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tv   Comparing Approaches to Historical Narrative  CSPAN  November 20, 2016 10:30pm-12:01am EST

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2017. our competition is open to all middle and high school students grades six through 12. students can work alone or in a group of up to three to produce a documentary on the issue selected. gorand prize of $5,000 will to the student or team with the best overall entry. $100,000 in cash prizes will be awarded and shared between 150 students and 53 teachers. this year's deadline is january 20, 2017. that is inauguration day. for more information, go to our website. next, theup journalist and author cokie roberts moderates a discussion. the historicaly novelist whose most recent book is a novel of the reagan years. the historical documentary
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producer grace guggenheim whose credits include the academy award-winning "johnstown flood." and michael hill who coproduced pbs's "the civil war." the u.s. capital historical society hosted the event as part of the national heritage lecture. it is about one hour and 20 minutes. >> i am stacy mcbride. welcome to your 25th lecture. senator blunt is a high school history teacher. i will try to do him justice in describing this room you have chosen for your 25th lecture. you have chosen a remarkably historic room. but first, i have to thank the offices of the senate curator and historian who prepare and
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fantastic histories of all of our art and all of our rooms. without them, this introduction would not be possible. to begin, in the early the house 1900s, and senate decided they had outgrown their space. they commissioned two architects from new york to build them a house and senate office building. those buildings have become the cannon house office building and the russell senate office building. they are mirror images of one another from above. a lot of people do not know that simple fact. those two individuals were educated in paris and a part of that education brought this beautiful art that you see around this room. they took great care to design this room. in fact they spent over a year , finding this marble that came from south dover, new jersey. which is very interesting.
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this was originally known as simply the caucus room. it was intended to be a room for political parties to meet and caucus and determine their leadership and priorities for their party. but over time, it became a very popular and preferred place for congressional investigative hearings. among them, the 1912 hearing on the sinking of the titanic, and the watergate hearings of 1973. i am a rules committee staffer so i find the following interesting facts far more interesting than that because there are no circumstances under which we would allow these things to happen in the united states senate today. nine united states senators announced their candidacy for
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the presidency in this room. that includes john kennedy, robert kennedy, george mcgovern, and hubert humphrey. those political campaign activities would not be permitted here today. the second thing i find quite interesting about this room, and i have seen this movie, is the 1961 film "advise and consent" was filmed in this room and it has to be abc cult classic -- classice a d.c. cult because it is one of the only commercial films ever filmed here. if you have not seen it, you should. today it is not used much as a committee hearing room. it is available to use, but they choose not to because we have much larger and more technologically advanced rooms. what we use this room for is primarily legislative seminars and educational seminars, like this one. we are happy you have chosen this room for this lecture.
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and now it is my honor to , introduce mr. don carlson. a member of the capitol hill executive community and an active member of the society's development committee. [applause] mr. carlson: good evening to everyone who has joined us tonight. i am a member of the executive committee at the u.s. capitol historical society board. we were founded in 1962 and chartered by congress in 1978. we are a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization that communicates to the public the rich heritage of the capitol and congress. i am pleased to welcome you to our 2016 national lecture program. we are honored to work with the white house historical association and the u.s. supreme court historical society to
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enhance the knowledge and appreciation of the american system of government and the principles upon which it was founded. tonight's topic is a very unique look at the historian's craft. i want to thank my fellow board member, cokie roberts, and the other distinguished panelists for sharing their personal insight into the work of telling american history. these are highly accomplished people who have received numerous prestigious awards, including an academy award, an emmy, and the national book critics circle award. we have a distinguished audience as well tonight. guests representing members of congress, the architect of the capitol, the senate historian's office, universities, journalists, think tanks, museums, and others. i am sure the round of questions from the audience will be engaging. we are very pleased to welcome several speakers to share in the
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program tonight. we are honored that dr. curtis sandberg is here to add some words of welcome on behalf of the white house historical society. [applause] dr. sandberg: good evening. i am very grateful to don because i have this long title and now i do not have to say it. i am delighted our association has a long-standing friendship with the united states capital historical society and united states supreme court historical society that were reunited together. i was thinking earlier, on a personal note, i began just a year ago directing the rubenstein center at the association and it was just at
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the time of the last lecture, the heritage lecture. for me, i think this is going to be something like haley's comet. it is notable that every year it will come back instead of 30-something years. it is the 25th and very near and dear to our hearts. this topic of doing history and considering the historians craft. history never goes away and all of us are kindred spirits. there is a cyclical quality to history. it is important to be an historian. it is important to know these things. it is important to be able to tell stories well to contextualize them. tonight's panel, this is extremely important. last year, the lecture was calvin coolidge, in our carriage house. it is a three-your circle. after the supreme court society gets it next year, we look forward to having it back.
