I have now finished my second book as a part of my goal to read the biographies of all U.S. Presidents in chronological order, and I have to say I’m absolutely loving it!
I had watched the HBO mini series of John Adams before reading the biography (The script for the show used this biography by David McCullough as it’s primary source), but it was nice to then dive in to the deeper details from the book. I then watched the show after I finished the book and that is when I was able to grasp the true emotion of his story. If you haven’t seen the mini series of John Adams, portrayed by the wonderful actor Paul Giamatti, I would absolutely recommend it!
What I think is interesting about John Adams is how at least for me, he is the forgotten figure standing among the historical giants of American history. Before reading the biography, or watching the show, the only thing I knew was that he was the second president and maybe I knew John Quincy Adams was his son… or maybe I just thought I was accidently giving two presidents the same last name and assumed I was remembering one of their names incorrectly, I don’t know.
Brash, but Captivating:
John Adams was a man with a strong central conviction; he didn’t want anyone or anything prohibit him from what he believed to be right. It was this passion that lead him to be at the forefront of the American colonies to fight for their freedoms, while also that unbiased freedom caused him to be the defending attorney for the British soldiers involved in the famous ‘Boston Massaccre’ (which he got them acquited).
The perfect antidote to Adams’ brash behavior, was Benjamin Franklin, who learned the skills of empathy and helped John Adams restain his agressiveness as they negotiated with the colonies to declare for independence. Even though Adams could be abrasive, when he stood up to speak, his passion was so palpable that he would leave his audience inspired even if he lacked proper public speaking skills.
Where I connect with John:
I try to find parallels in personality between me and the people I read about, and what I admire about John Adams is his love for literature. He even drafted a paragraph in the Massachusetts Constitution for the encouragement for literacy expansion. With Thomas Jefferson and John Adams’ personal libraries combined, they owned almost 10,000 books! I would love to have a library that resembled theirs.
Favorite quote from the book: “There was so much he wanted to know and do, but life was passing him by. He was 20 years old. ‘I have no books, no time, no friends, I must therefore be contented to live and die an ignorant obscure fellow.’ That such spells of gloom were failings in themselves, he was painfully aware. Yet, he was at a loss to know what to do about it.”
Why I love this part is we already know this man ends up becoming a man who etched his name on the walls of history, and here he is at age 20, doubting he’ll mount for anything and knows how he’s falling short and still fails. I can relate to this feeling. I try to come up with new resolutions that will help propel me forward and yet feel like I fail to maximize my opportunity. I can feel like I will just slip into oblivion. Reading that John Adams went through a similar experience brings hope that my future doesn’t lead to where my fears lay.
Ps. fun fact: One of John Adams’ secretaries was a guy named Charles Storer from Harvard. Not sure if I’m related to him, but it was cool to see a Storer in the books of history.
Other notable quotes:
“(Jefferson on Adams:) Adams was not graceful nor elegant, nor remarkably fluent, but spoke with a power of thought and expression that moved us from our seats.”
“I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading” – John Adams
“The more Adams thought about the future of his country, the more convinced he became that it rested on education.”
“Adams could rightly claim to have held to the ideals of union and neutrality, but his unrelenting independence–his desire to be a President above party– had cost him dearly.
“That John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had died on the same day, and that it was, of all days, the Fourth of July, could not be seen as a mere coincidence: it was a ‘visible and palpable’ manifestation of ‘Divine favor,’ wrote John Quincy in his diary that night, expressing what was felt and would be said again and again everywhere the news spread.”
“Winning With People” – John Maxwell
“Boundaries” – Henry Cloud
Life verse: “But a generous man devises generous things and by his generosity he will stand.” -Isaiah 32:8
Life Mission Statement: To be intentionally focused on providing opportunity and adding value to others.