After I read Leadership in Turbulent Times I was interested in reading about some of U.S. history after Franklin Roosevelt, so picked up Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World by William Lee Miller.
This was well written and an interesting look at both the positive and the faults of two presidents, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. I appreciated how Miller dissected many events and aspects of these two men, provided various viewpoints and didn't just glorify each of them but dove into the negative and gave some counterarguments.
The two were born six years apart and Eisenhower followed Truman in office. They were the first presidents faced with the power of nuclear weapons. Miller dove into topics such as bombs, wars, racism and assessed the success of each of these two-term presidencies.
Before reading this I didn't know much about these two presidents, so I learned a lot and liked how Miller not only made the text easy to read, but also broke down the topics so that you got a full 360 view. Some parts were hard for me to get through since I don't read a lot of history, but I'm glad I made it through this one.
Ryan Holiday suggested Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin as a timely read during this pandemic. It was interesting to read about the leadership of past presidents during unprecedented times. Goodwin was also able to put together a historical book that was actually interesting to read (dare I say gripping) and relatively easy to get through.
Goodwin examined the early years, rise to presidency and the exercise of leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
I really enjoyed learning more about how these presidents handled some dire situations in America's past. For Lincoln it was the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation; Teddy Roosevelt and the Coal Strike of 1902; Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression; and Johnson and the Civil Rights Movement, specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights act of 1965.
Goodwin combines biographical details with historical context and adds in keen insights about leadership throughout the book. I thought it was interesting how she included President Johnson in the book. She explicitly pointed out how Johnson's time in office and as a leader was overshadowed by the catastrophe that was the Vietnam War and the mistakes that were made by the President and administration. However, she feels as though his work on pushing through the Civil and Voting Rights acts was worth detailing, as without Johnson's political, persuasion and leadership skills, Civil Rights legislation might have remained stuck in Congress for many more years.
It was also interesting reading about the years leading up to Johnson's death in the epilogue, part of which she spent by Johnson's side.
This really was an amazing book about history, what true leadership can look like, overcoming adversity, and how America has survived some of its hardest times.
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