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How Not to Remember Gettysburg: Doris Kearns Goodwin's Abysmal Speech

Writer and columnist Tony Lee captures the outrage over Kearns Goodwin’s speech at Breitbart.com’s “Big Journalism.”  He is correct to argue that “she desecrated the hallowed land on which she spoke, dishonored Gettysburg's honored dead, and disrespected the nearly 8,000 Americans in attendance who did not come to Gettysburg to hear about her life's story and a progressive history lecture. “ Lee writes:

Clearly mistaking the Gettysburg 150 audience for the Aspen Ideas Festival crowd, Kearns Goodwin then lectured the audience on the "women's liberation movement" and spoke at length about Eleanor Roosevelt. She emphasized that World War II led to a "new birth of freedom" for women and reminded attendees, "Still, we await our first female president."

Indeed. The author has actually written works of history, and in her books, she knows how to tell a story. There is a reason, after all, that the public that usually ignores history flocks to buy any tome she writes. Sadly, once the scandal about her plagiarism broke, her book sales only skyrocketed. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and Kearns Goodwin’s career seems to prove that aphorism.

To me, the most outrageous section of her talk was when she  told the audience that when she was on a radio talk show, Hillary Clinton phoned in and invited her to sleep over at the White House. Once there, she said, Clinton “said then we could wander the corridors together and figure out where everyone had slept 50 years before.” Later, as a guest at a Clinton administration state dinner, the first lady, President Clinton, and Kearns Goodwin and her husband Richard Goodwin went “with map in hand…through every room,” and the group was able to “figure out whose it had been during [World War II]." To her delight, she found that she was sleeping “in Winston Churchill’s bedroom.”

What, one must say, led this prolific best-selling writer to think anyone concerned with the meaning of Gettysburg would give a damn about where she and her husband slept when they were overnight guests at the White House? I was waiting to hear her say that, unlike others, she didn’t have to pay for the honor. And anyone who read her Dartmouth commencement address already knew this story.

As a historian, Kearns Goodwin should know that history is the means by which we, as a people, learn about our country’s past -- how our ancestors took risks and measures that made the United States the hope of the world and created the great republic in which we now live and breathe as free men and women. Instead, Kearns Goodwin used the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the most important battle held on our own land to talk about herself, and the would-be greatness of the contemporary liberals she holds in esteem.

Her speech was a disgrace to those who fought and died at Gettysburg, and to those today who seek to honor them and remember their sacrifice. Doris Kearns Goodwin should publicly apologize, and return whatever money the Gettysburg Foundation paid to have her speak or donate it to the National Park Service to be used in maintaining the hallowed ground for future generations to enjoy.