tv Book Discussion of Stalin CSPAN February 20, 2015 11:59pm-1:03am EST
us. so keith and everyone and shannon greene and terry burns and everyone. i encourage all of you to go to the usa today website and we have a link up there for the investigation. it is next to the card ashy and video gallery. [laughter] and no actually it's not. but it is gratifying nonetheless to know that when i got into this business 30 years ago people said stay away the matter what you do and we all know how that story ended. and so i encourage all of you to understand what is going on at usa today as we try to struggle
our way through like every other news organization. we have done something truly impressive and made a real commitment to hard-hitting and investigative groundbreaking journalism and i'm grateful for that and i thank you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen chairman and editor-in-chief of kiplinger publications. [applause] >> good evening. i am from the kiplinger letter and i will be referred. i am not related in any way to the other nights, including john and james. i wish that i were but i am not
our honorary this evening is the first kipping letter award who has never worked as a professional journalist. paradoxically he is one of the most influential figures in this totally reshape the journalism profession too adapted to the new realities of the digital age. and because beneath the guise of the lawyer, a newspaper publisher and a foundation executive while he was never a
professional journalist, he was once a student journalist in 1965. a busload of students went down to alabama from connecticut that spring for the montgomery to selma march and alberto at six of his fellow students to call them with first-hand accounts. and he gave each of them a dime to place they collect call from the phone. so ask someone at your table what they collect on the phone was, a payphone. he told the students that when you are arrested not if but when you are arrested do not use this time to call your parents or your lawyer or the dean call
me. and that is a tough editor. a few nights later he sat by the phone with four empty pages in his layout for the next days work. he waited and then the collect calls started coming in with vivid police attack accounts on the peaceful marchers. we had one guy, he recalls who is being beaten while he was on the phone in a phone booth. well, alberto ville.that night, scooping the papers in connecticut that had already gone to press. after an experience like that why didn't he choose this for a
career. he had other ideas for helping his idle man as a peace corps volunteer and then an attorney working in activism and other state government. but the siren song ended him up in management, first at the hartford current and then add long island newsday and finally the miami herald as a publisher he was passionate about editorial quality, community engagement and connecting with readers. on his watch at the herald, the paper one numerous pulitzers. as good of a publisher as he
was, it was the leadership of alberto ibarguen of the james knight foundation that has made him such a force in american journalism today. the past 10 years he has remade this foundation to become the leading supporter in funder and cheerleader for journalistic innovations. to create new techniques and new business models for the news media to better serve the public. as he said in a recent interview his mission is not to save newspapers or television news or radio news but how to figure out how to meet the information needs in every way possible. so the foundation today funds new ventures to help journalists use the internet to find citizen sources for their reporting and
their research. including nonprofit news organizations to create privacy protecting methods for whistleblowers to contact journalist online and create a comprehensive database of donors to federal campaigns across america. the knight foundation is also new media training for print and broadcast journalist and this is a mission that at the kiplinger foundation we also support through the kiplinger program for journalists at ohio state university. it is all about teaching old dogs and some young dogs some valuable new tricks. as they company magazine recently said by reinventing the knight foundation, alberto ibarguen help to reinvent the
news. it is for these contributions creative and financial that the national press foundation bestows upon us visionary leader the william kiplinger award for lifetime contributions to journalism. ladies and government alberto ibarguen. [applause] [applause] >> thank you. i think that i have died and gone to heaven. i do not deserve that generous introduction, but thank you loretta. congratulations to all the other winners, particularly my friend gilbert for the extraordinary
work that you always could have done in dallas and lots of other places and happen to have been there at the right place at the right time and across multiple media platforms as we say these days. i was surprised when sandy johnson called and told me about this award since most of the winners in the past have been editors and journalists. including abe rosenthal at the paper that i grew up with or gene roberts, one of the great editors. including al newhart and katharine graham. it's the very definition of an honor. i don't know if this will give many props at, there was a family story that began when our son who is now a first amendment counsel at hearst, not that his father is too proud to mention
a. [laughter] but he was then a reporter for the associated press and stuck on a story he called to talk about it and he mentioned that he was stuck on the story and she said why don't you call your father thinking that we were stuck in the same business. and he said mom pop is a lawyer that runs a newspaper. i don't pretend to be a journalist, i never have, and i do admit to a lifelong passion for journalism and free expression and the fascination with a faith and wisdom of a well-informed crowd. i have something else in common with my distinguished predecessors and many here tonight and kiplinger himself and certainly with jack knight, we all grew up and became successful in a principles driven hierarchical media world and we have enjoyed few competitors, a highly profitable
business and a public service mission to inform given the space of 10 years, newspapers went from cash cow monopolies to other cost cutters, struggling to make a profit so they could continue to serve. as always, it is opportunity for some and for others to inform and reach and rouse the people so they can determine their own interests. and across the country i see a lot of fear in newsrooms as we work with many of them. but this really should be a howard beale moment. i'm mad as hell and i'm not going to take it anymore. when he began that way and ended that way he said he didn't know the solution but he knows that he is not going to sit around and mope, he's mad as hell and so should we be.
