While the Golden Globes may not have honored the genius of Stephen Spielberg’s direction of the movie Lincoln, I hope and believe the Oscar voters will. As anyone who has a feel for history will, I think, agree, Lincoln is a uniquely moving portrait of Abraham Lincoln and the late part of the Civil War.
Much of Spielberg’s movie is based on Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the wonderfully researched and written book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
For those who have not read it, Goodwin tells the story of “Lincoln’s political genius revealed through his extraordinary array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him, to repair injured feelings that, left unattended, might have escalated into permanent hostility; to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates, to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes.”
The movie makes the people and politics of the lame duck Congress in late 1864 and early 1865 understandable to viewers of today. Before watching the movie I had doubts that the director and Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor who plays Lincoln, could make this iconic figure into a living, breathing human being. There is no doubt they succeeded.
The movie shows how Abraham Lincoln was different from other leaders, then and now. Goodwin writes that his “decency, morality, kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty and empathy” were “impressive political resources.” Lincoln may have said : “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” We saw him doing that in this movie.
Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer – apparent in the movie – and that was a critically important part of his career; it helped shape who he was. He was famously quoted as advising attorneys to “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”