Bill Moyers: What We Can Learn From Lincoln

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Moyers & Company

Bill Moyers: What We Can Learn From Lincoln

One reason so many people are disillusioned by the state of things in America is that our political system hasn’t produced consistently good results in a long time. We’ve forgotten that democracy is supposed to be about addressing our problems through a political system that encourages bargaining, compromise, and progress. Except for taking us to war, showering largesse on the privileged and powerful, and courting donors instead of representing voters, Washington politics promotes gridlock, paralysis, and stalemate.

But Bill Moyers finds hope in the movie Lincoln. In this encore Moyers & Company broadcast, Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, who wrote the film’s Oscar-nominated screenplay, joins Bill to talk about finding the man inside the monument, and what Abraham Lincoln — 147 years after his death — can still teach us all about politics, compromise, and the survival of American democracy.

“The job of the president is both to make the compromises necessary to actually have things happen in a democracy, which means compromising at a slower pace than anybody would necessarily like,” Kushner tells Bill. “At the same time he has to keep telling us where we’re going, what we’re trying to arrive at. And I think that Obama has done an astonishing job of doing that over and over, of reminding us that government is a good thing, and that we share responsibility for one another because without that shared responsibility our own lives are destroyed.”

As a bonus, Bill shares an excerpt from his 2009 conversation with Lincoln historian Harold Holzer and actor Sam Waterston. Waterston played Lincoln twice — once in the 1988 Gore Vidal TV miniseries Lincoln and again in the 1993 Lincoln Center Theater production of Abe Lincoln in Illinois. In this segment, Waterston discusses how he prepared himself to portray our 16th president.

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