because the best of self-governance, that self-governance, it is just not possible without an informed citizenry and it's impossible without good journalism. this new digital age of communication is profoundly changing our economy and our community and our live. and if you care about journalism you have to do care about technology. that includes producing and distributing news. journalists and news people must care about the devices that people use and about how they will use them and about how they will value the information depending upon the platform or device. you can wring your hands and
pray for time to freeze so that the this will never change and this could return to full print or you can look with hope and goodwill as the current leadership works to find a way that fits the times. so often is the case and you have two choices, you can curse the darkness or light the candle and a night we choose to light the candle. we are mad as hell and we are doing something about it. so i would like to tell you a little bit of that. values matter training matters, and we maintain training in person and online, we have funded literally hundreds of experience to real-time news open source community engagement platforms and we have turned to the media lab and the pew research center to help us
understand how people use information technology. we do not protect a have a matter what the work with journalists that [inaudible] in the short term we have also given breathing space to 27 online news sites around the country like funding 15% of the annual budgets, they have to survive in this includes tools such as document cloud and now we are in the middle of a project to creative platform with others as well. we are still experimenting as a slide that shows how we have
moved from smaller products from left to right and it represent about $90 million in active grants during this for your period of time which is a drop in the bucket compared to microsoft or what facebook might on development. and sure, i wish that news companies had spent money on this when we were making 20 or 30% profit, but that was then and this is now and we should be as mad as hell in finding and figuring out what to do next. two of the people who helped to do that and help me do that are here tonight and i would like to recognize them. this includes the director of our journalism program and marty, who is the chairman of our journalism advisory committee. [applause] most newsrooms sadly are not
particularly experimental what you've heard tonight, i wish it were common, but i think it is extraordinary and i congratulate the other winners again. if you don't experiment, you can wave your future goodbye. if you are experimenting, please do more, push your boundaries and let us know what you are learning. just know that there is no roadmap your path is made by walking with an open mind and the will to change, to serve the audience as well as hammering the true north star of journalism is fair and accurate contextual search for truth. that never changes. [applause] >> thank you for that clarion
call. we want to thank our dinner committee and are two very successful cochairs. thank you all. [applause] [applause] >> i'm going to take forever. nothing is important it's done without the work of a lot of people. i would like to start by thanking you all for being here tonight. sandy johnson and the national press foundation have done amazing things to get this dinner off the ground. as cochair with a mess i would like to thank the committee for all of their hard work and please hold your applause until we recognize all the committee members and then please if you are on the committee stand when
>> jeffrey, greg, linda smith, roger with eta she has a fan base here. as where is julie. i would like to give a shout out to her, she made a very big contribution this year and three weeks ago welcomed a new baby into this world. she made the dinner tonight and so thank you. thank you to everyone at the dinner committee and thank you to everyone for answering our calls. thank you. [applause] >> thank you amos and bottom. it provides the largest source of unrestricted funds for journalists. this year we are going to have a
trip to a place where we can educate journalists in our retirement program funded by prudential. in every program we are adding an element of digital storytelling work two blocks training to keep our journalists abreast of the digital wave trade we have a good amount of webinars coming up to make use of our brand-new studio and we will look at the latest research on addiction and bring in experts to explain the measles outbreak and we will provide a full day of training from the paul miller fellowes in our studios. i would now like you to meet the hard-working staff. linda, programs director. [applause] jenny studio and program monitor reyna, digital media
manager, and are in turn this semester and jessica, director of authorizations and the diligent correspondent of this year's dinner details. [applause] until we began. we are making great use of the studios, it is available now for commercial rental. >> we produce the content every week from this studio thanks to a generous gift from evelyn davis and her foundation. you can rent this state-of-the-art studio and produce your own high-quality video for your newsletters and websites. bring your content live just as we are doing here at nts. our studios are a few blocks away in the heart of dc.