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in the meantime, what an amazing place, the titanic. the association, we are a private nonprofit educational organization. we have a terrific mission to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the executive mansion and it is a lovely history. we were founded in 1961 by first lady jacqueline kennedy and at the time, she was in her early 30's and the goal then and today was to help the white house collect and exhibit the best artifacts of american history and culture and this grew and grew and continues to include acquisition, preservation, research and education. we have a very robust education program at the rubenstein center. some of you will know our publication, books, and on and on. and of course not to forget the , white house ornament, and christmas is coming up. hoover and an amazing white house story of wrapping up, on behalf of the
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1929. association, i am here with a number of my colleagues. including our new chief historian. we are delighted to be here. it is a marvelous partnership. welcome to everybody, and thank you. [applause] >> i am honored to introduce dr. david pryde, executive director of the united states supreme court historical society and we are so pleased you could join us. [applause] >> thank you for being here. the national heritage lecture was instituted in 1991 as a consequence of meeting between staff members of the historical groups serving the three branches of government. i was privileged to be at that meeting, the agenda of which was to ascertain how three organizations of similar mission
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might work together. we settled upon a rotating lecture series. each of the participants would take turns every third year as a principal sponsor for the program that would appeal to the members and friends of the other collaborators. the first of these was a lecture at the supreme court by justice on f.d.r.'sedy court packing plan of 1937. my apologies, of course, to the unrepentant new dealers. they are given to referring to that as the court enlargement plan. justice kennedy did a masterful job that evening weaving together the historical threads of three branches involvement in that legislative process. that has been a hallmark of many of the national heritage lectures ever since.
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some have focused on the build of expertise of the primary host in any given year. offering the friends and members of the other cosponsors insights into the history sometimes less familiar to them. each approach, i think, has been well received and hence the continuation of this important series. the board of trustees has asked me to convey its gratitude to tonight's principal sponsor, the u.s. capitol historical society , for putting together this latest installment in what has been a venerable tradition. similarly i want to convey our , thanks to the white house historical association for its outstanding program on president calvin coolidge which took place last year. the supreme court historical society is honored to partner with each of you and looks
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forward to many more years of cooperative programming and hosting again next year. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, david. it is my extreme honor to introduce my fellow member of the board of the capitol historical society, cokie roberts, who constantly amazes me about her long service on the board and her inability to say no to any request we make of her. she is a political commentator for abc news and npr with many years in broadcasting. as one countless awards, inducted into the broadcast and cable hall of fame, and among her many honors. long ago, i was taught the greatest introduction in washington was a short one. i intend to honor her by doing that tonight. here is cokie roberts.
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[applause] ms. roberts: thank you for being here. i was thinking when we had that nice little history of the room, when some of us were young, there was only one senate office building when we were kids. it was this building. there were two house office buildings. the senate office building had towels that said "s.o.b." [laughter] i do feel one other thing in terms of introductions. the capitol historical society also has christmas ornaments. so. [laughter] don't miss those. i have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life in this room, not only because it
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has had these big events, like presidential announcements. the two i was here for ted kennedy and al gore. but also all of these hearings, including the endless iran contra hearings. i can tell you every greek key on the ceiling because really, they went on. i do complain -- today, i am complaining a lot because i did not get any sleep watching that really edifying debate last night. [laughter] but the truth is, many of us have had the great privilege -- i have had the credentials where they give you a pass to make it easier -- of being eyewitnesses to history. we have lived long enough. we have lived in the city. we have been connected to these
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institutions where we have had a huge privilege. and that is one approach to history, is to live it and to record it as you go. it is always the saying about journalism, the first draft of history. it has been a huge if exhausting privilege to be able to write that first draft. it is also true the other drafts that are more thoughtful, the drafts that have some perspective, are very, very not only interesting, but important and useful and we do have three approaches and i am going to stick with the idea of short introductions. you do have some biographical information in your programs and also google will be able to help
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you with anything you need to know. we have starting on the end, we have michael hill, who toiled in vineyard for a while working in government and politics, including as a press secretary for walter mondale when he was vice president. and then had the serendipity of meeting david mccullough and started this wonderful ride. right? i mean, really of working with , david and ken burns and john meacham and evan thomas and lots of other people, writing books and movies and traveling the world, learning all kinds of wonderful things. and he has also written and edited the diary of washburn, the united states minister to
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france which fascinated me 1870-71, because that is one of my approaches to history to read books like that. you have taken the diary and annotated it and made it much easier for me to do the work, so thank you. that is one way of writing and reading and producing history. grace guggenheim has taken another path where she has produced so many wonderful historical documentaries, including the academy award-winning johnstown flood. they go on and on and on, theaters, tv museums, where they live forever presidential libraries. , she has been the creator of so
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much visual information that we can absorb and have access to our history in a way that would not be true if she had not been doing the work she has been doing these many years. her most recent work is a treatment designed to cure cancer where she was the producer, director, and narrator. the full job. and she is the president of the guggenheim productions, where she has been overseeing the preservation of her father's film legacy. i must say that her father's house on nantucket -- martha's vineyard, my mother and lady bird would hang out there. honest to god, i was dying to be a fly on the wall. the best i ever got was to deliver my mother there and then
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i had to leave. and they always made me leave and it was not fair. did you get to stay? you got to stay. but they probably did not talk as much with us there. tom mallon does these wonderful nonfiction histories the rest of us do but also does these wonderful models and creates historical fiction. another way of making history more accessible. and having people actually read it in ways the rest of us don't. his 2013 novel "watergate" was a finalist for the faulkner award and he has won many other awards. he also had a guggenheim fellowship, so you can turn to grace and say thank you. [laughter]
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in addition to his wonderful fiction, and i am told i must read "finale," which i will do as soon as this dreadful election is over. he has also written two books of nonfiction that interest me. one, "a book of one's own" -- people and their diaries. "yours ever:later, people and their letters." part of the reason that interested me is because that is how i do my history work. i need the diaries and letters in order to write the history. i am very eager to have other people help me find the letters and the diaries. i also loved the fact that they were published by ticknor and
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fields. the work of the women of the 19th century. when john fremont ran for president as the first republican candidate for president in 1856, nobody knew who the vice presidential candidate was because all of the posters were fremont and jesse. jesse."our she was the most famous woman in america but also the most famous woman in politics for a very long time, and incredibly powerful. when he won the nomination in philadelphia, all of new york showed up at their house and said, show us jesse.
