Pulitzer Prize-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin speaks on the American Presidency


Photo by Eva Littman

On Feb. 4, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin came to Trinity to speak for the 2015 Flora Cameron lecture series. Goodwin’s most recent book “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism,” depicts the ever-changing relationship between some of the powerful men that led the United States.

Goodwin’s lecture took place in Laurie Auditorium with many in attendance from the Trinity and San Antonio community. Goodwin’s extensive knowledge has been translated into multiple books about past presidents upon whom she reflected during her lecture.

“I discovered that [Lincoln] went to the theater more than 100 times during the Civil War. He said when the Shakespeare play came on for a few precious hours he could imagine himself back in time and forget the war that wa raging. But his famous favorite form of relaxation was his sense of humor and his incredible gift for storytelling,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin has written six books including ones about the Kennedys, Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) and the Roosevelts.

Her previous work experience working in the White House as a fellow for LBJ helped her begin her storytelling into previous president’s lives.

“When I went to study other presidents after him, I had to pledge to myself to try and understand them and not judge them from the outside in the way I judged him from the outside in when I was looking at the anti-war movement. I think that’s helped me in a certain sense, to just pick the people that I wanted to live with,” Goodwin said.

Michelle Kong, co-president of the Trinity Progressives club, attended the Q&A session with Goodwin earlier in the afternoon. Several students from Dr. Crockett’s presidency and American politics classes were in attendance as well. Kong had been able to introduce Goodwin to the Q&A session and was also going to the lecture later in the evening.

“I’m in Dr. Crockett’s American Politics class and he approached the class with the opportunity and I thought it would be interesting to take it,” said Kong. “The presidency interests me and I really want to hear what other good things Dr. Goodwin has to offer.”

Crockett, the head of the political science department, encouraged his students to attend the lecture as well as the Q&A.

“I basically just tried to market it to people. What often times happens is, when we have someone come in for the student Q&A, is they will find a faculty member in a department that’s a logical connection,” Crockett said. “Since she does presidential leadership and I teach the presidency, they asked me so I’ve been hawking it to my students, my department and anyone else I can think of.”

Crockett also studies different presidents and has been published multiple times for his work in the field. He currently is working on the similar struggles of presidents and their various difficulties in office.

“My favorite president to study typically is the one I’m working on right now, and oddly enough ,that’s Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge, because I’m working on the 1920’s,” Crockett said. “So I’m interested to see what kind of similar context they faced in their leadership to people like John F. Kennedy who is next on my list, and eventually George W. Bush, who all faced very similar leadership dilemmas. So that group of presidents is what is most interesting [to me].”

This is not the first time Goodwin has been to Trinity’s campus. She has come before to speak to students about her books.

“She came and talked to one of my classes the first two years I was teaching here. I think it was probably the spring of 2001, and I met her two years ago. I had dinner with her when she was on her “˜Bully Pulpit’ book tour; she came here and gave a talk,” said Crockett.

Throughout her research. while writing “The Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” Goodwin’s most surprising discovery was Lincoln’s sense of humor.

“I’ve told John Stewart and Steven Colbert [whose shows] I have been on many times, that if Lincoln were alive today he would absolutely beat them one-on-one-on-one and I have no doubt of that,” Goodwin said.