there is a poster brochure on your placesetting and take it home and contact us. studio at national press.org. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen. kevin goldberg of fletcher and hildreth, as chair of the national press foundation. >> thank you we have a couple of awards left and you're not going to want to miss them. the word captivating is one that i rarely use when writing about energy policy issues. but that is before i red a project of bloomberg news which takes a hard look at issues facing our energy grid. the grid hasn't changed much since thomas edison invented the lake on, but quickly opining this as well.
read on and you'll see why the judges were so enthusiastic about their toys of our candidates as the winners of the 2015 award for energy writing. [applause] >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you particularly to the judges and the national press foundation. if i woke up five years ago and thought that i would have been honored by a news organization are writing about utilities come i would've killed myself. [laughter] >> i am a storyteller in my view
is what is the story there. well, it's an amazing story and i'm old enough, i'm in the san francisco bureau and i remember when they were buying up cell phone rides and then we saw was the size of the suitcase, the first cell phone. and everyone said who the heck wants one of those. and now almost everyone in america has one. i had the privilege of interviewing george mitchell who is the grandfather of tracking them for 25 years everyone said that nobody will ever be able to squeeze oil and gas out of those tight shale formations and george mitchell got the recipe right essentially change this. this is where we stand at this moment in my opinion.
we have reached this crossing and tipping point where suddenly this is coalescence of things sooner than we recognize that will change our entire world in the way we see the energy world. we are lucky at bloomberg news because we have very smart reporters to go out and write about stuff that is breaking. but we finally did it obvious connection, [inaudible] verizon and others in this we understood there were winners but we recognize that the losers could be the utility industry, and this is phenomenal because this is the most interesting thing that has happened since thomas edison.
so what we did and took a helicopter up 5000 feet and began to see these connections and then we begin to see this report and we said we look like the airline industry in the telecom industry in 1975 and remember what happened to them. so if you want to go on and beat it, i think we have done a pretty good job of looking forward. i go home and i tell my family oh my gosh, i'm writing about energy and they say get another live. [laughter] but it is the story of the next decade and hats off to my colleagues and editors for doing this. thank you very much. [applause] [applause] >> even those who don't speak a
word of french, we have become familiar with this phrase after the january 7, terrorist attack at "charlie hebdo" left three people dead. all because of some pictures. of course not. because political cartoons are so much more. in part because of the strong and effective message that they can convey to anyone in an instant. a strong and effective message describing the cartoons of clay bennett, the individual from the chattanooga press his work is clean and concise and to the point. able to understand, but not simple. the judges panel thought that elegant simplicity, clear drawings and messages his style is disarming and charming with a strong bite underneath. the humor is subtle and witty. ladies and gentlemen, it's an
honor to present the winner of the 2015 award for editorial cartoon. mr. clay bennett. [applause] >> thank you very much for that. >> first, let me thank the national press foundation for this wonderful recognition of my work. i feel very honored that it's not a place to be included in such a distinguished group of journalists. maybe i will see more dignified if only by association. next i should confess that i always get a little bit nervous on occasions like this and i think my anxiety all stems from my experience i had when i was asked the before the end here is
the dramatization of actual events. when i went to fort worth, i guess i was expecting a group of liberal reporters and editors. i knew it was texas but it was the texas press association and instead i was faced with a room full of very conservative newspaper publishers from across the lone star state. undeterred by the demographics i went ahead with my plan after i needed you. the lights went down to have a typical sort of liberal cartoon slideshow.