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when she fell on hard times, she started writing. she supported herself and her children through the writing. they came through by publishing for her. they also published grace greenwood. known to abraham lincoln as, "grace greenwood, the patriot." she was the first woman to write for "the new york times" in the 1850's. and she wrote from europe. and she wrote such things as her admission to the house of lords where she went to hear queen victoria speak and she said the queen displayed more rosy plumptitude than regal attitude. and then she went to dinner at charles dickens house.
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she said he had a very elegant and simple lifestyle. she do this because his servants wore no livery. i wonder how her american readers reacted to that. that was fairly foreign in this republic. but i know what she wrote because i read it in "the new york times." one of the wonderful things about writing history right now is you can read the newspapers online and be able to be in the moment where the people you are writing about were so you are reading what they were reading. it is fabulous because it is not just the stories, but all the ads, so you have a sense of society in a much broader sense because you know what they were buying and what it cost and what children's books people were
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reading and magazines and all of that. it is a fascinating way to come back around to that first draft of history helping you with the later draft of history. you can waste days sitting there and reading the newspapers. it is way too much fun. thinking about the way i approach history and writing my history books, women's history which is always harder because it is detective work because the records are not nearly the same thing it fascinated me to think , about the different approaches to history. i really think -- tom, i will start with you since i ended with you. talk about why when you have done all of these, you have done 16 books now, you have done so
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many fiction and nonfiction books, why fiction? just turning it on. mr. mallon: i came to fiction from nonfiction. i had written much more nonfiction before i started writing novels. i was always interested in what i used to call the suburbs of literature, these are genres like diaries and letters. i was interested in them in and of themselves. i realized as time went on that they were source material for so many of the stories i wanted to tell. most -- almost all of the fiction i have written has been historical. it has sometimes been set in the fairly distant past. more frequently of late, in the recent past. thele do sometimes asked me
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justification for historical fiction. i often worry when people come up to me and say i have learned so much history from your books because -- ms. roberts: we don't know what part is true. >> at the end of the books, i cannot remember if i made something up or in my file. ms. roberts: for journalists, that is a problem. mr. mallon: it is a way into these subjects. historians do their work responsibly and well and very vividly. nonetheless, there is a restraint on them, a certain bridle on them that is not on the novelist. the example i have used in the past -- somebody said, nancy reagan, for instance, how do you know that nancy reagan thought that at that moment?
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and of course, i don't. i don't have to substantiate knowing it. even if the historian has some evidence that -- to say she may have thought that, it has to be wrapped up in so many subjunctives. it is not unreasonable to think at this moment she might have thought this, the novelist has her go ahead and think it. it is a form of malpractice, historical fiction, but the hope is that it will somehow illuminate history in a different way. ms. roberts: grace, in moving it from the page to the picture, do you feel any of that happens? does it stay straight on? is there some element of fiction?
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i think it needs to be quite close to you. ms. guggenheim: very interesting question because i struggle with it. i want to preface that with documentaries, they can come with different shapes and sizes, any type of film teacher, political or commercial. it is still a story but the vision can change of that storyline based on the director or the interpreter or the producer. i will go backwards -- you mentioned my first film as an associate producer. i spent 18 years of my career working with my father. he had a 50-year career with all types of genre of films from feature, political. him, itame to work with was primarily historical documentaries. "the johnstown flood," we had a beautiful book written by david mccullough which was the premise of our historical fact.
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the challenge was then, what survives? it was a difficult challenge for a flood that took place in 1889. there were not diaries for us except -- and the material did not survive either. anything after the flood existed but very little before. then what happens? this is one of the few docudramas i have worked on and how do you show a dam breaking? in that film specifically, there were licenses taken, but we also have a disclaimer saying this is interpretive. it allows us to get away with it and allows us to use reenactment.
