Leadership in Troubled Times, pp. 228 – 229

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Washington, D.C.:  This crowd on Tenth Street had formed in front of the Peterson House, where President Abraham Lincoln was taken after being shot, and where he eventually died, on April 15, 1865.

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.

A Single Sentence: July 22, 1862

As a fit and necessary military measure for effecting this object (the preservation of the Union) I, as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, do order and declare that on the first day of January in the year of our Lord 1863 all persons held as slaves within any state or states, wherein the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be practically recognized, submitted to, and maintained shall then, thenceforward and forever, be free.

— Abraham Lincoln

The American Civil War, June 1862

Leadership in Troubled Times, Chapter Nine: Transformational Leadership

“General George G. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac suffered a crushing defeat in its first major offensive.” McClellan’s Army was trying to get to the Confederate Capital of Richmond when it was crushed by General Robert E. Lee in a series of brutal battles. The Union Army was forced to retreat, “leaving nearly 16,000 dead, captured or wounded.”

“Lincoln resolved to visit the troops” and discovered that a crucial factor in the Confederate’s success was: “Slaves dug trenches and built fortifications for the Confederate Army. Slaves served as teamsters, cooks, waiters, and hospital attendants. On the home front, they tilled fields, raised crops and picked cotton. Slave labor kept farms and plantations in operation. The toil of slaves liberated Confederate soldiers to fight.”

Abraham Lincoln realized that, “given the manifold advantages the slaves supplied the Confederacy, an executive order freeing the slaves could be considered “a military necessity absolutely essential to the salvation of the Union.”

So exciting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

1954: Brown vs. Board of Education

Self is still slogging through Leadership in Turbulent Times. Nothing Doris Kearns Goodwin writes can be dull. But there is a formula in this one: each section has to show how the subject truly deserves the descriptor “great.” And that makes the sections feel a little predictable.

Nevertheless, there are some surprises. She did not know that the four presidents written about — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson — were Republicans. Ha!

Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother died within a day of each other. Subsequently, he turned on his baby daughter, because her birth hastened her mother’s demise.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt married for love.

Lyndon Johnson built “a substantial fortune.”

Of the four presidents, self is most interested in Lyndon Johnson, because of the crucial role he played in the civil rights movement.

The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools had quickened the civil rights movement, incited a violent reaction in the South, and prompted the Eisenhower administration to send a bill to Congress expanding federal authority to protect black citizens in a wide range of civil rights, including voting rights.

Johnson, according to Goodwin, grasped at once that “if the South accepted the inevitability of small, incremental progress on civil rights, it might well become one of the most prosperous regions in the country. If it refused to move forward, it would remain an economic backwater.”

When the civil rights bill came along, Johnson was Senate majority leader. He cannily saw that the civil rights movement could not be stopped, and therefore he worked to build coalition among his peers, adding amendments to greatly soften its sting. He worked at blunting “extreme statements” on the Senate floor, “preventing the conflict from being cast in irreconcilable terms.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

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Main Building, University of Santo Tomas, Manila: January 2018

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, is housed there, in the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library (named after self’s great-great-grandfather). At the opening, self’s great uncle, who donated the money for the archives, cited a thesis self had written in the Ateneo de Manila, which traced the del Rosario family history back, four generations. But self wasn’t there. Her brothers went, and great was their shock when they heard her name mentioned as the reason the archives exit. (Self couldn’t go because — well, she couldn’t afford the airfare. Husband was out of work. None of her family offered to make up the fare)

She FINALLY got to drop by in January 2018, met the librarians, and took pictures. The archives survive on the generosity of individual donors. Three full-time employees are responsible for digitizing the vast collection.

“How many books have been digitized so far?” self asked.

The answer: 150.

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Self is thinking about the archives because today she decided to try and work on her 18th century novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores. Her novel — a product of over-reach, self is no historian — is about a Spanish priest who, in 1736, is sent to the Philippines to fight demons. She’s reading about books by the early missionaries, books like the Ilocano catechism of 1621, translated by Fray Francisco Lopez.

“Your books should be here, ma’am,” she remembers the librarians telling her. “We’ll add them to the display.”

What? No . . .

On second thought! She’ll contact her press right now. Please send copies to the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives in University of Santo Tomas, stat!

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Found these copies of self’s third short story collection in the National Bookstore in Gateway Mall, Cubao, Metro-Manila! (January 2018)

Afterwards, self dropped by the Program in Creative Writing, and got to pose for a picture with the professors:

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University of Santo Tomas, January 2018: Creative Writing Program Director Jing Hidalgo is on self’s right.

Dearest Mum’s only response, when self showed her the pictures: Why are you so short?

lol

lol

lol

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More From Gary Kamiya

Love Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco. Reading the essays in it painstakingly slowly.

Gary Kamiya was one of the founders of Salon.com (still going strong!). An ex-fellow Fellow from Stanford, Jim Paul, used to write for them. As did Chitra Divakaruni. As did Laura Miller. As did Heather Havrilesky.

Self is on Essay # 5, The Harbor at the End of the World:

A 1508 map by Johannes Ruysch depicts South America as the New World, with Asia in the place where North America actually is.

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Private beach access for this homeowner along the Mendocino coast

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Abraham Lincoln, Self Can’t Even

Leadership During Turbulent Times, Chapter 1 (Abraham), p. 6:

  • “When he first learned how to print the letters of the alphabet, he was so excited that he formed letters, words and sentences wherever he found suitable material. He scrawled them in charcoal, he scored them in the dust, in the sand, in the snow — anywhere and everywhere that lines could be drawn.”

— Nathaniel Grigsby, a childhood friend of Abraham Lincoln

Quote of the Day: Abraham Lincoln

My mind is like a piece of steel — very hard to scratch anything on it, and almost impossible after you get it there to rub it out.

  • — from Chapter 1 (Abraham) of Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Sunday Read: TAKING MESOPOTAMIA, by Jenny Lewis

Two books self put on hold are waiting for pick-up at the downtown Redwood City Library: one is Milkman, the prize-winning novel by Irish writer Anna Burns. The other is nonfiction by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Leadership.

The rain seems to be holding off a bit. She planted some lilies and spread organic fertilizer around her roses.

She really needs to get on with her writing, always difficult when she’d much rather be planting. To help her, she’s reading Jenny Lewis’s memoir in poetry of her father’s time in the British Army: Taking Mesopotamia (Carcanet, 2014)

This is a re-read. Self has known Jenny for five years. She heard Jenny read at the British Museum. She was there when Jenny read from her new collection, Gilgamesh Retold, at the Woodstock Poetry Festival in Oxfordshire, last November.

The collection begins with two quotes, the first from the epic of Gilgamesh, the second from Lord Grey of Falloden.

Here’s what Lord Grey has to say about the taking of Mesopotamia, 1919:

  • I think the best thing would be if, at the end of the war we could say we had taken and gained nothing. Taking Mesopotamia, for instance, means spending millions on irrigation and development with no immediate return . . . keeping up a large army in an unfamiliar country and tangling every kind of administrative question.

Self loves the idea of an occupying army taking and gaining nothing.

Stay tuned.

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Sunday Morning, First Day of Daylight Saving, March 2019

Sentence of the Day: Gary Kamiya

The oldest skeleton found in the City is that of a female, unearthed during excavation for the Civic Center BART station in 1969, dating to about 5,000 years ago.

— from Cool Gray City of Love, Chapter 3: The Alcatraz Triangle

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Fourth Sunday of February 2019

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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