The Bully Pulpit, Book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Summary and Review

The Bully Pulpit Review

The Bully Pulpit PDF GoodwinPresenting the historical facts and incidents in such a way that they make you question the need for fiction is genuinely an art indeed. Many are not gifted with this talent, but Doris Kearns Goodwin seems to have it in abundance.

Her book, The Bully Pulpit, on the lives of two of the most prominent American presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft is a true masterpiece of the historical genre.

The great thing about the author is that she not only cites the facts and figures very accurate but also, she is quite apt at creating an atmosphere and an emotional mindset that enables the reader to get a feel of what happened back then.

The book starts off with the introduction of the two chief characters, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. We see how both of these gentlemen come together and a great friendship ensues. They both enter politics around the same time and as things progress we see how their relationship deteriorates as both of them embark upon separate journeys.

We get to read about the bitter split after the elections of 1912 and the launch of the “Progressive Party.”

The other exciting aspect of the book is that the author draws several comparisons of the gentlemen above with the politicians of today. She shines some light on the term coined by Theodore Roosevelt, which was “The Bully Pulpit.”

The actual meaning of this term lies in the sense of influence that a president has over the general public. We see Roosevelt taking advantage of this idea and assembling a formidable team of the most talented journalists in the land. Thanks to their efforts, the government was able to eradicate corruption to a significant extent.

By reading the book, we can see that it is well researched and that the author has put in a lot of time and effort to ensure that we get the complete picture.

Using the excerpts from the letters exchanged between Roosevelt and Taft we see how their friendship came to an end when Roosevelt launched his political party in 1912 as he was dissatisfied with the measures taken by Taft.

Later on during his life, Taft conceded that he was not able to properly make use of the “bully pulpit” to complete his objectives. It was this same factor that played such a significant role in the success of Mr. Roosevelt as an American president.

Throughout the book, we not only get to read about the politics of that time, but we also get an insight into the personal lives of Roosevelt and Taft.

We see how devastated Roosevelt felt after the death of his first wife, Alice. This had a lasting impact on his life. He did remarry afterward and his second wife, Edith, tried her best to devote herself entirely to her husband. As for Taft, we see that he was a man of worthy of holding a high office.

However, he did not have the will and the drive to succeed in the capacity of a president. That hunger and desire were found in abundance in Roosevelt, who succeeded in showing his real potential when he was in power.

In the epilogue, the author writes about how Roosevelt and Taft met during a visit to Washington and ended up reminiscing about the past. Both of them reconciled to a certain extent and only a few months after that, Taft found himself mourning at the funeral of his once best friend, Theodore Roosevelt.


Doris Kearns Goodwin is best known for authoring portraits of American presidents, including Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.


Doris Kearns Goodwin is an author and historian known for her highly regarded studies of American presidents. A meeting with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 resulted in Goodwin’s first book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976).

Her second book, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (1987), was a best-seller. Following the release of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II in 1994, Goodwin published a memoir detailing her youth in Brooklyn.

She returned to presidential literature after that, releasing Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln in 2005.

Early Life

Famed author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was born Doris Helen Kearns in New York City, on January 4, 1943. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Rockville Centre, Long Island, Goodwin developed an early affinity for history, politics, and writing, and fell “in love” with the Brooklyn Dodgers, according to her memoir Wait Till Next Year: Summer Afternoons with My Father and Baseball.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Colby College in Maine in 1964, Goodwin enrolled at Harvard University. During her third year of graduate school, she was awarded a White House Fellowship and, subsequently, a brief assistantship in Washington, D.C. with then Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, a member of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration at the time. (Wirtz had previously served under John F. Kennedy.)

residential Biographies

Goodwin graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in government in 1968. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that she published her first book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976)—a result of her early meeting with Johnson and her ensuing analysis of his memoirs.

Her follow-up biography, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga, was released in 1987 and quickly became a best-seller. The book was later adapted for the television series The Kennedys of Massachusetts, airing in 1990 on ABC. In 1994, Goodwin released another presidential biography, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, which proved to be one of her biggest achievements.

She won immense commercial and critical acclaim for the FDR book, culminating with the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History.

Several years after its publication, Team of Rivals returned to the media forefront when director Steven Spielberg acquired rights to the book for a major film adaptation, Lincoln.

The highly anticipated film, scheduled for a November 2012 release, stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, among other prominent performers.

Asked why she’s passionate about writing presidential biographies during her mid-’90s interview with the Academy of Achievement, Goodwin explained, “It is not a question of coming at it from the start as if I’m out to get them, or out to praise them. I just want them to come alive again. That’s all you really ask of history.

Then the reader can feel, with all the complexity of emotions, what it is that is happening to them.”

Other Projects and Personal Life

In addition to writing, Goodwin has worked for NBC News, as a government professor at Harvard, and as a political commentator. Additionally, in 1994, she served as a consultant for a baseball documentary created by Ken Burns, The History of Baseball. She is currently working on her next book about the broken friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft.

Goodwin has been married to former White House adviser Richard Goodwin since 1975. They have three sons, Richard, Michael and Joseph.

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