The Gotham Gal and I saw Lincoln yesterday. I would encourage everyone, certainly every american citizen, to see it. Spielberg creates a time machine via the magic of film. And Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln is masterful. I feel like I got to spend 2 1/2 hours with my favorite President yesterday.

We all know the stories we were told in elementary school about the heroic President who went to war with his own country in order to save it. We all know his speeches and about his upbringing in a one room log cabin. That was enough to make Lincoln a hero of mine since childhood.

But what Spielberg and Day-Lewis capture is Lincoln's masterful manipulation of the american political system to cause it to do things considered impossible by both sides, most notably the passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery once and for all.

The film is based loosely on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team Of Rivals which is about Lincoln's political genius. I haven't read that book but I am certainly most tempted to after watching Lincoln.

But more than anything, the film conveys the greatness of this man. In the scene where he lies in his deathbed after the doctor declares the fight for his life over, you get a sense that Lincoln was a saint sent to our country in a time of need. There's also this one scene I can't get out of my head where he sits in the telegraph room trying to figure out what to tell Grant about the delegation from Richmond. He wonders outloud about his purpose and God's role in it.

The history of the United States is one where the right person showed up in times of need. Washington, Lincoln, FDR. We have been blessed to have heroic leaders in our most difficult moments. If you want to get a real sense of Lincoln's greatness, go see the movie. It is terrific.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Walter White

    It was great that Gale from Breaking Bad played one of the Congressmen.

    1. fredwilson

      I have never seen Breaking Bad. I hear its great though

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Some great writing.

      2. Wavelengths

        Imagine a gritty, well-written, well-acted series that appeals to drug dealers, the DEA and other law enforcement people, and the general public.It’s a little better than that. The show has a wide following, but most fans are a little tentative about admitting it’s a favorite “vice.”

  2. Carl Rahn Griffith

    DDL is superb – perfect for this role. Can’t wait to see it. I should read a biog on Lincoln, first – recommendations?

    1. fredwilson

      You don’t need too. Just go see the film. If you are a fan of DDL you will love it

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Interesting – thanks, Kid’

    1. fredwilson


  3. Dave W Baldwin

    Hope I get to see it!It takes a special person to have a true Concept leading to Inspiration, traveling the path utilizing patience insofar as strengths/weaknesses of those around you…but it is worth it when you reach the peak Enabling the Concept to move forward even if you’re no longer around.

  4. jason wright

    “The history of the United States is one where the right person showed up in times of need.”Who will show up now, and how? cometh the hour….not a big fan of Spielberg’s earlier work, where he overplays the persecution theme. subtlety over sledgehammer any day.slaves, as a human resource on the cheap, giving the south an economic advantage over the north, abolished for humanitarian reasons or for economic reasons? It’s dressed up as a moral position, but competitive advantage is power in an economic struggle for political supremacy.

    1. Elia Freedman

      “Who will show up now, and how? cometh the hour….”We rarely know that in the moment. It often takes years, if not decades, to recognize greatness.

      1. Anne Libby

        And all we can really do is show up for one another….

      2. pointsnfigures

        England has had similar situations. Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill. The only one that resembles Churchill to me today is someone like Paul Ryan.

    2. Michael Elling

      Great perspective as to what actually happened. Problem with history is that it occurs every second and gets changed the next. Context matters and giving fair weight to risk and luck a priori.

  5. takingpitches

    DDL is an awesome actor. Spielberg delayed making the film to get DDL. That tells you a lot.(DDL wanted to spend a year reading about Lincoln, figuring out character.)

  6. Dan Lewis

    On a personal level, thank you for (correctly) hyphenating “Day-Lewis.”

    1. fredwilson


  7. Seenator

    The telegraph room scene was just amazing. Can’t get it out of my head.Also- his manevouring for the 13th amendment has astonishing parallels to LBJ and his passage of the initial civil rights bill

    1. fredwilson

      i love the way that scene opened with Lincoln sitting there seemingly asleep with his top hat in his lap.

  8. kidmercury

    A wonderful opportunity for me to rain on the parade. Thanks fred.Lincoln was a punk ass chump, racist, corrupt, power hungry. To put it more succinctly, he was a politician.Good article on lincoln:…FDR was also a punk ass chump, though slightly better than dishonest abe, in my opinion. The economy didnt recover from great depression 1.0 until eisenhower came in and began to restore some semblance of fiscal responsibility. To his credit though FDR did implement some policies that angered wall st but helped restore stability to the banking institutions.The history of the world is some government being stupid and corrupt, creating a problem, and then the people begging for government to get bigger so that it can fix the problem. Regrettably, history is repeating.9/11 was an inside job,kid mercury

    1. fredwilson

      he certainly was a politician. and punk is a compliment in my book

      1. kidmercury

        For me a punk is a rebel, a rulebreaker — like a good entrepreneur or investor. A punk ass chump is a foolish rulebreaker, like someone who violates the constitution for the sake of his own hunger for power, and sets the stage for such behavior to become the political norm.In my opinion we have too many punk ass chumps and not enough punks.

        1. Guest

          also tragically, too many chump ass punks, like the avc mod who appears to have deleted my comment about lincoln’s centrally held ethic of naturalism being taboo in today’s classrooms

          1. pointsnfigures

            I would disagree with you on Lincoln @kidmercury:disqus . Unfortunately, we couldn’t resolve the slavery question in the Constitutional Convention. Instead we got compromise. 90 years later we had the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history. It was a war that had to be fought. I don’t agree with FDR’s social programs or politics. He was dragged kicking and screaming into WW2. But where he was great was supporting his generals and giving them enough autonomy to carry out a war. Eisenhower gets accolades, and deservedly so-but no one talks about the chain of command from FDR–>Marshall—>Eisenhower; and how the top 2 guys have political and emotional cover for Ike to run the European theater of operations.