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the initial approach is to try and find what historically exists that we can use. that is where we begin. it is a process of elimination of we need to talk about something visually over something visually. ms. roberts: how do you feel about reenactment? ms. guggenheim: when i look back at the johnstown flood, it looks a little questionable. today, technology is so much more sophisticated. we were dealing with technological challenges. video and film were just starting to blend together. i think it can work successfully but it can also be misleading. ms. roberts: in the videos in museums, they tend to have a lot of reenactment.
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i think they have gotten better. do you think they have gotten better? ms. guggenheim: technologically, i think it has become seamless. there was a film about rosa parks nominated for an academy award and they were criticized for doing reenactments but did not do a disclaimer so people could not tell the difference. typically in pbs films, anything that is reenacted is in color, historical is in black and white. we do not do that as much because we like to melt it and have a disclaimer. it has become experiential experience rather than factual. you live it through the visual medium and the voices and the sounds and the next. ms. roberts: michael, you have worked with both film and with books, do you find yourself --
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you have the best job. do you find yourself approaching the research in different ways? mr. hill: i think it is great to talk about all the different forms of producing history because i remember when i was in school, i was interested in history despite the best efforts of every teacher i had. whether it is a straight nonfiction book, documentary, or historical novel, whatever gets people interested and excited about history is fabulous.
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i was helping evan thomas with a book and evan was starting the research and he asked somebody, what is the best material to read? he did the work, he did the resort -- research, which is what tom does. in looking at all the different media, there are similar approaches and attacks in producing a book as it is for a documentary as it is for an historical novel. obviously, diaries and letters are crucial and newspapers are just a fabulous source of material and the access you have to those now is wonderful.
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the other, which i think, and this i have to thank you folks here, you make our work possible through the archival work that you do. you produce the material that lets us do what we do. in addition to diaries and letters and newspapers and so forth, i know david mccullough uses artwork a lot. if you look at a painting of john adams or thomas jefferson that was done, a lot of times paintings were done by artists who were sitting with the subject or knew them. from there, you can get descriptions of what the person looks like, what their dress was like. i remember when tom hanks and
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hbo did an adaptation of the john adams film and the set design people were trying to figure out what john adams and abigail looked like. they went back and looked at the paintings. how they dressed at certain particular times. artwork is another example. the other, and tom and i were talking a little bit about this and grace knows this because of the visual aspect, is to go to the place where the historical event happened. i cannot stress how important that is. all of the authors i have worked for, if there is a place that is still in existence of the subject matter you are dealing with, you have to go see it because even if you pick up one
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little thing, it was worth doing that. countless instances i have had, david mccullough with the wright brothers book, the john adams houses, being in this room. going there is such an important thing. i heard a wonderful story a couple of weeks ago. i was in ohio and i was talking to one of the historians and he told us a wonderful story that when gore vidal was working on his burr historical novel, there was a local wealthy person out there who put up a lot of the money to help build the boats and so forth. the mansion is still there and a lot of the furniture is still there.
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when gore vidal went to the museum and he said to the curator, i wonder if i could ask you a favor. could you take two pieces of furniture in which we know aaron burr either sat in or touched, could you put them in a room and i could go in there and sit by myself and take it in? he pulled them out of the case and them in the room and closed the door and gore vidal sat in there and it is a wonderful example -- anything that stimulates the author by feeling the real thing, seeing the real thing, is so important. the archival work and the places and the artwork and so forth helps so much.
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ms. roberts: you can learn a lot about what they were wearing by reading the women's letters. they actually talk about it. those pictures you talk about leave out half of the human race. when you do find the letters, they are so much better than the men's letters because the men knew that they were important and they wrote with the idea that they would be published and preserved and their letters are edited and pompous. the women just wrote letters. they were deeply political, but they also wrote about fashion
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and who was having babies and what the economic situation was and about human beings and they were frank and funny. jefferson davis's wife writes a wonderful letter to her mother. you do not learn from the men's letters. that is part of the reason people do not know history as well because half of the human race feels like they are left out of it. grace, you were quoted in the "washington times" saying the state of historical ignorance makes you gritty about your
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craft. what does that mean? ms. guggenheim: i have always felt when i have been lucky enough to be on an historical documentary. we only have so much time. in the spectrum of a year and a half or a year or two years, a majority of that time, you want to plan and hunt and gather. if you cannot find your material and be persuasive and gritty, you cannot tell your story. flash memory comes to mind when i worked on a film about harry truman for the truman library and there was literally no material i could find when he
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was senator and at the last minute, because of relationship with one of the historical societies, they notified us to say, we just inherited some home movies from a contractor who built the building. that is the kind of thing -- if you are thirsty enough, whether it is a family, or a historical society. my perspective is, my career has been built on the preservation of this material. gritty, not everyone is able to have it easily accessible. ms. roberts: does it make it any easier in terms of trying to get
