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Renowned Historian, Author to Delve into Lincoln’s Revealing Personal Notes at Meeting

Published on Feb 12, 2023

Renowned presidential historian, Dr. Ronald “Ron” White (left). Photo of Abraham Lincoln before his presidency, circa 1845 to 1847, taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd, based on the recollections of Gibson W. Harris, a law student in Lincoln office. [Courtyesy photo of White / Lincoln image via Library of Congress]

Renowned presidential historian, Dr. Ronald “Ron” White, has made a name for himself by providing vivid narratives of the lives of America’s leaders. 

White has written numerous books about U.S. presidents, with his most notable works being “A. Lincoln: A Biography” and “American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant.”

The author will be speaking about his new book, “Lincoln in Private: What His Most Personal Reflections Tell Us About Our Greatest President,” at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Pasadena on Wednesday, Feb. 15. at 12:00 p.m.

The book is about the notes Lincoln wrote to himself, which reveal a side of Lincoln that is not usually seen in public, White said.

He will discuss four of these notes at the event.

“I’m speaking about my new book, Lincoln in Private. This is a very little known story that Lincoln had the habit of writing little notes to himself. He never dated them. He never titled them, and he never signed them. We know they’re his by his distinctive handwriting. And 111 of these notes have survived. I think he wrote hundreds more, which didn’t survive. But I’m going to be speaking about four of these notes, which reveal a side of Lincoln, what I call the private Lincoln that is not usually seen in the public Lincoln,” White added. 

The meeting, open to the public and will be held at University Club of Pasadena.  The cost for non-members is $40, which includes lunch at 12:00 pm.  Dr. White will have books available for purchase ($15) and signing following the meeting

Attendees must RSVP by emailing or calling 626-683-8243 to attend.

The meeting is also available via zoom which opens at 12:15 pm. (Meeting ID: 865 1510 1523 / Passcode: 667356). The Rotary Weekly Meeting begins at 12:30 p.m. with the Speaker at 1:00 pm.  No RSVP required for Zoom.

Lincoln’s Private Notes 

Lincoln writes of being discouraged after losing the vote to become U.S. Senator, White revealed. 

“He (Lincoln) writes a note where he is so discouraged, he’s lost a vote to become a United States senator. He says it himself: My life is nothing but a failure, a flat failure. And yet within four years, he’ll be president of the United States,” White said. 

The personal notes he wrote to himself also show that Lincoln was a deeply religious man, despite never joining any church, White said. 

During the interview with Pasadena Now, White shared his fascination with Lincoln, who he considers the “most eloquent president” despite having only a year of formal education. 

“Here’s a person with but one year of formal education. Boys who worked in the fields with their fathers on farms were only afforded education in January and February when it was too cold to work on the farms. So maybe five or possibly six years – he got two months of education each time, and yet he’s our most eloquent president. The Gettysburg address, the second inaugural address, and he led the nation through the Civil War, our greatest national crisis.”

According to White, Lincoln’s life story is inspiring, as it shows that “you can start with very little education, and you can rise.” 

“I think Abraham Lincoln is revered around the world more than any other American figure. You might think that modern American figures are also revered, but in the long term, Lincoln is the one who best represents what America is all about – the right to rise,” said White.

White also noted that Lincoln’s fight against slavery and push for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, make him the most interesting, fascinating, and consequential president.

He is also the author behind “Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Power,” “Theodore Roosevelt: An American Original,” “John F. Kennedy: A Biography,” and “The Real Ronald Reagan.” 

Aside from Lincoln, White said another president who had the greatest impact on furthering the rights of African Americans is Grant, the general of the army that won the Civil War. 

“He stepped forward to defend the rights of the so-called freed people. And I think he has not received the credit that he deserves because it would be almost a hundred years until later, a hundred years later, with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson, working with Martin Luther King Jr., to which African Americans received their full due in terms of the various voting rights acts.”

“But I think Ulysses S. Grant deserves credit for protecting the rights of the enslaved and now the freed people. And that story is finally beginning to be told.”

For more information about the Feb/ 15 meeting,

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