          2. kidmercury

            the south wanted to secede, to escape lincoln’s draconian taxes, and lincoln abolished slavery as part of a political tactic against the south. he was more racist than most presidents and is no civil rights leader — just a power hungry president (pardon the redundancy) who made politically astute maneuvers as part of his goal of imposing taxes and increasing federal power. lincoln’s true legacy was killing the libertarian spirit of the US and transforming the country from a true federation of sovereign states to a single central government with 50 municipalities.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            Lincoln certainly increased federal power over the states, which was also expanded during the administrations of Wilson and FDR (and was facilitated by the 17th Amendment). And Lincoln set a precedent for suspending civil liberties during wartime, one with implications we are still dealing with today.But it’s tough to separate slavery from the tariff issue, and Lincoln was right on both issues. Many people today tend to forget the connection. America was founded as protectionist nation, as Ian Fletcher has documented, and protectionism was Lincoln’s main issue after slavery. The North wanted tariffs to protect its nascent industry. The South was happy with free trade because it had slaves — it didn’t have to worry about anyone undercutting its labor costs.

          4. raycote

            Why is it referred to as protectionism when a Nation attempts to regulate its own internal industrial temperature via proactive industrial policies?That seems like a universal cognitive survival stratagem for any cohesive living system.I might buy into the hidden hand of the international marketplace argument if physics imposed some sort of level playing field.That of course is ludicrous given the mind-field of volitional greed and corruption afoot at every level of governance and power across the planet!

          5. pointsnfigures

            Raghu Rajan talked about it in his book, Fault Lines. In rare cases, he argues for a little protectionism. For a developed economy like the US, protectionism is generally not efficient.

          6. raycote

            Can’t reasonable minds disagree on how to define the tipping point between State and Federal powers?Does that tipping point evolve with historical circumstance or is it dogmatically static?What is presently on that list of federal powers that all states agree with?

          7. thinkdisruptive

            Ironically, the south again talks of secession because of Obama’s draconian debt + overspending. It’s interesting how few Americans realize that the civil war was not about slavery, but that it was a justification concocted after the fact. I guess we have to remember that the winners get to write history. And, down south, they still call it the War of Northern Aggression, not the civil war.On balance, all politicians are political, most are power hungry, and virtually all sell their programs using deception and false motives. Taking as a given that those are the tools of the trade, Lincoln accomplished significantly more than most, and the good was worth the cost.

          8. ShanaC

            Do you ever wonder how the country would have turned out if we had sorted out the slavery question initially rather than delaying it and winding up in a bloody war?

          9. Dave Pinsen

            It’s worth noting that slavery was eventually abolished in other countries without civil wars.As Americans we sometimes think of our history as unique — and the Civil War was, in its bloodiness — but slavery was quite common. As was its eventual abolition by the late 19th century in most places (though pockets of it remain today, for example, in Sudan).

          10. raycote

            Even more wide spread for women!

          11. Caleb Kemere

            Slavery was quite common, and in fact was abolished in England well before the US (“Amazing Grace” being another nice movie). Haiti is the counter example – who knows what would have happened if my personal hero John Brown had run his startup with a little less fluff and a little more grit.

          12. JLM

            .Supports the notion that slavery was not the driving force behind the secession. States rights? A topic of current concern.It is important to remember that the US was still in direct connection to the Revolution and thus the notion that states would forge their own paths was not a foreign notion.If someone today seriously contemplated seceding from the US, it would have immediate and draconian results because we do not contemplate revolution or secession as a real concept. We are too far removed from those things plus we have too many lawyers and class action lawsuits.The Civil War (the War of Northern Aggression) would have been a huge class action lawsuit if it had presented itself in modern times.The other consideration is what would have happened if the North and South had just agreed to peacefully go about their own business. They would have likely reunited at some future date..