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to this stuff to have the moments where you can just make it up? [laughter] mr. mallon: it is a great comfort not to have to go through the fact checking department as one does for an essay. it is very funny with source material, you can reach a point in fiction, you reach it more quickly, you reach a point where you almost wish you had less to work with. watergate, there were the tapes of the hearings, the nixon tapes, which were one-of-a-kind, all of these memoirs that even the minor players wrote in order to pay their legal bills. a tremendous amount of stuff and i sometimes felt i was drowning
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in it and wanted to have less. with other stories, a much earlier novel of mine, was about the couple in the balcony with the lincolns. ms. roberts: after everybody else said no. mr. mallon: this is very suspicious to the grassy knoll types. 18 years after the assassination, henry, who was married to clara, and they had three children, one of who became a congressman, he murdered clara when they were traveling abroad in germany. the materials available to me for that story were pretty scarce. the families destroyed a lot of
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stuff because of embarrassment. i was grasping at tiny straws. i found a diary up in albany kept by one of the cousins. i enjoyed clara's company at dinner tonight, she was not so sarcastic as usual. that was the minute she became real to me. one other story about sources, i was always craving more material for the two of them because i would find a great deal of detail for a period of their lives. ms. roberts: what was it about them that got you going? that they were there in the box? mr. mallon: when i knew he had
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murdered her. for all the things that have been done about lincoln, 14,000 books, there had never been a full-length treatment of henry and clara. ms. roberts: how did you know he had murdered her? mr. mallon: it was documented but it was literally a footnote. this happened 18 years later. i traced every possible scrap of information. i was telling a gentleman before we started, just last fall, 20
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plus years after that book came out, i got a call from a man across the river in virginia. he said, my late wife and i always thought about getting in touch with you. we both read your book but we never got around to it. i was married to clara's great-great granddaughter and we have four cartons of stuff related to her. would you be interested in seeing it? ms. roberts: not now. mr. mallon: i think it shows the two-edged sword. i looked at these boxes and there were things in them, objects that made me shake. clara was a great collector of photographic calling cards. they looked like business cards today. ms. roberts: some people collected them like baseball cards. mr. mallon: she liked the limelight and there was one card in there which was from dr. charles crane, one of the physicians that attended lincoln
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the night he died. it was addressed to dr. noris. i did not know who dr. noris was. he was attending secretary of state seward. it was a report from the petersen house to seward's house as to what was going on and the card said in pencil, 6:00 a.m., the president is very low. this is one hour and 22 minutes before lincoln dies. i said to the gentleman, is this insured? this is one of the last written records of the lincoln administration. i looked through clara's voluminous scrapbooks which would have provided me with
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tremendous information and finally, where those things were concerned, i left the house with a certain relief. so much information, it would have been inhibiting. i had to have some kind of imaginative room to maneuver. ms. roberts: grace, i see you nodding. ms. guggenheim: it reminded me of the story, when we finished the half hour of film, there was a woman who called the johnstown flood museum and said, i found this trunk in my mother's attic. inside were hundreds of photographs from her great grandfather who had been an amateur photographer and that allowed us to expand the film to an hour and for the first time,
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show material of the wealthy families that had hidden the material for many years. it was liberating. when you see it, you know. ms. roberts: that gets to the question of truth. we have spent a lot of time -- i think a very useful amount of time -- doing fact checking. now we are doing it in real time. as we are talking, you can pull up what is true and what is not true. not a lot is true. but is there a difference between just checking the facts and telling the truth? are they the same thing? >> the fact is a point of
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departure. what one needs to do in a nonfiction context is take a fact that you are presented with and attack it from every possible way you can. the other day, i was doing a little research about dwight eisenhower and civil rights and i was looking at the chapter in his memoir about civil rights and he mentions at the outset, he talks about some of the advances and he mentioned a fellow named frederick mauro
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that he appointed to as a administration and said he was the first black appointed to a personnel position in a white house administration. i did some poking around and found out, yes, he was, but the back story that came out of that, once he was appointed, his treatment inside the administration was horrible. some people would not deal with them. friends of eisenhower's were just appalled. i take that as an example -- that is a fact of what eisenhower did and that is terrific. it then you have to start looking at what are the other stories. part of the story, the other angles of the story, and that is where a lot of this methodology comes in. what did somebody else say about this particular event? in oral histories, you have to be a little bit careful, too.
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oral histories, at a particular time, can have a particular benefit. what if you do the interview with somebody later on? they may be much more open, much more willing to talk. ms. roberts: after everybody is dead. mr. hill: oral histories -- taking the fact and checking it against other things, interviews with people, checking what the newspaper said. looking at diaries or letters of people who did not like the person you are researching. what did they say? what were their motives?
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taking the fact and testing it along the way and trying to get to some kind of truth. the instances that tom and grace mentioned about the great fear of anybody who does this is working on a project and either at the 11th hour or after you have released your product, finding something that has a huge impact upon the credibility of what you do and one thing i have learned over 30 years ago from david, some authors, once they get going, they do not want to have a lot of people know about what they are doing. david is very open. he wants everybody to know what he is doing because inevitably, something comes out of the woodwork. one of the things david always says to me, go talk to jeff flanery and see what he has. several years ago, when i was helping evan thomas on his robert kennedy book.
