressed the nation through his televised briefings, he has had the opportunity to show he “feels your pain,” to quote one of Trump’s predecessors, Bill Clinton.

But this president can’t seem to overcome what CNN’s chief political analyst Gloria Borger calls his “empathy gap.”

“Empathy has never been considered one of Mr. Trump’s political assets,” writes Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. Indeed, at his briefings, Trump shows “more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents,” Baker writes. At best, Trump seems to be able to muster something more akin to sympathy.

But sympathy is not the same as empathy. Sympathy feels bad for others. Empathy feels bad with others. Sympathy sees what you’re going through and acknowledges that it must be tough. Empathy attempts to go through it with you.

Trump has done little more than acknowledge suffering, as he did last month when he refused to condemn protesters rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, instead saying “they’ve been going through it a long time … and it’s been a tough process for people … There’s death and there’s problems in staying at home too … they’re suffering.”

Leverage with voters?

Now it looks like Trump’s apparent lack of empathy is being used as an election issue by Democratic party leaders.

In a recent town hall, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pointed directly to Trump’s behavior as a crucial failing: “Have you heard him offer anything that approaches a sincere expression of empathy for the people who are hurting?”

By way of contrast, as endorsements begin to pile up for Biden, empathy is on the tip of his supporters’ tongues. In his endorsement of his former second-in-command, President Barack Obama praised Biden’s “empathy and grace.” Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Convention, noted that the tragedies that Biden has experienced in his own life, including the 1972 death of his first wife and 13-month-old daughter in a car accident and, more recently in 2015, his son’s death from brain cancer, “have given him the empathy to lead us forward.”

And, in her endorsement of Biden, former rival Elizabeth Warren highlighted the way his experiences “animate the empathy he extends to Americans who are struggling.” She goes on to state unequivocally, “Empathy matters.”

Effective leaders empathize

While there is no definitive list of qualities that all great leaders must possess, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes, “we can detect a certain family resemblance of leadership traits” through history.

Empathy has played a pivotal role in American history when presidents feel with, and act in response to, their constituents’ needs. Indeed, leaders who empathize, who relate to and feel with their people can ask them to do difficult things.

That aptly describes New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was recently profiled in The Atlantic magazine. The article’s headline, perhaps hyperbolically, suggests that because of her ability to empathize, Ardern may be “the most effective leader on the planet.” One of Ardern’s forerunners sums it up: “There’s a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

And empathy works the trust that New Zealanders have placed in Ardern, along with her government’s strong measures to stem COVID-19, are both credited with dramatically reducing the outbreak’s severity in her country.

It is easier to trust an empathetic leader their empathy is better assurance than the weak sympathy of a leader who grieves the loss of his own power over the loss of life.

It turns out, most of us just can’t empathize with a person like that.

[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversation’s newsletter.]

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Doris Kearns Goodwin: On John Kerry's Relationship with the Catholic Church

LESTER HOLT: Of course John F. Kennedy ran as the first Catholic presidential candidate. There was a controversy then, but if I recall, it was more of a controversy involving non-Catholics and their perception of how he would perform in office as a Catholic.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: That's exactly right. It's incredible to remember how fiery it was when Kennedy first started the primary process. For example, in Protestant West Virginia, he was way ahead, and then as the days approached for the primary he fell behind and they said, 'How did this happen?' And the answer was, 'Well, they didn't know you were a Catholic until now.' And he finally had to answer the problem of being a Catholic--the first Catholic president he would become--in a big speech in Houston, Texas. He was so nervous before that speech. They thought the whole election could ride on it. He wore a conservative black suit, a black tie, but he'd forgotten his black shoes, so brown shoes floated out from the bottom of his trousers. His face was sort of--you could see it was tense. But he gave what was considered a home run of a speech. He said, 'I am not a Catholic running for president, I am the Democratic Party's candidate running for president who happens to be a Catholic.' And then he said, 'I do not intend to dictate to the church what they should do on public policy, and I will not accept their dictation to me.' He even had to answer the fact that he could attend a Protestant Church if a public official who was Protestant had a funeral, because there was this old superstition that a Catholic could never set foot in another Protestant Church without somehow being struck dead at the threshold.

Ms. GOODWIN: But once that issue was answered, it seemed like the issue was put to rest. And here it is back again.

HOLT: Yeah, so he makes a--essentially a statement of--a declaration of independence, if you will. How has it been turned around? Has--has this been--have you seen this coming, this notion among some Catholics that--that this was going to be a litmus test?