          13. JLM

            .I am just a little bored this morning so don’t take anything special from my long comment in reply to yours.In the serious study of military history one begins with the wars, the battles, the terrain, the equipment, the men and only then gets to the Generals. And one must read extensively, particularly the conflicting accounts of the same events and people.What is almost always missing is the “science” part of military science and where it intersects with the aforementioned series of subjects.You can read a bit Sun Tzu and others — Helmuth Carl Berhnard Graf von Moelke (the elder), the originator of all modern military staff organization and planning — but you really have to know the Generals to understand how wars are fought. And how the science is employed.Read about Guderian and how his tank theories were converted into reality by the Germans and how he then was a Division commander employing those theories. Much the same way that Petreaus wrote the Army Counterinsurgency Manual and then applied it in Al Anbar province.Eisenhower is a particularly interesting story having missed WWI (and having missed getting his ticket punched in combat and establishing his chops) and then having been primarily slotted as a staff officer — but what a staff officer >>> MacArthur, Marshall, Fox Conner (the Army’s David Petreaus intellectually of his times).Fox Conner, in Panama, was the “military don” who made Eisenhower into a military thinker able to focus on the results and not the process.Equally important was Marshall’s talent spotting while head of the Infantry School — in his “little black book” (which BTW I have held in my hands and read while a cadet at VMI where it resides in the Marshall Library) — where he identified almost each and every General who would ultimately wear stars. Remember these guys were primarily Majors at this time.Marshall was ruthless in weeding out “old” Division commanders at the beginning of WWII and ensuring that Divisions were led by men who could withstand the rigors of modern combat at the front and not attempt to lead from behind.Marshall was so good that Roosevelt could not contemplate releasing him to command the European invasion saying that he could not sleep if Marshall were out of DC.Marshall had handpicked and groomed Eisenhower and the job went to Eisenhower really as Marshall’s supernumerary. Their correspondence during the war is extremely interesting. Make no mistake, Marshall was the guy in charge and Eisenhower was his QB. Eisenhower was more than smart enough to keep the Old Man informed of his really “big” decisions.It was not so much that FDR allowed his Generals to run the war as much as it was that Marshall had assembled such a complete and all encompassing plan and talent pool that all FDR had to say was — “make it so, Gen Marshall”.Churchill, not one to heap praise on Generals preferring to reserve the largest portion for himself, called Marshall the “architect of victory” — the guy who penciled out the plans that his Generals turned into victory.It is particularly interesting to see the role that Marshall played in keeping Patton in the fight when it was obvious that Patton had crossed the line but was still America’s best General on the attack and to handle tanks.Marshall did not like Patton in any manner (Marshall, of course, was a VMI grad and Patton had gone to VMI for one year before going to West Point) and knew his character well.And, yet, he was able to keep Patton in the fight in such a manner that America’s best offensive General was at the point of spear when it came time to break out of the bocage country and to counterattack at the Bulge. Those successes were as attributable to Mashall’s wisdom as they were to Patton’s talent.Our Generals have now become skilled politicians — the fighting has simply not been that hard to distinguish one General from another in the last 30 years — who employ all types of spokesmen and other PR personnel and structure.The McChrystal — who I bumped into on active duty — episode of giving an interview to Rolling Stone — ROLLING STONE — shows one how far the military establishment has wandered off the gameboard.I attribute this abuse to weak Presidents and Secs of Def. The Pentagon should speak as a single coherent unit and only after the C in C has blessed it. A great element of genius of our system is that the military is ultimately controlled by civilians who are elected.

          14. kidmercury

            are you sure a moderator deleted your comment? i’ve had comments disappear on me as well, although i generally attribute it to a technical malfunction with disqus rather than an editorial decision made by a moderator.

          15. ShanaC

            So have I, and I am the moderator! 🙂

          16. Modernist

            thanks ShanaC, disqus has an eccentric mind of its own, compounding my own posting style. i suspected as much, however, as a rule, i always assume human malice when computational incompetence could be the explanation.

          17. thinkdisruptive

            Safer, in general, to assume computational incompetence over human malice, unless you have evidence of the latter.

          18. Modernist

            yes, hanlon’s razor, except i work in the stock market so the habit is necessarily inverted

          19. ShanaC

            I actually am taking a look inside the system to see where your comment went. If you are crossposting as modernist. your comment was approved (now). it got stuck in the spam filter.

          20. ShanaC

            As to naturalism: One of the reasons naturalism is now taboo is because of its close ties with religion. Personally speaking, I do think we need to start teaching ethics in the classroom, including (but not exclusively) naturalism

          21. raycote

            I’ll throw a little gasoline on that delusionary “natural vs supernatural” religious dichotomy.That false dichotomy is just a problem of linguistic semantics.Solution Pantheism it’s two mints in one.Religious convertion via linguistic “Aufheben”…SUBLATION – from the german word AufhebenA term used by Hegel to explain what happens when a thesis and antithesis (“natural vs supernatural causality”) interact in a productive mental thrashing so as to generate a new integrated perspective or modelling of a process. This new thesis, on how to visualize the process, is a synthesis of the best elements distilled via constructive arm wrestling between thesis and antithesis. Key terms and concepts in both the thesis and antithesis are both preserved and changed through their dialectical interplay. Key terms and concepts in both the thesis and antithesis are SUBLATED, subjugated and subsumed into a newly evolved thesis(“Pantheism” or unified causality). This newly evolved integrative thesis generates a new antithesis and the process of thesis-antithesis SUBLATION spirals off into the endless ether of historical evolution.Mr. Sublation is far more productive than his evil twin brother Mr. Polemic, also known as Mr. Fundamentalists, who often masquerades as his more open minded brother!

          22. Wavelengths

            Wow! Nicely done.

          23. Donna Brewington White

            AVC mods don’t censor comments. Even one that falsely accuses them of doing so.

        2. raycote

          So have I got this right?The difference betweena Punk Ass = Goodanda Punk Ass Chump = Badis whether their rule breaking is wise or foolish?that seems foolishly subjective as a political epistemology.What is that old cliche quote?”keep government as small as possible but no smaller”what constitutes “small government” subjectively pivots around changing political, social, technological and other environmental fluctuations.All I am saying is that separating thePunk Assesfrom thePunk Ass Chumpsis a much more tenuous debate than you imply.All that said, I still tend to agree with your assessment that:”we have too many punk ass chumps and not enough punks”

          1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            It is as tough as “I love You”….between the ‘saying’ IT and “meaning” IT….The interesting part is … sometimes the fakes are more authentic than the originals.

      2. LynnSkinners

        Two things:1. Doris Kearns Goodwin = Plagiarist.…2. “Honest” Abe = Racist? You decide.“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”Abraham Lincoln(1809-1865) 16th US PresidentSource:Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858(The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, pp. 145-146.)and…”If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also so that”-Lincoln, (Voices of America, p.138).Revisionist history is so much fun!

    2. Tom Labus

      There was the issue of financing WWII.