so when the lights were turned back up, half of the audience was gone and it was downright humbling if not humiliating experience, it took even an optimist that would still see this as half-full and it might have been discouraged. the only comment that i got asked afterwards that even came close to being a compliment is from one of the publishers who walked up and said well, that took guts. and i will take that as a complement and i'm pretty sure nothing like this will happen tonight. this is washington dc, after all. you guys are inurbane intolerant crowd. and besides we have blocked all the exit. [laughter] with that in mind, let's get this show on the road. so i have been a cartoonist for
as long as i can remember and opinionated for as long as anyone else can remember. so it seemed only natural that i would pursue a career in editorial cartooning. i chose this career path in the early 1970s during the heyday of the art form. like most i tried to emulate the artists who dominated the profession of the time. unlike many of my contemporaries i just wasn't talented enough to do it. and so i had to fashion a drawing style that was more suited to my modest ability as an artist. ..ummm, my approach to cartooning
was also shaped by my weaknesses than by my strengths. temperature, for example i've never considered myself to be a good caricature. you might think it would discourage someone from pursuing a career in a profession virtually driven by caricature. i wasn't going to let a little thing like not being able to capture'-- someone's likeness to keep me down. eliminating them altogether seems like a good solution. with time, i found ways to criticize public officials without depicting them at all. [applause]
-- [laughter] 8 can yes. there are times when this job demands you draw a character. on those days, i do the best i can. now -- sometimes it works out all right. by the way, the guy batting is president obama. yes, i know he is left-handed but he that's writes -- bats rights. other time, you can put in a well-placed label that will clear up any confusion on your subject matter. [laughter] that's when newt was contributing to anti-gay-rights people.
most of the time, i avoid drawing characters by addressing broader issues in my work. and so, another signature of my approach to cartooning is the visual nature of my work. with artistic influences their range from the new yorker cartoons of charles adams and animated of warner bros. to the work of european and latin cartoonist, i have had an affinity for cartoons with few or no words. now -- i may have followed the same path because i just love the purity and universal appeal of wordless cartoons or maybe i just went this route because i can't spell. but regardless of the reason the fact of the matter remains that the few were worse i include, the less chance i have of misspelling one.
now, like this one. i only had to spell check three words in this cartoon. and this one? no worse at all, the chant -- no words at also the chance of misspelling is zero. once i developed the style and an approach that eliminates the words i can't spell, i had to establish a general tone to my cartoons. when i was -- [laughter] i faced an obstacle. when i was first breaking into this business, there seemed to be 2 types of cartoonist. those who went for the jugular and those with for the funny bone. the only problem was i didn't
really seem to comfortably fit into either school of cartooning. i've always had strong views. but i've never thought of myself as being shrill or malicious. even though i have leases of humor, i'm not all that funny. as of the speech tonight can be proof of that. but eventually, i would -- eventually i would find my place somewhere in the middle. i guess somewhere in between going for the jugular and going for the funnybone among what would that be? going for the shoulder or bicep that doesn't sound like a good idea. my one and only rule of cartooning is to try to make a cartoon insightful.