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i was coming into the manuscript reading room and jeff said, have you looked at the martin papers and the campaign diary he kept of being with bobby kennedy? it is an absolute gold mine. the only really inside the campaign diary that was ever produced and it was wonderful. the way that came about was talking to archivists, making them to the partnership. help produce the best product that you can. it is a long way of saying the facts are there, but you have to push and pull and try to reach the best conclusion that you can. ms. roberts: how true are the memoirs?
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my mother said about her own, think about what a great book i would have written if i had been willing to tell the truth. [laughter] there was one woman who was married to a confederate senator from alabama. he was imprisoned, seen as a conspirator. which was not true. and she writes this wonderful breezy memoir. she was very clever and everybody loved her. her memoir about herself is -- in reading what she writes for publication, it is all how well she handled everything and how
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she told andy johnson off, which she did. but she was terrified and you learn that through her diary. take the diary at exactly the same period from the memoir and see that she was scared to death. he was going to be in jail forever or killed. you would never have that if you just had the memoir. the terrible thing that happened to me was that davis, her diary was discovered after my book.
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mr. hill: one thing we have found is with 18th-century memoirs or 19th century memoirs, it was accepted to leave things out. ms. roberts: you were not expected to embarrass yourself. mr. hill: one thing on the washburn diary that we found at the library of congress, washburn later published two volumes he called his diary and correspondence to the minister of france and he quotes from the diary. we started comparing the diary against the original and there were many instances where he -- and it was all personal things, talking about his health. ms. roberts: adams left out all the good stuff. grace, you have had the experience about writing about recent things.
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how does that differ? ms. guggenheim: it is an interesting question. there are advantages and disadvantages. the biggest -- for a filmmaker, there has to be a lot of trust with a live subject. i am sure you find that, too, with journalism. without that confidence in relationship, the reveal does not succeed. you both you can cradle that so
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it can be successful and it feels risky. there is a concept to do but you do not know what the outcome is going to be. ms. roberts: working on andy young, tell us about that. ms. guggenheim: the two films that were mentioned, my father did not work on these two films. they relate to the history here. my father produced two films on andrew young when he ran in 1974 for the congressional seat. he was the first african-american to win in post-reconstruction. i wanted to preserve this film, so i was curious about how they made it and why, and i was trying to obtain the copyright, which was owned by quaker oats, of all things. now quaker oats has been purchased by pepsi, i believe. that was a big question mark in
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my mind, so through preserving this film, i found out through a living member who had worked on the film with quaker oats that they really wanted to take a position of showing that they were an integrated corporation. so if they created a new factory somewhere in united states, they would have open housing. i think they saw this as an opportunity to do a film -- ms. roberts: promote themselves. ms. guggenheim: exactly. films in 1974 were mostly shown in the kennedy center, they were not shown on pbs, though this one was. the risk with the storyline like that was, you are going to
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follow this campaign but not know if it is going to be successful and if it is going to have any history to it. in the end, it did. ms. roberts: bringing things up to the present, you have just written a fictional piece about the election of 2016. tell us -- [laughter] mr. mallon: it is a piece that will be in the "new yorker," called "presumptive." i imagine it beginning on the day that trump became the presumptive nominee of the republican party. i like the word because it has echoes of presumption and consumption, things that politics does to people.
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it is sort of not too long, but a longish essay about the things that one might do, and it did, in writing it, aside from the fact that it took my mind off the real election, which was not such a bad thing -- my main occupation right now is i'm writing a novel set during the george w. bush years. it seems like such high-minded relief to go back to the iraq insurgency and hurricane katrina, the good old days. [laughter] mr. mallon: that is one, i think, function of history, that you escape the current affairs. but there is this question, again. i think there are moral questions that the novel has to cope with that the historian -- whose task is much more difficult, given the level of accuracy -- does not always have to cope with. your mission is to tell the truth, but in terms of -- you mentioned about the truth and also about recent people. there is the literal truth, and then there is what you might call the poetic truth, the
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higher truth, the truer truth. that is one of the things that fiction tries to get into. in the novel i wrote about watergate, probably the most trouble i ever got into as a novelist was -- mrs. nixon is a big character in the novel. and i imagine -- i'm trying to think about what nixon called the wilderness years, the years he was out of office after he lost the governorship of california. he was living in new york until he won the presidency five years later. this was by almost all accounts the happiest period in pat nixon's life. she went to museums, bookstores, most people did not recognize her. she got along extremely well with both of her teenage
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daughters, even though it was the 1960's. this was the life she should have had in a place like pasadena in the 1940's and 1950's, the wife of a prosperous republican lawyer. i tried to imagine what would have completed her happiness. i imagine for a very brief period in those years that she had a very short-lived, tender affair with a retired state's lawyer. [laughter] mr. mallon: who is this silver haired irishman. somebody pointed this out to me and said, what is that about? [laughter]
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mr. mallon: i didn't want to think too much about that. [laughter] mr. mallon: there was one reviewer who worked in the nixon administration and had lines of dialogue in the novel. he wrote an overall quite friendly review of the book in "the wall street journal." but he was very bothered by this. and he said, mrs. nixon has living children and grandchildren. my thought was, is this the worst they have to endure? why did i have to do it? it is such a low-key, gentle thing in the book. but i did it, quite honestly, because when i was writing scenes between the two of them -- they remain in touch in a very distant, civilized way in the years to follow -- when i wrote scenes for the two of them, even though i was aware i was lying about the fact that there was no literal truth to any of this, i had a certainty that i was getting closer to the real mrs. nixon, as she really was. i think there were dimensions of warmth to her and so forth that were terribly suppressed by the culture. i felt, in a sense, as pompous as it sounds, that i was getting to the truer truth of her by bending the facts, and that was
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the only way i could do it. ms. roberts: it is time for questions from you guys. i think we have some microphones moving around. who has got microphones? there's one over here. just one microphone? why don't you come toward the middle, then. go ahead. sprint. >> is this working? all of you talked about the usefulness of diaries or letters of the subject, but yes or no question for each of you -- in the absence of diaries and letters, would you entertain the idea of writing or documenting a subject?
