Thursday, February 27, 2014
I have long been interested in personality. I read an informal book called Please Understand Me when I was a young boy, which was a popular book on the subject of personality. When I became an adult, I found and read its sequel, and enjoyed that as well.
These treatments of personality are not as scientifically valid as some others, as people often test as a different type when they retake the tests. Nonetheless, in their informal way, these have been among the more valuable books I've read for understanding others.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I have seen a lot of PBS's presidential biographies (eighteen in all), and many of them are compelling indeed. But my personal favorite would have to be this one about Abraham Lincoln. Technically, it is not a biography of Abraham alone, as it is also about his wife Mary. (Witness the title: "Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided.") But telling the story of either is also to tell the story of the other; and weaving them together as they are woven here, one gets a great view of both of them, especially during Lincoln's presidency.
Mary Todd Lincoln
So I recently watched the Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln," with Daniel-Day Lewis in the title role. I've seen a fair amount of media about Lincoln's life, from the Henry Fonda film "Young Mr. Lincoln" to the Sam Waterston TV movie called "Lincoln" (the brief and appealing nature of that title makes it a popular one). This is my personal favorite of the Hollywood movies about Lincoln's presidency, even though it focuses on just one part of his presidency. It sets the record straight on some important things about his administration.
For those unfamiliar with this movie, Steven Spielberg's movie focuses on the last part of Lincoln's presidency, with much attention given to his role in getting the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress, the amendment that banned slavery. At that time, slavery was protected by the Constitution through the Three-Fifths Clause, the Fugitive Slave Clause, and some other notorious clauses; so getting rid of slavery in the United States required a constitutional amendment; and this is the one that did it. People often point out that under the Constitution, the president is not directly involved in the constitutional amendment process; as this is done by Congress and state legislatures. But the president's indirect influence on it is enormous, as he can offer Congress things they want in exchange for their cooperation, and he was thus able to influence the passage of this amendment.