if i can't make it insightful, i try to make it funny. if i can't make it -- if i can't make it insightful or funny, make it timely. needless to say, i draw a lot of timely cartoon. this one was very timely a couple of months ago when i first true it. now, you might think i am tough on myself. but hell, being tough on myself might be all i have going for me. i've always had a terrible if or debt inferiority complex when it comes to my work. i realize that there are 11 cartoonist -- a lot of cartoonist working today that are better artist and those are funnier and more intelligent
than me. so suffering as i do from such low cartooning self-esteem, i've always tried to compensate for my inadequacies by a work ethic that borders on obsession. now, in light of that, i would accept this honor tonight, but not as a recognition of artistic talent nor as a testament to any inherent wit or wisdom. i will accept this award on behalf of of neurotic insecurity and as the hard work it inspires. in closing, i would like to again thank the national press foundation for recognizing my work. i would like to express special thanks to my bosses at "the chattanooga times free press" for their support. and my wife, cindy, for her incredible patience over the
past 15. lastly, i will like to thank all of you still here and for not walking doubt during -- walking out during my slideshow. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, clay. please join us for the post-dinner reception in at the jefferson room on this level. while live music and sponsored by pepsico. on your way, i invite you to take a look at some of clay's cartoons available for purchase with all proceeds going to the national press foundation. i appreciate you having me here tonight and thank you and we will see you next year. bye. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the
>> it's my pleasure to introduce dr. horn. he is an author and former white house presidential speechmaker who spent years researching and writing his robert e. lee biography "the man who would not be washington" published in january of this year. jonathan has appeared as a commentator on "msnbc" and nbc radio. his writing has appeared in "the new york times"" "the weekly standard" and other outlets. during his time the white house jonathan served as a
speechwriter and special assistant to president george bush and as a graduate of io university and we welcome him to louisville university. [applause] >> thank you so much for that lovely introduction judy. as was mentioned i used to work as a presidential speechwriter before i started writing this book. so you can imagine my shock when i learned that the subject of my new book didn't much care for my old occupation. in fact robert e. lee was so offended when he heard that george washington might've used a ghost writer to pen his famous farewell address that he refused to believe it and he said that anyone who said george washington used a ghostwriter was quote injudicious -- injudicious. i should say a little bit less
about my own biography. i'm so pleased to be at this beautiful house and i'm so grateful to the historical society for me -- for inviting me today. i had a chance to see the historical society earlier today and it's such a wonderful facility and i'm so happy to see that is expanding. that's a great thing for people who do what i do because we are so reliant on the great work better archivists and other preservation is due to preserve american history. so thank you to the historical society for your great work. it's also a pleasure to be here in louisville. robert e. lee actually came to louisville in 1837. he was on a trip out west and i'm proud to tell you they put pressure on me. it wasn't so much what he saw here as who he met here two
ladies. these weren't just any ladies. they were as lee put it decidedly the most beautiful and interesting young ladies but never fear robert e. lee faithfully told his wife every single detail about how he escorted those women to their destinations diligently and dutifully. what took leave through louisville in 1837 was an assignment that he received from the u.s. army -- army corps of engineers. they had sent him to go to the mississippi river to do some work. i mention that tonight because it's actually a river, different river that originally brought me to robert e. lee's story. i confess that on the surface i seem like an unlikely person to write a biography about robert e. lee. i grew up in the suburbs of washington d.c. and spent most of my adult life working there
and around those parts when you tell people you are planning to write a civil war biography they assume you are going to put right about begin in general not a confederate general and they certainly don't expect you to write about that confederate general, robert e. lee. for a long time i avoided explaining myself. i did what you expect someone from washington to do when confronted with a tough question, i ducked it. [laughter] no more. now i want to explain myself. what first drew me to robert e. lee was probably what you would least expect, simple geography. simply put lee and i grew up along the same river, the potomac. now that sounds for two reasons personally think of the potomac river i think it's -- especially
in kentucky you probably imagine a polluted stream of political corruption. sometimes that's true. you certainly don't imagine a river in american history and second when he think of robert e. lee you tend to imagine him personifying the old south that seems light years away from the cosmopolitan capital that we know today. but the truth is far different. reminders of robert e. lee are all around the city of washington. i was fortunate for me because one of those reminders with the majority of robert e. lee's papers are in driving distance of washington so i was able to go to the archives and see the letters that lee himself wrote. writing a biography requires more than just looking at old letters. it also requires getting out and seeing the places where history actually happen history actually happened in robert e. lee's history took place all around where i live. during the course of my research
on this book i traveled the full length of the potomac river from its source to its mouth. for those of you not familiar with the potomac it starts in west virginia at the fairfax dome word trickles out of a little stone and flows down through the appalachian mountains pass a city of washington and empties into the chesapeake bay at point lookout maryland. and yes i really did drive my wife along through this entire ride along the potomac. of all the things to write a biography and understanding -- but if you ever take this journey that i just described you will learn some things. you will learn that the potomac is much more than just a stream of political corruption. you learn that robert elise history flows up and down this river and you learn in the most unexpected ways robert elise history intersects with the father of our country's history
and that is george washington's history. start way down river westmoreland county virginia near the chesapeake bay where robert e. lee grew up, was born i'm sorry on a great plantation called stratford hall. stratford hall was built by robert e. lee's great great uncle thomas lee. thomas lee has a distinction that no other american have. it's that he fathered two sons of the declaration of independence and the great house of thomas lee built at stratford was a symbol of the great wealth that the lee family accumulated on the potomac river. these -- the lee's truly were one of virginia's finest families and not far from stratford hall a short drive away in westmoreland county will find where george washington was born. by the time robert e. lee was born in 1807 george washington was long dead.