Ms. GOODWIN: Well, it seems like it's still a small group of conservative Catholics who are claiming that if an individual does not uphold the Catholic teachings as a public politician in his public right, that he's not able to take communion. It's not really what the general feeling of the church is as I understand it. Ever since Vatican II, the feeling is that an individual conscience is making the decision for themselves whether they're in a state of grace when they receive communion. And if we try to make litmus tests for all Catholic politicians, it's going to be really hard to divide them. Because think of it, it's not just conservative issues that some liberals might be against, like against abortion or against civil unions, but the Catholic Church is also against the death penalty, which a lot of conservatives are for. Catholic Church is against birth control, which the majority of the Catholics are for, even in the sense of birth control if you've got AIDS, not assuming condoms should be used. So I think it's really important to distinguish between teachings of the church and what a public politician is able to do in public policy.

Ms. GOODWIN: The whole foundation was separation of church and state.

HOLT: Let me ask you, has President Bush worn his faith more public--intertwined it more with his public policy than more--other recent presidents?

Ms. GOODWIN: Certainly than more other recent presidents. I mean, there's no question but that faith, religion and God has been a part of presidential, not just politics, but presidents for a very long period of time. But it's so important to remember back to Abraham Lincoln in that great second inaugural when he understood that both sides, the North and the South, read the same Bible so that you shouldn't be able to use religion as a way of dividing people. That's the strength of this country. People came here because they didn't want religious tests imposed. They didn't want to have to say one church or another could become a public official. So I hope that this story, in the end, comes back to what the archdiocese in Boston finally said, even though you quoted earlier what O'Malley had said previously. Finally, they said they're not going to get involved in this campaign, and reminded people that it still is up to the individual to decide whether they're in a state of grace when they go to communion. If we start turning away public people for communion because of their stance on public issues, I think the foundation of our country, separation of church and state, will really be hurt.

HOLT: Doris, we always value your perspective. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.


President’s Day Special: Time With Doris Kearns Goodwin

And who better to talk about on President’s Day than one of our nation’s foremost presidential historians?

My admiration for Doris Kearns Goodwin goes way back, I love her books, enjoy her TV appearances and anxiously await her next work—which now includes film making (Check out “Washington” on The History Channel).

So when she came to FAU, we gobbled up tickets, got lucky and ended up in the front row in what was a sold out house. At age 77, after a Pulitzer Prize, Carnegie Medal and several best-selling books, Doris Kearns Goodwin is a rock star. That alone ought to make you optimistic about America.

Ms. Goodwin was in Boca to talk about her new book “Leadership in Turbulent Times.”
While the book is not about our current turbulent time, the great thing about history is that if we care to look, the past holds lessons for our present and our future.

“Leadership in Turbulent Times” is about Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson—presidents who Goodwin calls her “guys.”

When writing about her subjects, Goodwin “lives” with them so to speak reading their letters, speeches and diaries and any relevant document that has to do with their lives and times. It does make one wonder how future historians will navigate our digital times. Goodwin muses that perhaps they will comb through emails (if they are kept) and tweets. It is an interesting question.

Regardless, in writing about FDR, TR, LBJ and Lincoln we as Americans can learn what it takes to be an effective leader. Not a perfect leader or a mistake free leader—they simply don’t exist, but a leader who makes an impact.

What makes Goodwin’s writing and speaking so interesting is she shares the “warts” (as she calls them) that all leaders have.

Lincoln lost several elections. He was almost comfortable with failure, but never gave up on winning.

FDR dealt with a Great Depression, a World War and a debilitating bout with polio. He built his upper body strength by crawling around for hours on the floor dragging his body.

LBJ’s legacy includes Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights and voting rights but also Vietnam. He told great tales, had boundless energy, won countless political fights but was broken by Vietnam, which inflicted untold damage on countless people.

Yes, all great leaders have warts. But they also have strengths that enable them to handle difficult times and leave a mark on the world.

Goodwin outlines six traits of great leaders. It’s a great list and very important to review as we vote in a few weeks for national and local candidates.

Empathy-–a feel for other people and an ability to identify with other points of view. Empathy is an essential trait of any successful leader and any successful human being, she added.

Resilience—an ability to learn and persevere when difficulties arise. In public life, in any leadership role, you are bound to get hit with a hay maker punch or two (maybe even more) but great leaders get up, dust themselves off and find a way forward. They are resilient and they get better as a result.

Communication—a leader’s ability to communicate can make all the difference. Leaders frame issues, raise important questions and are able to articulate controversial positions and why they must make some difficult decisions to benefit the greater good.

Openness to growth—an ability to evolve as you learn and as you gain experience. If you already think you know it all or are the smartest guy or gal in the room, you are off track. And you will fail as a leader. Leadership is a growth experience, but only if you are open to learning.

