Lincoln the Unknown (Review)

Lincoln the Unknown (Review)

Honest Abe has been doing that serendipity thing with me.

First, my admin told me I absolutely must dress up this year (at work) as Abe Lincoln, Vampire Slayer. Having seen me in my stovepipe tophat (as a barker) she said I’d be a natural. I’ll have to shave the mustache and dye the beard, but okay. Agreed.

Then, to “research” the role, JB and I went to see the vampire movie. Amusing, yes? Scholarly? I felt like the preacher in the porno theater.

And now, in my Carnegie class, I won a copy of Lincoln the Unknown (by Dale Carnegie) for a speech I gave concerning leadership (as it pertains to role playing in a recent session). Not only was the speech weird and interesting, I nailed down several leadership traits I used to hold eight teenagers spellbound for nine and a half hours.

I didn’t mention my storytelling and hammy theatrics – no, it was shaped around leadership.

But I’d been meaning to read something about Lincoln for some time now. It’s that urge I get when I find a time, a person, a place that suddenly becomes fascinating. And this book dropped right into my lap.

Carnegie’s story of Lincoln is quite fascinating. Yes, I knew he’d come from humble beginnings (but I didn’t know about the raw poverty). And yes, I knew he’d trained himself as a scholar (that he could read at all is nothing short of amazing). And I knew he’d had business failings (but had been unaware of the debts he and his drunken partner had accrued with their failed grocery).

And I didn’t know anything about Mary Todd Lincoln (like, holy crap! I didn’t know anything about this screaming, freakout witch).

I suspect that any of these setbacks would have doomed me to rural poverty and ignorance (I don’t know if I’d be able to overcome it). But Lincoln, he had them all – debt, failure, and a hissing wife. And his first (and only) seating in congress came to disaster when he spoke out against the horrific Mexican War (a new door of history I knew nothing about – evidently it was a shameful example of American political/military adventurism, and if you don’t think so, ask yourself where New Mexico, Arizona and California came from). Lincoln spoke against this and the people loathed him for it. They didn’t want the truth any more than they ever have (or currently do). So Lincoln spoke his piece, crashed and burned.

And earned my respect, over one hundred and fifty years later.

For the rest of Lincoln’s accomplishments, you’ll have to read this (or any other book). As far as this particular volume, it’s well written (though it has that 1930’s taste to it (it’s original copyright)). And that’s not bad, just paced and worded differently from what is customary now. Really, if I have any problem with it, it might hang just a little too long on Mary Todd’s wild antics. Rather than the wince-fest she brings about (I felt like I was squinting while reading her bits), I’d rather have read more direct quotes from the man himself. And his debates with Douglas, certainly there are records of what was said or the points made? So I suppose, to truly learn from the man, I’ll have to read something a little more in-depth.

Still, this book, an easy read at 253 pages, was a good start. I’d recommend it – its probably available for on-line purchase. Or maybe you can give a killer speech on a Carnegie course and win it. Good luck!