    3. kidmercury

      here is another great article on lincoln, an interview with an author of a lincoln book:'ll quote what i thought was the best You have written that Lincoln was the political son of Alexander Hamilton.DiLorenzo: Yes, the founding father who represented the mercantilist, big-government brand of Americanism in contrast to the Jeffersonian spirit of freedom. The long-time debate between Jefferson and Hamilton was settled at gunpoint. That’s what the War for Southern Independence was all about.After the election and just before Lincoln’s inauguration, the House passed the Morrill tariff which elevated the rate to 47.06 percent–an extortionist rate. Remember that the tariff was the primary source of federal revenue in those days and the South, which wanted free trade with the world, was paying 80 percent of the total federal revenue, according to Frank Taussig’s authoritative history.Lincoln’s inaugural address underscored the point that he wasn’t going to back down against demands from the South that tariffs be lowered, as Andrew Jackson had done. Lincoln said it was his duty to “collect the duties and imposts and so long as the South paid, “there will be no invasion.” Northern newspapers were calling for a bombardment of Southern ports, a first strike to prevent the threat that the South would ignore the new tariffs and institute free trade.You cannot understand Lincoln’s place in the constellation of American history without understanding the economics of mercantilism and the need for government coercion to enforce it. To show this, I quote David Donald, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian, as saying that this was the reason that Lincoln was elected. Contemporary political figures such as Republican Senator John Sherman went on record to say that as Then there are all the Constitutional issues that arise during the war.DiLorenzo: Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, he jailed political opponents and newspapers writers, and violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution at every turn. I document all this, as does Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. It is amazing how the Lincoln cartel goes to such lengths to justify these activities. The difference with my book is not so much in the facts themselves, though I bring out many that Lincoln partisans would rather forget, but that I don’t go to enormous lengths to provided twisted rationales for Lincoln’s behavior.Hermann Belz, for example, says that Lincoln was not a dictator because he allowed the election of 1864 to take place. But Belz doesn’t mention how Lincoln rigged this election. Federal soldiers had the opposition jailed. His confiscation acts covered everyone who would dare dissent from the Lincoln line. He patrolled the voting booths to kick out Democrat voters. He also orchestrated the secession of West Virginia just to gain a few electoral votes. In short, this was Mugabe-style democracy.

      1. raycote

        Setting aside Lincoln’s historical behavior in this regard.Isn’t mercantilist vs free trade a false dichotomy of extremes?

      2. Dayna Gant

        Was born in WV, fourth generation, last state to repeal prohibition (protectionist trade.;). We were always taught that WV really wanted to fight with the north, To this day whenever I tell someone I’m from WV they usually say, “yea I’ve been to Williamsburg.” I politely say, ” but you know, WV fought with the north, it really is a state.” Maybe I should bone up on my history a bit more. WV did have a lot of resources needed in the war. But I don’t recall my clan saying they were bullied into anything. Side note, WV was a refuge for early Irish settlers, and right or wrong, precursor IRA segments settled there in the early 1900s.

    4. LE

      “Good article on lincoln”Lew “Rockwell” is a great name. In a movie, a character with the surname of “Rockwell” would be played by Michael Douglas [1] and be able to lead the country for sure. He’s soft and fluid at the same time.[1] After a little lmgtfy I am seeing that Rockwell is more avuncular and resembles Rob Corddry somewhat or perhaps Ben Bernanke:

    5. orson

      Lew Rockwell is a hack.For anyone who doubts that the civil war was mostly about anything other then slavery I would suggest listening to Yale Prof David Blight’s lectures on the civil war – available on iTunes U. In addition to being a “real” historian he is a magical storyteller…

  9. arustgi

    I watched this movie last night as well with my wife, and pretty much came away with exactly the same conclusion as what you have written.One thing that was not clear to me is why he was so motivated to abolish slavery? What personal story, experience of his led him to that mission?

    1. fredwilson

      remember the scene where he was lobbying the representative from kentucky and he talked about seeing a barge full of slaves? that’s as close as we got to what you wanted

    2. William Mougayar

      In the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, there’s a scene at the beginning where he is shown intervening to save his young black friend from being beaten. Not sure if that was a fictional scene given the movie’s title (I saw that movie).But here’s passage I saw from another Internet reference: “It is said that his parents were strongly against slavery. When Abraham was very young, they moved into Indiana which was about to enter the Union as a slave free state. Abraham must have been influenced by his parents views.”

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        How was the vampire hunter movie? I almost rented it last night

        1. William Mougayar

          So so. i wouldn’t recommend it.

  10. CliffElam

    FDR. Yeah, he had many many flaws, but WWI was an existential crisis for us. If he’d been as feeble as Wilson we’d have been a different country in a different world._XC

  11. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I will definitely watch Lincoln soon. I recently finished watching the HBO series on John Adams and it was great. I wish that the Canadian movie makers or television producers would put similar effort in making a high quality production of prominent Canadian historical figures. It is important to get the public interested in understanding critical historical events.

    1. leigh

      Canadian history in the grander scheme of things was and is pretty boring. Used to fall asleep during that class in high school all the time.

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        I am not sure about that. Part of the problem is in the way the history is taught in school. I was recently introduced to Richard Gweyn biography on John A. MacDonald and he seemed to be quite the character! The politics of dealing with the British, the French Canadians and the Americans is something that I would like to learn more about. The CBC made a TV show on the first part of the book which was not so great. Here is the amazon link for the book

      2. thinkdisruptive

        This is about how the story is told, not about whether it is interesting. There are lots of very colorful characters in Canadian history. Americans are better at embellishing and weaving a narrative around the story.In recent history, you have Trudeau, Levesque, the Quiet Revolution/October Crisis and the FLQ, Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas and WAC Bennett. Go back a bit further, you have MacDonald, Louis Riel, the war of 1812, the UEL, Alexander Graham Bell, Laura Secord, William Lyon Mackenzie, the Upper Canada Rebellion, Montcalm and Wolfe at the Plains of Abraham (no less a battle than Gettysburg). And, that’s just scraping the surface. Canadians ought to redirect some of that movie-making talent that spends all its time telling American stories, and start creating some of their own myths and mythic figures.