Impulse control- Sometimes knowing what not to say is as important as what a leader does say. Strong leaders know when to bite their tongue—and are better for it.

Relaxation—Our most iconic presidents knew that getting away from The White House could help them become better leaders. We need to balance our lives and find time to renew.

To these amazing traits, I would add integrity, which is the basis for all leadership. Vision doesn’t hurt either.

What to watch for?
Narcissism, egomania, bullying, meanness and a need to win every argument. Leaders need to be able to let go—you win some, you lose some that’s the nature of life.

We can do worse than listen to our historians when we choose our present day leaders that goes for the White House to City Hall.

I’ll stick with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wisdom any day.

Comments

I saw her last year when she spoke in Boca and what a treat to hear her speak from a perspective that few can claim. She worked for LBJ for a time and what an experience that must have been. My favorite portion was her discussion of TR and all he faced. Overall, as a country, we have been blessed with robust leaders in the most turbulent of times and we made it through to be come stronger …. and wiser. I hope the same holds true for our current situation.

She said LBJ told great stories, a few of which were actually true.
As for TR, you could see her respect for him when she spoke of his abilities and appetites.

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Empathy contagion

In my ethics courses, as well as in my scholarship, I emphasize the importance of empathy in moral decision-making.

Michael Slote, a moral philosopher and author of several books on the resurgent 18th-century movement known as moral sentimentalism, writes, “empathy involves having the feelings of another (involuntarily) aroused in ourselves, as when we see another in pain.” This he likens to an infusion or, more appropriate to our current moment, a contagion of “feeling(s) from one person to another.”

Nell Noddings, one of the foundational voices of the Ethics of Care, an ethical theory that highlights the importance of empathy, writes that when one empathizes with another, the person doing the empathizing becomes a “duality,” carrying the other’s feelings along with their own.


America's worst historians

By Nancy Isenberg - Andrew Burstein
Published August 19, 2012 4:00PM (EDT)

Journalist Fareed Zakaria is seated during Harvard University commencement exercises before being awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University, in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, May 24, 2012. (AP/Steven Senne)

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Thomas Jefferson wasn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes when he directly borrowed John Locke’s ideas and language to declare the principle of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But, by definition, we could call what he did plagiarism.

The major moral lesson to be taken from the Fareed Zakaria scandal is not what the media focused on this past week. Yes, he lifted material concerning the long, mostly unknown history of gun control, and he did so transparently. Even if he hadn’t been obliged to come up with an article for Time on a short deadline, he would still have taken more or less the same steps, and for a reason that, on the surface, makes perfect sense: The history he needed to tap into was too involved for someone trained as a journalist to investigate in depth.

Michael Barthel’s probing piece in Salon about transparency and credibility in the Internet age aims at the heart of the problem. But for professional historians, there’s more to it than the cut-and-paste freedom that the Web invites. Plagiarism is both a broader and touchier issue than most people imagine it to be – outright “copying.” It is ultimately a question of originality.

Frankly, we in the history business wish we could take out a restraining order on the big-budget popularizers of history (many of them trained in journalism) who pontificate with great flair and happily take credit over the airwaves for possessing great insight into the past. Journalists are good at journalism – we wouldn’t suggest sending off historians to be foreign correspondents. But journalists aren’t equipped to make sense of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Let this be, then, the tale of two highly visible Harvard Ph.D.’s who have been caught red-handed committing plagiarism. Both Fareed Zakaria and Doris Kearns Goodwin were awarded degrees in government from Harvard, 25 years apart. Goodwin, the elder, is a serial plagiarizer who has been welcomed back with open arms by the TV punditocracy. She directly and egregiously lifted quotes from others’ works on multiple occasions – a Pulitzer Prize–winning book contained passages plagiarized from three different writers! – and she quietly paid off one aggrieved author.

The full story can be read in University of Georgia historian Peter Hoffer’s book "Past Imperfect" (2004). It’s damning. It’s also revealing of the fact that Goodwin recycles material because it’s easier than coming up with something new. Bear in mind that, as a matter of course, history majors are taught to visit the archive and focus on primary sources. Government majors are not. Still, that is no excuse for what she (or Zakaria) did.

Even as she admitted to slipshod research in 2002, Goodwin rounded up her prominent journalist friends – and she even co-opted some professional historians. They published a letter in the New York Times assuring the public that she was a writer with “moral integrity” who was innocent of plagiarism. She disappeared from TV and, until her infamous fraud could be erased from public memory, put off publication of a new, breezily written, but still unoriginal (if plagiarism-free) book.

