Last week, I had the great fortune to attend a lovely reception at the beautiful and historic Springside Inn, held as part of a fundraiser for The Seward House Historic Museum. The reception welcomed author Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of New York Times bestseller Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (affiliate link). The book is a study of the genius of Abraham Lincoln who surrounded himself with the best, brightest men of his age, including William H. Seward and his other rivals for the nomination of President.
The warm, engaging and entertaining Ms. Kearns Goodwin opened by thanking the audience for such a generous welcome, sharing that a screening of Lincoln, the Steven Spielberg movie that is based on her book and to which she had been invited, was taking place at the White House that same evening. The audience roared its delight that she would pick Auburn over Washington with President Obama, Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg.
At face, the lecture was a fascinating exploration of the leadership skills of Abraham Lincoln, which she talked about point-by-point in such a way that you almost felt you knew him. But at heart, it was much more. She offered her audience a peek into her childhood and early career working as a White House page under Lyndon B. Johnson when, as she put it, working as a page wasn’t quite as “complex” as it is now. She revealed how a trip to the Seward House and the journals and letters that were kept by the Seward family and those of other of Lincoln’s confidantes became the basis of her book. Although some may have been aware, others were surprised when she told of the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln and several of his cohorts that succeeded in gravely injuring Secretary of State Seward. I loved hearing how, at the age of five or six, she honed her skills at a storyteller by entertaining her father with every last detail of each Brooklyn Dodgers’ game. That interest in storytelling may be one of the reasons she was so fascinated by Abraham Lincoln, also a reputed storyteller. She shared how she lobbied Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner to reveal more of Lincoln’s sense of humor and personality by including some of the stories he was so famous for telling.
In the course of her lecture, Ms. Kearns Goodwin revealed herself to be, in her own rite, as wonderful a storyteller in person as she is on page.
Bravo to the Seward House Event Committee for inviting Doris Kearns Goodwin to Auburn! I hope more people will become aware of what a treasure the Seward House is.
The Seward House Historic Museum is located at 33 South Street in Auburn, NY. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM. It is closed Mondays and major holidays. During the summer, it is also open Sunday 1 to 5 PM. Tours start on the hour with the last tour of the day beginning at 4 PM. Admission is: Adults $8, AAA/Senior Citizens/Military $7, Students with ID $5, Children under 6 and Circle of Friends Free.
P.S. Kudos to Springside Inn for serving delicious bites of Baked Alaska as an appetizer in honor of William H. Seward’s purchase of Alaska!
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read:
- The Seward House: Thanksgiving Traditions in the 19th Century
- The Seward House: Christmas in the 19th Century
- The Seward House: New Year’s Day in the 19th Century (includes the Seward family traditional recipe for Roman Punch).