Chapter Nine, which breaks down the reasons Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style was so successful, is so far self’s favorite chapter of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Troubled Times. What Goodwin does really well is show us the humanity behind the icon, and Lincoln was an extremely humane President, who suffered from periodic bouts of depression.
In fact, depression was what led him to break off his engagement to Mary Todd (what a scandal, for those times). A few years later, when he was more in command (emotionally as well as politically), he approached her again and she forgave him. They were married.
It is very hard indeed to read the following paragraph:
When Lincoln was under appalling duress, nothing provided greater respite and renewal than a visit to the theater. During his four years as president, he went to the theater more than a hundred times. When the gas lights dimmed, and the actors took the stage, Lincoln was able to surrender his mind “into other channels of thought.” At a performance of Henry IV, Part I, a seatmate noted, “He has forgotten the war. He has forgotten Congress. He is out of politics. He is living in Prince Hal’s time.” He understood that people might think his frequent theatergoing “strange, but I must have some relief from this terrible anxiety, or it will kill me.”
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.