The historian who wrote the book on which the movie “Lincoln” is based spoke to a sold-out crowd in Des Moines tonight. Doris Kearns Goodwin is the author of “Team of Rivals” — about President Lincoln’s cabinet.
“The one thing that I really cared about in all the drafts that I saw that Tony Kushner wrote of the ‘Lincoln’ movie was to capture Lincoln’s sense of humor. It is such an important part of him,” Goodwin said. “He said somehow that humor allowed him to whistle off sadness, that his melancholy could be stayed by the expression of humor, which in his case often meant stories.”
She noted the movie’s use of Lincoln’s story about Ethan Allen encountering a portrait of General George Washington in an outhouse in Great Britain. And Goodwin suggested if Lincoln were around today he would fare well on modern-day programs like “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” because he was quick-witted.
Goodwin lamented the challenge future historians will face in writing about modern day figures.
“I don’t know what will happen 200 years from now for historians. They won’t have what we had, studying Lincoln — diaries and letters, the most important treasures for a historians,” Goodwin said. “They’ll have so much more stuff about us 200 years from now, but not those intimate words that those forms of writing really communicated.”
Goodwin — who joked that she’s “studied dead presidents all (her) life” — currently is working on a book about President Teddy Roosevelt. Goodwin was the paid speaker for The Greater Des Moines Partnership’s annual dinner.