That book was the big-buzz-generating "Team of Rivals." It was allowed to surface because her publisher was deeply invested and celebrity authors are good bets. Media conglomerates don’t care if the star author is flawed or historically sloppy. Literary larceny is acceptable if the bottom line is helped. The cloud lifted – boy, did it lift – and she was fed prestigious book prizes all over again, returning to prime-time with a vengeance. We’ll grant that, as an engaging public personality, she knows something about the modern age. But when it comes to an earlier America, she has to rely on paid researchers and real historians for legitimate ideas. Where’s the genius in that? Yet everyone will tell you she is among America’s very best historians.

Second best, actually. The beloved David McCullough, formerly of Sports Illustrated, is routinely enshrined as “a national treasure” and “America’s greatest living historian.” But nothing he writes is given real credibility by any careful historian because history is grounded in evidence, and McCullough isn’t familiar with more than a smattering of the secondary literature on most subjects he tackles. He hires a younger researcher (the Goodwin method) to read for him and tell him what’s important. If he doesn’t read in depth the books and articles he lists in his very thorough bibliography, which someone else presumably compiled, how honest is he being with the reader?

What makes him a historian? It's his avuncular personality, not any mastery of the sources.

Though more than a million copies of his book "John Adams" sold, even more Americans were influenced by the HBO series of the same name, which was marketed as if based on the book. In reality, not only was the history grossly distorted, many of the scenes were stolen from "The Adams Chronicles," which appeared on PBS in the 1970s. There are far better books on Adams than McCullough’s, but they haven’t been hyped. There's no money in it. History is hard to sell if it’s complicated.

We have to fight mediocrity as well as plagiarism – the two are more closely related than you realize. Journalists doing history tend to be superficial and formulaic. To the historian’s mind, they don’t care enough about accuracy. It’s a surprisingly short distance to travel from dressing up the past in order to make it familiar, to paraphrasing (actually, stealing) an earlier biographer’s ideas.

History is not a bedtime story, folks. Plagiarism is variously defined as “wrongful appropriation” and “close imitation” it is not just blatant theft of the gist of a paragraph. Originality in writing history is something palpable and verifiable, and it’s the reason History Ph.D. candidates spend years researching and writing a dissertation, taking several years more to fashion it into the book that will earn them tenure. Good history demands the ability to judge the available evidence – a form of knowledge journalists are not asked to cultivate.

Most everyone who transgresses on the work of historians uncritically accepts someone else’s work, then tweaks it a little. That’s how the game is played. But historians are trained differently. They are taught to be suspect of authors who come to their information secondhand. The mark of a good historian is writing something new about something old and making an original argument gleaned from primary sources.

You will not find a painstaking scholar dressing up his or her material to make it more familiar than it should be, such as: “The dark eyes that gleamed behind large metal-rimmed glasses – those same dark eyes that had once enchanted a young officer in George Washington’s staff – betokened a sharp intelligence, a fiercely indomitable spirit …” This is from the opening page of Ron Chernow’s mega-selling "Alexander Hamilton," describing Hamilton’s widow as if the author knew her personally and could verify these superior qualities. Chernow is a smart guy he's another Ivy Leaguer who rose from freelance journalism to become a Pulitzer Prize–winning popular historian. His bias in favor of his subject is akin to McCullough’s, though he writes better and goes deeper.

You will not find a careful historian citing the work of someone whose face is on TV above the made-up title “Presidential Historian.” That’s done to give the appearance of authority when there is not the substance of it. But there are still bigger frauds in the History marketplace. Bill O’Reilly’s "Killing Lincoln" is a national bestseller? What could be more pathetic than to look for a single original idea in such a book? Yet it isn’t called plagiarism.

The careful study of history does not yield a litmus-test slogan on the order of “We’re an exceptional nation.” It’s no wonder that you have Paul Ryan this week declaring his intention to “go back to the founding principles” and other congressional Republicans fatuously claiming that the founding fathers promoted small government, and therefore so should we. Sure, the founders’ America was a small country. They were not legislating for 315 million people. Thomas Jefferson’s entire State Department employed fewer men than it takes to field a baseball team. But this is the kind of logic you get when you get your history from inspired cheerleaders rather than professional historians. It’s what you get from the constant recycling of old stories, thefts from older books – most of which is never caught. The perpetrators not only go unpunished some are lionized as the nation’s most noteworthy historians.

The trend will no doubt continue. The public seems to like what is most easily digestible, especially if it comes from the word processor of someone congenial whom they regularly see on TV. And publishers know they can successfully market a book from a household name, no matter how derivative its content. Name recognition trumps quality. Appearance is everything.

Nancy Isenberg

Andrew Burstein

Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg are historians at Louisiana State University and co-authors of the forthcoming book "The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality." Follow them on Twitter @andyandnancy.