Time off during Thanksgiving week provided a great opportunity to go see Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln. I had heard Spielberg had used Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals, to base the portrayal of Lincoln. Having read that book a few summers ago, I was intrigued how Spielberg would tie the movie into the book.
In her outstanding book, Doris portrays how Lincoln utilized in his cabinet candidates who had not only vehemently opposed him, but still questioned his ability as president. The movie picks up some of this in the cabinet scenes, but having read the book I felt I was a bit more sensitive to that portrayal.
The movie also focuses on the passage of the 13th amendment to the constitution abolishing slavery, and how Lincoln is driven to accomplish its passing. Like the book, the movie embraces Lincoln’s leadership style that focuses on the principle to be accomplished, in this case the passing of the 13th amendment by the House of Representatives, but also his commitment to preserve the Union. From this leadership style Lincoln shows great care for those who disregard him. His humility, his willingness to let others express their opinion while still holding to his own convictions, and his desire not for credit, but accomplishment, make this a great study in leadership.
I also greatly appreciated how the movie worked in the Gettysburg address and Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural address, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech (and also a great book). Part of the power of the movie for me was the feeling Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis who plays Lincoln, picked up Lincoln’s communication style with folksy stories to make his points and his ability to draw attention not to himself, but to the principle he was lifting up.
In addition to Daniel Day-Lewis, the ensemble cast does a tremendous job. The focus is on Lincoln, but every one is needed, not only in the movie, but in the leadership style Lincoln pursues. He realized he could not do this alone. He leveraged and at times leaned hard to get the best out of people whether family, soldiers, politicians, or influencers.
Though there are no great chase scenes and you kind of know how the story will end, this is a great movie to see to remember American history, and to learn from it. I give it 2 thumbs up, 4 out of 4 stars. And if I had my way, the politicians in Washington should rent out a movie theater, get their favorite soda, a large bucket of popcorn, and sit and watch this movie together. Then come out and make this commitment, “Though we are rivals, America is our team, and we will work hard together to bring out the best.” That’s true not only for fiscal cliffs, dealing with a long-lasting conflict, times of war, but leveraging the best of what it means to be America. Seems like we have forgotten that message in our day, perhaps seeing Lincoln will bring that power back not only in D.C., but in each of us as Americans.