Story and photo by Craig Lord –
Are you surprised to learn that your Kitchissippi councillor has a thing for politics and history? Probably not. But can you picture Jeff Leiper with a bushy black beard and a top hat? You might after reading this.
Leiper is spending this summer with a thick tome of a historical read: Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion by Harold Holzer. The book is an account of President Abraham Lincoln’s approach to the press: how he engaged, cajoled, and censored newspapers in his quest for emancipation and victory in the Civil War.
Holzer paints Lincoln through the journalists who covered him, from his rise in politics to his tragic end. The fabled president was a master of public opinion in all his endeavours and spoke to his people through the press.
The councillor knows how this might sound, but he insists he’s not reading it as a how-to guide. Rather, he finds Lincoln’s campaign for emancipation a captivating subject. For while history may paint the Civil War as a moral conflict over slavery, there were in reality many more political and economic drivers that led to the divisive war. Americans didn’t want emancipation until Lincoln convinced them they did.
“How do you take something people don’t believe, and get them to fight a bloody war?” Leiper asks. “I find that fascinating.”
As a student of the liberal arts, Leiper has always found reading to be crucial. While the sciences and engineering are fantastic for showing how the world works, he says that reading is a way for us to understand how the world should work.
“Reading the world’s literature has shaped me,” Leiper says, reflecting on his fondness for the great Russian authors of our time.
That connection translates directly to his work. As a councillor, he says these lessons inform every decision he makes.
“Reading is the gateway of linking the minutia of what you do to the world,” Leiper says.
A solitary activity like reading for pleasure isn’t something that falls naturally into a councillor’s busy schedule. But it’s always a priority.
“I have to carve out that time… It’s important to do that,” Leiper says. “Just to remember the big picture.”
This post is part of our KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.