A favorite leader, revisited

Skillful biographers prove that it's possible to examine one of history's most scrutinized leaders and still unearth nuggets of personal and political history that have powerful resonance for the present day. "Lincoln," a three-hour special on The History Channel (Monday, Jan. 16, 8 p.m. EST), examines the connections between the lanky politician's deep bouts with depression, his key personal relationships, and his later skills as a leader. The program features an impressive roster of historians and commentators - ranging from Jan Morris to Gore Vidal - who discuss everything from Lincoln's premonitions of his own death to the toxic mix of ambition and honor that led to an unfortunate marriage.

The show also examines how Lincoln's hatred of slavery may well have been born when his own father treated him as an indentured servant, beating and "renting" him to neighbors. Most telling for today's leaders, the commentators conclude that had he been a happy man, Lincoln may never have developed the mental fortitude to lead America through two of its biggest national crises, the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

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