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CEDAR FALLS | Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the book that inspired Steven Spielberg’s film "Lincoln," inspired a crowd of University of Northern Iowa students Wednesday night.

Spielberg’s film, featuring Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln, was based on Goodwin’s book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln."

Goodwin said though her book details the entire Civil War era, she was pleased with the film though it only highlighted four months of Lincoln’s presidency.

“Hemingway said the best thing to do with Hollywood is come to the border of California, throw your book over and let them pay you, because oftentimes it doesn’t turn out to what you hoped it would be,” she said. “But they somehow picked a story that showed Lincoln’s character, and that’s all I wanted.”

Goodwin spoke to the students at 4 p.m. She held another event later Wednesday night in front  of a packed house at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

Having been an assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Goodwin revealed bits of presidential personalities that were otherwise hidden from public purview. She shed light on LBJ’s struggle with public speaking.

“LBJ always had a teleprompter in front of him and was always in front of a podium, and he’d take that podium wherever he went. They called it “Mother” because he wouldn’t go anywhere without (it),” she said.

She composed her collection of anecdotes and research into a New York Times bestselling book, "Lyndon Johnson and The American Dream."

“Because he had talked to me so much, it made the book a bestseller, which opened up a door for me,” she said.

One student in the crowd, studying to be a history teacher, asked what advice Goodwin could give teachers on how to engage students in learning about the past.

“History is about telling stories,” she said. “To the extent that you can wrap in to your teaching of the history stories that have their own little sparkle ... that’s what people remember. They may not remember the facts, but they will remember a story.”

Her next book, due to come out Nov. 5, details the life of President Theodore Roosevelt: "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism."

Because of the many historical biographies published about this famous leader, Goodwin said she decided to focus on what made him a great president. The bully pulpit refers to Roosevelt’s relationship with news reporters.

“The most important thing is to find people that I want to spend a lot of time with. I could never write about Hitler or Stalin and have to wake up with them every morning,” she said.


Cedar Falls/UNI education reporter for the Courier

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