        1. leigh

          A great teacher can make anything entertaining. I said in the grander scheme of things — relatively speaking Reil rebellion & the FLQ was super exciting — but if you look at Ancient Greece as an example or even modern Russian history — Anna Akhmatova anyone? — Canadian history is mediocre at best. It’s just an opinion. There are a lot of Canadian studies Phd students who will vehemently disagree with me 🙂

          1. thinkdisruptive

            Like I said, it’s not the story, but how it’s told. I’ve read great books that were transformed into lousy movies, and vice versa. Some of it is also about the reader/viewer/listener’s imagination.How do you know that ancient Greece was more exciting/interesting? By knowledge of what actually happened, or by the stories that were handed down and the myths that were created? Russia’s last 20 years has been interesting — certainly more interesting than the previous 40, but much of that is a function of being mysterious. On the other hand, I can’t imagine anything more boring than Russian poetry. But tanks rolling through the streets of Montreal, and sitting on the lawn of the federal parliament under the auspices of the War Measures Act brought in force during peacetime, and terrorists being flown to Cuba on military planes — Rambo was made out of less excitement than that. I think you undervalue what’s close to you, and overvalue what’s unknown.And speaking of Russia, Canada and the USSR jointly participated in one of the most exciting events of the cold war — the NHL vs Red Army “Summit Series” in 1972. Also made into a lousy movie.It’s not the history that’s mediocre, but the historians. Gordon Lightfoot took a shipwreck of a freighter during a storm, and made it the second most celebrated wreck of all time after the Titanic by writing a popular song — a wreck that most people who didn’t live near the area would have never heard about otherwise, because in the annals of history, it was just not that significant. But if you say the name Edmund Fitzgerald, people around the world immediately know what you’re talking about (if they’re of a certain age). Storytelling matters.What Americans have done well in contrast to Canadians is to mythologize every little story and use them to build a collective consciousness of what their country means. But, their events and history is no more exciting.

          2. leigh

            NHL vs. Red Army — as JLM would say, well played 🙂

  12. WA

    Goodwin’s Team of Rivals…not to miss.

  13. Hemi Weingarten

    “The history of the United States is one where the right person showed up in times of need. Washington, Lincoln, FDR.”Or maybe whoever was at the helm at the time, stepped up to the occasion.

    1. Tom Labus

      It’s a great historical debate whether office makes the man or man makes the office.Look what it did to Nixon and what it did to Lincoln.

  14. jimmy5804

    I’m a lurker – don’t comment much, but you should definitely read Team of Rivals. I have several Lincoln biographies, but that book conveys his greatness more than any other.

    1. fredwilson

      will do. thanks for the encouragement

      1. Aaron Klein

        It’s true. Team of Rivals is an amazing book. One of the few that have had a serious role in shaping how I view leadership.

    2. ShanaC

      Hi! What other historical figures do you like

  15. William Mougayar

    “We have been blessed to have heroic leaders in our most difficult moments.” That is a true characteristic of a leader,- when they rise in difficult moments to accomplish unforgettable things.This movie at this particular time is very inspiring. Lincoln was certainly one of the greatest American Presidents. We also need more movies about some of the other great American Presidents, who each had their defining stories and achievements.I can think of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Madison, Adams, Truman, Kennedy, etc… Enough movies have been made about Kennedy of course, but only a handful on the others.

  16. Matt A. Myers

    Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was pretty enjoyable. I shall checkout Lincoln, too. 🙂

    1. nipulpatel

      Ha! As crazy as the premise of this movie is, I like Tim Burton. I’ll file this under the “airplane movie” file. Netflix needs a category like that.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        I was happily surprised at how entertaining it was. A lot of ridiculousness done in a cinematographically-realistic way.

  17. chrisdorr

    I could not agree more. Also, worth many words of praise for Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay, a very tough assignment which he masterfully pulled off.

  18. scottythebody

    Hahaha! I was not fast enough to get on here and post “the Kid will certainly have a different view of Lincoln”… When I lived in Atlanta, I got a lot of this sort of info. regarding Lincoln 😉

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I’m probably never going to be able to be completely objective about Lincoln. I’m sure that he has been romanticized by much of popular history and that there were grave faults but his accomplishments and his abilities were phenomenal and perhaps timing had a huge role in this. But all any of us have to operate within is a particular time and space and some achieve legendary status and a certain immortality regardless, emerging as heroes. Lincoln will always be a hero to me.

  19. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    I saw the movie last night and was deeply impressed with how it was done and the actors rendition of all of their parts. Watching a movie like this gives you perspective on what we have to deal with today in most of our (very lucky) daily lives. The fear & demons Lincoln had to wrestle with must have been tremendous. One line I remember went something like “We can show people that democracy does not have to be chaos.” As I observe start-ups and small businesses I’ve been involved with, those who have thrived attempt to manage chaos with some sensible structure, coordination among team members, & meaning. Those who don’t have that belief/skill set tend to build continuously chaotic companies with high turnover. Like with a child, the first year or so of chaos and sleepless nights are understandable, but after that healthy parents and healthy kids are expected to start “growing” up so to speak and communicate differently. Anyway, a profound movie that I plan to post about on my blog to and include a link back to this post as well.