but philly and washington names had already infused together and that was because of robert e. lee's father a man named henry light horse harry lee. light horse harry lee was one of george washington's most trusted calvary commanders in the revolutionary war. that is how he earned the nickname light horse harry lee but what makes harry lee the most famous is what he did after the war. he wrote a eulogy for his old commander. he is the one who wrote the words first in war first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen. those of course are still the words that we remember george washington by today and in robert e. lee's time everybody knew that his father had written those words. much as harry lee admire george washington he couldn't quite copy george washington's example. he couldn't imitate what he knew is george washington's greatest
virtue and what was that the virtue? it was self-control and self-command. if the revolution were harry lee cycled into a cycle of tragedy. he bet almost all of this land, all this money on land and the loss very badly. in fact he lost so badly that he ended up in debtors prison and eventually had to go into exile in the caribbean. he left his family during the war of 1812 and he never saw his son robert ever again. so robert e. lee didn't grow up on a big plantation because of his financial problems. if you want to find where robert e. lee grew up you have to have a potomac river to to the time of alexander where robert e. lee lives in modest houses belonging to friends and relatives who took pity on his mother. today we know alexandria as alexandria virginia but back then it was alexander in the district of columbia and the
reason for that was george washington when he laid out the original border in the district of columbia stud alexander into the bottom corner. indeed if you look at a map of d.c. today and you take the small strip of land for arlington and alexandria are intergenic you will see that it forms a perfect diamond shaped square. that was george washington's original intent for the district of columbia. he wanted it to include maryland and virginia. at the town closest george washington's mt. vernon plantation and alexandria considered himself a george washington sometime. young robert didn't have to look far to see reminders of george washington. he saw the medical air. robert e. lee as a child worship of the episcopal church. robert e. lee attended school at the alexander academy which george washington had in doubt and e. lee's ran errands for his
mother in the marketplace were george washington brought troops during the french and indian war. in the description we have a property lee's childhood described him as anything but a -- described him as a nurse tending to his mother. they described him as a housekeeper running errands for his family. no one understood what dragged down harry lee better than his wife. she made sure that tragedy did not repeat itself in robert e. lee. from the earliest age she taught young robert to put duty before desire. she taught him how to control himself and for the rest of robert e. lee's life he had an almost compulsive regard for her. he would say he could never have his own way. and so as much as robert e. lee might want the material things he would not lack the virtue
that separated harry lee from george washington. robert e. lee new self-control and he knew how to deny himself. but what most can ask robert e. lee was george washington happened up river. you have to head further up river to the great pillared mansion that sits atop the arlington heights. if you ever see the arlington heights today it's right across the potomac river from where the lincoln memorial now stands. they're on june the 30th, 1831 robert e. lee married the daughter of george washington's adopted son. today we know arlington as a cemetery but back then it was a memorial to george washington because george washington's adopted son of man named george washington -- have built that house and filled it with relics of mt. vernon. if you had gone to arlington in the 19th century you would have seen china furniture and portraits that had once been at
mt. vernon. you wouldn't have seen the bed were george washington died in supposedly george washington listed in the exact same condition that george washington liked it. people from all across the country came to arlington to see these. it's almost as if arlington was a museum. and there was something else at arlington. there were slaves who have dissented from mt. vernon and you might ask yourself how is that possible? didn't george washington famously free all the slaves in his will? he did free all of his own slaves but what he couldn't do much as he wanted to do was he couldn't free his white slaves in some of the slaves became the property of george washington's adopted son. now we himself that slavery was an evil institution. though you shouldn't make the mistake of thinking he was an abolitionist. he certainly was not an abolitionist. he did pray for a day that god
would end slavery but it may surprise now that he thought slavery was worse for whites than it was for the slaves themselves which is an attitude that is probably hard for us to understand today. basically robert e. lee wanted nothing to do with the substitution and he would try his hardest to avoid it as much as possible. what ultimately entangles robert e. lee in the institution of slavery as his father-in-law died in 1957 he leaves it will naming robert e. lee as executor of the estate that actually includes slaves who are dissented from out burn in. on the eve of the civil war robert e. lee is managing the estate that includes slaves that george washington had wanted to but could not free. it was very much the unresolved question of slavery one of the personal leg -- legacies that robert e. lee received from george washington.