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ms. roberts: this is something that comes up all the time. what will happen in the future with no diaries and no letters? what will our history be? does anybody want to take that? >> well, there is a lot of tweeting going on. [laughter] ms. roberts: that is not crazy. my advice on this is always save everything. particularly with e-mails around big events, marriages, people going off to school, deaths, there is a lot of e-mailing that tells a lot of stories. print them out. even the tweets. in one book that we wrote about marriage, i wrote a chapter about pioneer marriages. there was a woman, mary richardson, who went to oregon in the early 19th century. she knew she was doing something absolutely extraordinary and got
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out there, and she wrote letters, which were really a diary. there was one she wrote that said, i was up at 5:00, baked nine loaves of bread, taught school, was delivered of a son. [laughter] ms. roberts: that is a tweet. [laughter] ms. roberts: but you get the picture, big-time. i really do think saving these things makes a big difference. the other thing that i would absolutely tout is story core. you hear it on npr on friday mornings. they have created something wonderful where people all over the country interview other people, and last thanksgiving, something like 300,000 kids interviewed their grandparents, and it is all archived in the library of congress. the problem is going to be, the
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technology changes, and being able to listen to things -- grace is nodding, because once the technology changes, it becomes difficult. you have to preserve it with the next generation of whatever it is. anything you can do like that really does make a difference. i highly recommend it. anybody else want to add to that? ms. guggenheim: i think if you find any family letters, you should consciously think about where you can donate them to, or photographs. a story here -- i am here with sort of a st. louis mafia right here. my mother's first cousin died, who is from st. louis, and she had all these letters. i could not read them, but i sent them to the missouri historical society. they came back breathless, because in there were letters
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from the former mayor of st. louis to his mother, who my mother is related to. without that, they don't learn about the influence in st. louis and things like that. i think if we can, we should, but it is scary. digital technology, particularly for my industry, though it is easy -- the problem is with film, it lasts 100 years. with digital technology, you have to be proactive about migrating it forward. mr. mallon: the web is making accessible a lot of documentation. it is cheaper to do scholarship today. you do not have to do as much travel. but never underestimate how evocative what at first appears to be some dry document is going to turn out to be. when i was in the late 1980's
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writing a novel about the early 1960's, the days of the first spaceflight, i was a little boy in the novel. >> here you are again. [laughter] mr. mallon: i went back and found my school records, the day i was registered for school in the 1950's by my father. i can dimly remember being brought to the office. i was trying to re-create that era and understand its differences from the era i was living in. on this one-page form, aside from all of these things that you would expect to find like parents' phone number, all of those things, the person taking the information from the parent
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had to record whether the child came from a broken home or not. that was the official printed category -- a broken home, and whether or not the child was unkempt. i thought, it sounds like oliver twist. the fact is, when i grew up in my catholic town, i did not know anybody who came from a broken home. nobody was divorced. it was a much more exotic thing. there were all of these things, including what was the most forward-looking from the 1970's and not from the 1950's. there was a spot that asked, activities, hobbies, and interests of parent. that seems modern and touchy-feely to me. the one word answer imparted by my father was "none." [laughter] mr. mallon: that brought him back to me, because my father detested busybodies. he was a firm believer in privacy. my parents did not have any interests outside their kids. and that was on one page that
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was a government form. ms. roberts: my catholic school report card had on one side academic grades and on the other side, cooperation with the school discipline order and intercourse with companions. [laughter] ms. roberts: it was an all girls' school. [laughter] ms. roberts: other questions? >> i have another question for tom. among writers of fictional history, is there some kind of a code of ethics that you will not go beyond in making history fictional? you touched on this a little bit in talking about morals, but just wondering if you could elaborate. what would be acceptable, completely changing facts or introducing new characters, and what would be unacceptable?