  20. Jay Janney

    I see it is rated PG-13. Any sense if it is too intense for a 9 and 10 year old?

    1. andrew thomas

      There is a gruesome war scene at the beginning, reminiscent of saving private ryan, but it ends very quickly.

    2. fredwilson

      There are a few scenes of war, including the opening scene, that could upset a child. Nine and ten are on the cusp I think

    3. William Carleton

      Not really answering your question directly, but one of the framing devices of the movie is how Lincoln’s youngest son weighs the meaning of slavery. It’s a really, really important story for children to know, but I don’t know if the swearing and the scenes of dead bodies are too much for children that age. Put it this way, I took my kids to see it, and would have taken them even had they been much younger.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        What was your kids’ response? How old are they?

        1. William Carleton

          Early 20s. They loved it! We had a long talk afterwards about US history.

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Common Sense Media is an excellent source. See what they say: http://www.commonsensemedia…There are a couple of especially gruesome scenes that two days later I have not gotten out of my mind. But I am highly visually sensitive.Unless your 9 and 10 year old are exceptionally astute or greatly interested in history, I am not sure that the thematic aspect will appeal to them. A lot of dialogue, much of it will go over the heads of my relatively intelligent 11 and 13 y.o. sons. My very smart 15 y.o. daughter will be bored through part of it. I’m still deciding whether to take them — but, either way, I will buy it on DVD so they will see it at some point. I think it is important that they do.

  21. Guest

    Our schools teach the image of Lincoln as an icon of integrity, however Lincoln’s real, central ethical beliefs would be considered corrupting by the average American:… “I once contended that man was free and could act without a motive. [Lincoln] smiled at my philosophy, and answered that it was impossible, because the motive was born before the man”Lincoln may as well have been Nietzsche, who said the following:”The doer is merely a fiction added to the deed. The deed is everything.”

  22. andrew thomas

    I saw Lincoln, he is a hero of mine as well, but I was disappointed in the movie. DDL did a good job, I liked the story about the George Washington picture in the bathroom…However, the film lacked conflict in my opinion… Part of the problem is that we all (hopefully) know how everything turns out. Also, the congressmen, like Tommy Lee Jone’s character, are portrayed as one dimensional, bickering idiots. The bickering is funny, and I know people have a low opinion of congress, but their inner conflicts about voting for the amendment just seemed petty compared to the gravity of the war. It had to have been more interesting.btw, the war is largely treated as an abstraction… very few war scenes, lots of political bickering.

    1. William Carleton

      There was a lot of history in the movie that I, at least, did not know before. I found it terribly exciting, and it makes me want to read and learn more about the era. Which seems more modern to me now, somehow, for having seen the movie.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Me too!Also upvoted your other comment — appreciated the insight.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Think about the era and the limited sources of news, entertainment, etc. Things that bore those of us in a media saturated society would have been more scintillating back then. In fact, the greatness of some people is accentuated by the smallness and pettiness of others.Also, the bickering that the film portrays seems to be in keeping with the nature of parliamentary process which our congressional system inherited. I think of how many scenes I’ve read in literature or observed in film of the theatrical arena that this setting becomes and the emphasis on using words as weapons and tools.

  23. Lance Trebesch

    Lincoln is a great movie; I strongly recommend it.We took the family last night, ages 12 and 9 and while the kids would certainly not say it’s their favorite movie, they did enjoy it. In portraying such serious times, Spielberg and Kushner do an excellent job of balancing the gravity and seriousness of the times with humor, much of it brilliant. A put-down in those days was creative, literate, and above all witty.The telegraph room scene was superb, haunting, and beautiful.

  24. Modernist

    To his credit, the real Lincoln held libertine views denying the existence of personal responsibility. This is the history that should be taught in schools.

  25. tyronerubin

    @fredwilson:disqus the book is fantastic, sure you know how excited I am for it. Starts in South Africa a little later unfortunately.

  26. Aviah Laor

    Washington, Lincoln, FDR: All three were not afraid to apply force for the cause of freedom

    1. ShanaC

      how are you, speaking of forceful situations

      1. Aviah Laor

        Kipat Barzel is a real magic

  27. matthughes

    Thanks for the review – I’m looking forward to seeing the movie soon.I’ve always been slightly more partial to George Washington as my favorite president. But it’s definitely a 1 & 1A situation.On a side note, does anyone else feel like they need a day of rest after watching a Day-Lewis movie? His intensity is off the charts.

  28. rudyc

    My wife and I always say the best 2 underrated actors in hollywood are: 1. Daniel Day Lewis, 2. Sean Penn

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I wonder if this perception of DD-L being under-rated is based on his own approach to his career. I hear that he is incredibly selective and this limits the number of roles that he takes on. Obviously, when he does take one on, he pours himself into it.

  29. awaldstein

    On my list…I’m a big believer that heroes like genius are created by situations themselves.That’s the view of the movie I’m looking to find.

    1. ShanaC

      His wife when they met thought he would be president through the slave crisis. And he walked away from the aisle initially too. Lincoln is one of those people where you wonder if it is inborn or not…

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Created or evoked?

      1. awaldstein

        Really smart question Donna.I think in this case they are one and the same.People with latent capabilities when inspired just do it!

  30. ShanaC

    Do you think they made the right decision to delay until after the elections? I wonder how viewing the movie (note: on my to do list for next weekend) would have affected your views of the election cycle.