and to see how this unresolved question of slavery began turning to violence that have to head 60 miles upriver from arlington and 60 miles up the potomac river and you'll come to a town. it had been george washington's idea to stick a federal armory in harpers ferry. his advisers thought it was a terrible idea. if you have ever been to harpers ferry to harpers ferry you would see what admittedly. "harper's" ferry is surrounded by three towering bluffs of the blue ridge mountains. george washington that it would make it easy for them to defend harpers ferry. as it turns out it made harpers ferry completely indefensible. they are in 189 a group of abolitionists led by one john brown across the potomac river sees the armory and took a number of hostages and one of those hostages was a man named lewis washington who was george washington and great grand nephew.
john brown took something else from washington's house. he has accomplished is take something else and that was a the sword that had once belonged to george washington. for the entire time john brown controls harpers ferry he is carrying a sword that belonged to george washington and who was sent out to take back harpers ferry to reassert federal control? robert e. lee lieutenant colonel robert e. lee. lieutenant colonel robert e. lee goes to harpers ferry and he is known at that time is one of the military's finest soldiers. he had earned that reputation during the war in mexico. he proved to be a brilliant soldier. he had a unique understanding of topography. he could see things other people could not see and he equipped himself quite well at harpers ferry. he performs well. he puts down the insurrection. he reasserts federal control and what becomes known as john brown's raid doesn't already
impressive resume also do something else. it heralds the coming of the american civil war. now i want to take you to one final place on the potomac trip a little upriver from harpers ferry. it's a quiet national park today where you will find a cornfield you will find a sunken road and will find a stone bridge over a creek called antietam. they're on september 1717th, 1862 robert e. lee outmanned and outgunned army -- army of northern virginia that the union army of the potomac which was much much larger to a stalemate in the bloodiest single day of combat in american history. the battle of antietam marked the end of robert e. lee's first first -- and gave abraham lincoln the opportunity to issue
the preliminary emancipation proclamation which in turn would allow abraham lincoln to get a new birth of freedom to the union george washington had forged. anyone who takes a journey that i've just described must wrestle with an unavoidable question. how did an army officer so associated with george washington's legacy go to war against what we today consider george washington's greatest legacy, the union? it was this question that ultimately drew me to robert e. lee story and that tragic tension in the knowledge that history could have turned out so much differently because on the eve of the civil war leaders on both sides of the potomac in richmond and in washington saw these services for high command they both knew about his connections to george washington. that was common knowledge in both the tremendous significance on them. they also knew that winfield
scott who at the time was the ranking general of the u.s. army that lee was the best soldier he had ever seen. robert e. lee certainly looked like a fine soldier. he stood just under 6 feet tall. he had powerful broad shoulders. he had a barrel chest. he had perfect posture. everybody who saw him set some version of the same thing, that man looks every inch a soldier. so in april 1861 an emissary for abraham lincoln asks robert e. lee to right across from arlington and come to the city of washington. that emissary's name is francis blair and he makes an extraordinary offer. he says will you leave the main union army to crush secession? as we remember the story layer tried in every way to condense robert e. lee to say yes.
he said, blair set to leave the country looks to you quote is the representative of a washington family and that was hardly an exaggeration because here after all was the son of george washington's most famous eulogists and is the symbol of george washington's adopted child. so now only one word separated robert e. lee from the pinnacle of his profession from command opal will be the largest american army ever raced from glory perhaps that no american since george washington would know. what did robert e. lee say? he said he opposed secession and he did oppose the session. that secession was illegal and equally significantly he that george washington was supposed to secession. that was no given at the time because people on both sides of the conflict claimed george washington for their own. secessionists they george washingt