Business, Community & Government

Legacy: The Power of Storytelling

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 06:34 min

Doris reinforces the importance of sharing stories as a way to seek connection and build legacies, and she offers a parting message of inspiration and hope.

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Topics include: Legacy: The Power of Storytelling


[MUSIC PLAYING] - What would I like to be remembered for? Not an easy question actually. I mean in terms of my career, I think I'd like to be remembered for having brought to life people in this country whose leadership made a difference in our country so that people living now can feel a sense of solace and perspective as we think of ourselves in difficult time. And you can realize that we came through when the leaders were there and the citizens were active. And if it's made more people love history, I love that. But of course, I think, like most people, I'm sure it's my family and friends that I want to remember, the kind of person I was, the relationships we had. I had a great, long marriage with my husband, three sons. I'm really close to my children. And close friends, the people I work with. And you know that they'll be telling your stories after you die. As I get older, I know these younger people, they'll be there. It must be a human need to somehow feel that what you've done on this earth can still be translated and make a difference to people by hearing about it. When I think about Lincoln and his desire from the time he was young to accomplish something so that he would be remembered after he died, he never could have imagined how intensely that desire would be realized. I mean he knew before he died that the war was about to be won. He knew that slavery had been ended. But he hardly had time to absorb those things before he was killed. So when I was finishing the book "Team of Rivals," it made me so sad to just think of ending on that last day of Lincoln's life. So instead I was able to find this extraordinary interview by Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer, one of my favorite writers. And he gave it to a New York reporter at the turn of the 20th century. He described having just come back from a remote area of the Caucasus where there were a group of wild barbarians. They'd never left that part of Russia. So they were so excited to have Tolstoy in their midst. They asked him to tell stories of the great men of history. So he said I told them about Napoleon, and Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great. And they seemed to love it. But before I was done, the leader of the barbarians stood up and he said, but wait, you haven't told us about the greatest ruler of them all. We want to hear about that man who spoke with a voice of thunder, who laughed like the sunrise, who came from that place called America that is so far from here that if a young man should travel there, he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of Abraham Lincoln. Tolstoy was stunned to know Lincoln's name had reached this remote corner. But he told them everything he could about Lincoln. And then the reporter said, so what made Lincoln so great after all? And Tolstoy said, well, he wasn't as great a general as Napoleon, perhaps not as great a statesman as Frederick the Great, but his greatness consisted in the moral fiber of his being ...

About the Instructor

For more than 50 years, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has studied great American presidents. Now the Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you leadership through the lens of U.S. presidential history. With timeless stories of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris shares practical wisdom and a template for honing leadership skills. Manage a crisis, craft a message, and guide a team like extraordinary leaders of the past.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches you how to develop the leadership qualities of exceptional American presidents.

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