  31. WayneMulligan

    I also LOVE Lincoln’s story as it relates to entrepreneurship. Especially for those who are struggling with their first failure or setback — the man was the personification of “persistence”.He failed in business, lost elections and struggled with depression — which brings to mind Brad Feld’s recent post on Depression and Entrepreneurs:…But yet, he survived, persisted and became one of the greatest leaders our country has ever known.

  32. Richard

    Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.Henry Kissinger

    1. Michael Elling

      The problem with our government and the deficit at present is not entitlements per se (although they are unfundable), rather that the politicians feel entitled to make the bad decisions and remain unaccountable for their actions.

  33. george

    Definitely interested in viewing this film after reading your endorsement. Political Innovation, perhaps there’s even more for us to learn and consider…

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I would think so. Would certainly hope so.

  34. Aaron Klein

    Fred, I’m loving that your favorite President was a freedom-loving Republican. ;)In all seriousness, this film looks amazing and I’ve blocked out the day after Thanksgiving to go see it.

    1. Michael Elling

      Shows how far we conservatives have strayed from the path…

      1. Aaron Klein


  35. andyidsinga

    Wife and I are going to see it this morning..that said Jimmy Carter is my fav president 🙂

    1. jason wright

      Me too. I named by budgie Jimmy Carter.

      1. raycote

        How are we to take that?

        1. jason wright

          It was my only pet at the time, but happily budgies like peanuts.Now if it had been Dubya I’d have made a special purchase at the pet shop.

          1. Wavelengths


  36. jason wright

    Was Lincoln’s voice ever recorded?

    1. laurie kalmanson

      internet says no, but that it was reportedly high and squeaky, hence the portrayal in the movie as compelling despite its sound

  37. LE

    “The film is based loosely on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team Of Rivals which is about Lincoln’s political genius.””But more than anything, the film conveys the greatness of this man.”I think it looks like a great movie based on the reviews (in addition to what you have said) from what I have seen so far. And I will definitely see this movie.That said, to mimic kidmercury let me rain on the parade a little here.When I saw Doris Kearns Goodwin interviewed about this I remembered things from the past about her and just confirmed my memory that a few books of hers were (despite that “gentle” look) involved allegations of plagiary. (And the movie is “loosely” based on her writing at that.Next, a movie is a movie even if based on super accurate info. (And a Spielberg movie is more not less of a documentary. Even that can be accurately reporting some information, but withholding other counterbalancing information.)So I think this is good entertainment at best and unfortunately in watching something like this (as opposed to a sports event in real time) you don’t really know what is true, what is invented and what is exaggerated for the sake of packaging a movie to make money and entertainment.”The history of the United States is one where the right person showed up in times of need.”We know what we know. Look at the Petraeus affair. And think about the “what if’s” that could have happened and how he would have gone down in history.On that topic I’d really like your thoughts. (I have mine which might surprise people) and would like even a complete separate blog post about it including what your father’s in particular (who certain must have interacted possibly with either Petraeus or Holly’s father I’m guessing) opinion is if you can share that.

  38. Reinvent_ED

    Read Team of Rivals. It is an amazing read, and illustrates the greatness of Lincoln’s leadership – arguably the greatest leader our country has ever known.

  39. Ardith

    As of page 104, “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald is thus far a masterfully personal portrayal of the man behind the legend. The opening quote is by Lincoln himself to Albert G. Hodges, April 4, 1864. “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events controlled me.”

  40. John McGrath

    Really looking forward to seeing this. And to seeing it again a few years down the road with my young son Linc, so he can appreciate his namesake.

  41. Nathan Lew

    Going to war with your own country to give it a better tomorrow… Sounds like Abe Lincoln had the ultimate Innovator’s Dilemma

  42. laurie kalmanson

    beautiful. going to the dinner show today; bringing my 9yo. i heard there’s one gory battle scene, but the rest is living history. i’ve read revisionist history that positioned lincoln as flawed, but still in the right place at the right time — not the saint of abolition, but if he wasn’t first in the cause, and while it could have been taken up sooner, he did take it up later. there are parallels with kennedy/lbj and the civil rights movement — they bowed to the inevitable, which is not as excellent as getting out in front of it but is still better than denying it. see now also climate change.

  43. Joe Yevoli

    I really can’t wait to see this. I just finished reading the book, “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald, which was phenomenal. I can’t wait to see how some of these events are portrayed in the movie.Lincoln was the hero of my favorite president/idol, Theodore Roosevelt.

  44. William Carleton

    Totally agree. Really awesome to see cinematic and theatrical artists of the order of Spielberg, Kushner, Day-Lewis, Field and others put their talent into telling a story this important, this thrilling, this momentous and this essential to the American character.I like how Lincoln walks around without any entourage. How young people, clearly respectful of him, look right at him and tell him what they think.

  45. Donna Brewington White

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film both as a Lincoln fan and as a film lover. I’ve read quite a bit on Lincoln over the years but this expanded my perception of him as a politician — in this case, in the best sense. His shrewdness as a leader as portrayed in the film is astounding.Watching the film makes me want to study Lincoln more closely as a leader — I went through a Churchill stage in my 20s, another time when I was craving a powerful example of leadership — especially in the face of crisis. I’m craving this again. Acutely.The L.A. Times review states: Kushner has said that he wrote “Lincoln” because, upset at today’s endemic lack of faith in governance, he wanted to tell a story that “shows that you can achieve miraculous, beautiful things through the democratic system.” It’s a lesson that couldn’t be more timely, or more thoroughly dramatic.…As a film, Lincoln is extraordinary, moving well past entertainment to fully enter the realm of art — in part due to the astonishing performance by Day-Lewis who has already set the bar — and Field who meets him head on. Tommy Lee Jones plays different shades of the same character in all his films which is just fine with me. He always excites me on screen. Overall, one of the most well-refined casts I’ve seen in a long time. And is it just me, or did Spielberg go to a new level?

