The American presidential biography is practically synonymous with the name Doris Kearns Goodwin. Author of biographies on Lyndon B. Johnson, The Kennedys, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian’s most recent bestselling book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s feature film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis. Considering Goodwin knows a thing or two about the past, we had the opportunity to ask her the following question: If you could have five historical figures over for dinner, whom would they be and why? Here are DKG’s answers:
Leo Tolstoy: "War and Peace is my favorite novel of all time. I can still see myself as an adolescent, stretched out on the sofa reading it for the first time. Decades later, I remain stunned by its epic sweep, masterful character portraits and philosophic insights. I can't imagine anything better than the chance to talk with the master."
Theodore Roosevelt: "I have lived with TR figuratively speaking for the past six years as I am completing my new work on the broken friendship between TR and Taft. I feel as if I have come to know him, but so magnetic was his personality that no research could substitute for the chance to be with him for even a few hours. An English visitor once said he had seen two tremendous forces of nature in the United States. Niagara Falls and Theodore Roosevelt."
Jackie Robinson: "Not only was he my childhood idol on the team that fueled my life-long love for baseball, but he played a pioneering role in the Civil Rights Movement. So much to talk about! And then I can thank him once again for the autograph he penned for me: ‘Keep your smile a long, long while.’"
Barbara Tuchman: "Female historians were rare when I first read Guns of August as a sophomore in college. Yet here was a woman writing about military history—a field traditionally reserved for men, and carrying away all the honors! I remember thinking I would give almost anything to tell a story as masterfully as she could, to chronicle complex events with such simplicity, to bring characters to such vivid life. There are a hundred questions about research and writing I would love to ask her."
Abraham Lincoln: "Although I completed my book on Lincoln six years ago, I still think about him everyday. If I had a chance to talk with him I realize I should pose the age-old historian's question: What might he have done differently with Reconstruction? Instead, however, I would ask him to tell me a story, knowing when he did so his face would light up with a winning smile and then he would truly come alive."
So what do you think of Doris Kearns Goodwin's historical banquet? Are you eager to vote for your own dinner party? Cast your vote now on this week's Short List!