  46. Donna Brewington White

    Really appreciated this review and enjoyed reading your thoughts, Fred. I was hoping you would post on this. Thanks.

  47. Ciaran

    For anyone looking for a great book about Lincoln, can I suggest Lincoln by Gore Vidal? It does an incredible job of portraying a very complex & conflicted individual.And considering the comments below which reference Jefferson, his portrayal of the United States’ 3rd President, in his book Burr, is also well worth a read. In fact Burr is one of my favourite ever novels – historical fiction at its best.

  48. Albert R

    I think this movie painted a beautiful picture of Lincoln, but as though it were painted in the Romantic era rather than during the Realist movement. By that I mean I have read many accounts of Lincoln’s shortcomings and somewhat ruthless nature which, while probably beneficial towards the outcome of the civil war, depict a different, less-perfect person than the near-deity portrayed in this film. In general, I appreciate the value of fictional movies and such (à la Abraham Lincoln: Vampire hunter), but when people will surely take a movie as 100% historically accurate, I believe the writers would do well to make it as much so as possible.

  49. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    One of black friend in U.S.A used to say … Lincoln got the best of the best ‘buy one get one free’ … what Lincoln got was like … “buying a tooth pick and getting the Philly Steak free”.His main aim was to have the central in control and went for it like an entrepreneur … at-all-cost … and got rewarded for something which came along.

  50. Dave Pinsen

    From Twitter re the movie:Lincoln is doing well in theaters.Historically, this has not been true.— Ira Iosebashvili(@IraIosebashvili) November18, 2012

  51. laurie kalmanson

    beautiful reviewthe telegraphy scenes blew me away; it was as revolutionary a medium then as the web is now. i have a telegraph key on my desk, as a reminder.i brought my 9yo to the movie — i wanted her to learn that the confederate flag stands for one thing only, the idea that human beings can buy and sell human beings as propertyfour stars: an emotionally powerful telling of the ugliest time in american history, and the flawed and compromised struggle to write into law a better future, led by a prophet who came from nowhere, which is a very american story itself.the glass plates that lincoln’s son studied in the movie included real, historical photographs that i recognized, including one panel of this one — a young man who entered the war as a slave, and became contraband (lincoln’s term or art for not slave but not free) serving in the union armyhttp://pictures.historicima…

    1. Donna Brewington White

      “…the flawed and compromised struggle to write into law a better future, led by a prophet who came from nowhere, which is a very american story itself.”Nice, Laurie. I’m glad I happened upon this comment.How’d your daughter do with the film?

      1. laurie kalmanson

        donna thnx for asking. she did great. she knew the rough outlines of the story (fourth grade) but the movie made it very very real in the same way that a visit to the artisanal butcher made it clear the #ux of cows to beef to steak. i think the movie is exactly right for teaching history to bright kids in elementary school

  52. Salman FF

    Team of Rivals is brilliant – a must read (or must-be-listened-to for audio book fans.) Also Doris Kearns Goodwin had a great interview about the film on meet the press:

  53. Jdizz

    He dies?!? Thx fr giving away the ending…….

    1. fredwilson

      only to rise up three days later

      1. Donna Brewington White


        1. fredwilson

          i believe in fighting outrageousness with outrageousness

          1. Donna Brewington White


      2. ShanaC

        As a zombie…

  54. JL Shane

    Fred, I agree it was a good movie, though the one f-bomb by one of Seward’s “procurers” seemed unnecessary in a movie that could be great for kids. Day-Lewis’s portrayal seemed influenced, too, by William Safire’s magisterial “Freedom” and John Hay’s diary recounting his time in the WH for Lincoln. Both are worth a read.

  55. brian1234

    In the sweep of history, slavery was on its way out, with Lincoln or without. By accelerating the timeline, Lincoln got his name in the history books, killed 600,000 Americans and laid waste to the south. He was a butcher.

  56. fredwilson

    He is great in the movie

  57. andyidsinga

    thats really cool.I just saw the movie – it was really _really_ good! Definitely oscars on the way for this performance.Thaddeus Stevens ( Tommy Lee Jones) was very well played with a great part at the end.

  58. Donna Brewington White

    Sounds that he warrants his own film– especially after reading the Wikipedia account:…. Fascinating man.Tommy Lee Jones did him proud in this one. But then TLJ is one of my all-time favorites anyway.

  59. Dayna Gant

    I know you mean another Lancaster, but Lancaster,MA is proud of one of its founding citizens, Mary Rowlandson. (Newbie at hyberlinks-hope the one below works). Captured with her four children by Indians in Lancaster MA during the “Phillips” war in 1675 and held for 11 weeks, (50 miles outside of Boston was wily territory.) She escaped and went on to publish the first book by a woman, unheard of at the time, about being held captive.The biopics of our American history are wonderful, but just like any history being told as a story, I think for us, it’s so hard to judge how we would have behaved or made judgments at the time. All past conflicts to me, including today, are mired in misinformation and content.with lack of context.I’d love to hear a post by someone on this blog who’s actually been in battle and had to make life decisions, and I’m sad to say there are many every day. Hopefully one day we won’t be faced with that.

  60. Anne Libby

    And Robert Fulton is buried in Trinity Churchyard in Lower Manhattan…

  61. Donna Brewington White

    Thaddeus Stevens or Tommy Lee Jones?

  62. fredwilson

    tommy lee jones as stevens