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mr. mallon: there is a kind of sub genre within historical fiction called alternate history fiction. in alternate history novels, big changes -- the south wins the civil war, things like that. the reader of those books knows that is part of the entertainment, to see just how many things will have been changed. whereas with standard historical fiction, the reader is looking for a fidelity, especially to the small facts. they want the world to be replicated, and then maybe to have some interesting things happen that happened behind the
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scenes or between the cracks. i do think there are moral questions involved. i never considered what i did with mrs. nixon to be so terrible. i thought she was entitled. [laughter] mr. mallon: as i say, the book portrays her as being very loyal and portrays a much warmer marriage between the nixons than many histories and biographies do. in fact, the reviewer who said it made them uncomfortable, as reviewers will sometimes do, he went back to an essay i had written before and turned it against me and said, remember, you wrote this. and he was right. the example he cited from the essay, which was about truth telling and what the limits were, i had objected -- i had written a novel "dewey defeats truman" set in the 1940's, and i had objected in this essay to something which appeared not long after that, which was a movie which portrayed the young thomas e. dewey, the tough new york prosecutor, as having been
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corrupt and in league with the gangsters. this, i thought, was, aside from being preposterous -- which all historical fiction is legitimately and entertainingly -- but this i thought was morally beyond the pale. thomas e. dewey lived until 1970, dating kitty carlisle in his last years. to the end of his life, he never sat with his back to the door of the restaurant, because he thought somebody with long memories from the 1930's might try to settle a score, a gangster. i thought that that was wrong and foolish. i did not think that added anything to anybody's understanding of history, whereas i rather grandiosely thought the adventure i was
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giving mrs. nixon did get me closer to the real person. >> i have a question for tom, but if you will indulge me, i would like to go off topic and congratulate cokie roberts on being awarded a lifetime achievement award by the new england historic genealogical society. [applause] >> tom, i am actually struck and moved by your comments on the nixon marriage. i remember when pat nixon died, seeing a photograph of president nixon crushed. his face was broken. this is a man who had achieved so much, for good and for other purposes. and he was absolutely broken by the passing of pat. of course, he himself would be gone within 12 months. i was wondering, if in your examination of the nixon's marriage, did you find something about him that was lovable, something about her that was lovable? did you get a sense that they
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loved each other and that that is why they --hat is why she stayed with him through so much? mr. mallon: i don't think anybody can understand the nixons unless they realize that when he first met pat, he was wildly in love with her. she was his wild irish rose. they met at an amateur theatrical, doing an ayn rand play. she did not want to do it, he was doing it to increase his confidence. she was told by the principal of the school she was teaching at that it would be a good thing if
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she got involved in commuting theater. he was absolutely crazy about her, and she was not interested. nixon was working all the angles, and she said, besides, i am dating another guy. nixon says, this fellow, does he have a car? [laughter] mr. mallon: and pat ryan, as she was then, said no, he doesn't. i will drive you on your date. and he did. he drove her and her date around, and she was so impressed by the weirdness of this that it kind of wore her down. also within the last couple of years, the love letters that nixon wrote to her when they were courting and married and he was off in service in the pacific have been released. they are very ardent. i think nixon knew he put her through some terrible things that she stuck with him through. i think they were very complicated and very shy people. nixon once said he was an introvert in an extrovert's position.
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ms. roberts: we are out of time for this very interesting conversation. i want to thank all of you. there is a reception so you can talk privately with these fabulous people. i do want to say, one of the things i always feel about history is that it makes me feel better. we have lived through some awful times and come out the other side. as i was looking at the jack kennedy announcement in this room, you have to remember, he was young. everybody in the senate thought it was ridiculous that he was running for president. there were a lot of people they thought were far more qualified for the presidency. and it is a pretty short statement. it is saying, i have developed
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an image of america as fulfilling a noble and historic role as the defender of freedom in a time of maximum peril, and of the american people as confident, courageous, and persevering. that is the image i would like our leaders to be seeing today. thank you. [applause] >> thank you to ms. roberts and our distinguished panel. i want to thank them on behalf of our three societies for being with us tonight and giving us their unique insights in the whole field of history. i look forward to seeing all of you at our next event next year at the 26th national heritage lecture, hosted by the u.s. supreme court historical
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society. if you don't already receive our historical society magazine, please pick up a copy on your way out. in addition, when you are ready to leave, please check with our people by the exit. there are a number of exits to the building that are now closed, so to expedite your getting home, be sure to check with our people about which exits you can use. beyond that, thank you again for coming. please stay and enjoy our dessert reception and thank you very much. [applause] announcer: interested in american history tv? visit
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you can see our upcoming schedule or watch a recent program. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer: with the next u.s. president, melania trump becomes our nation's second foreign-born first lady since louisa catherine adams. learn more about the influence of presidential spouses from the book "first ladies." it is a companion to c-span's well-regarded biography tv series that features interviews with 54 of the nation's leading first lady historians, biographies of 45 first ladies, and archival photos from their lives. "first ladies," published by public affairs, is available
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wherever you buy books and available in paperback. >> fall of the transition of government on c-span as republicans remain control -- retain control of the house and senate. we will take you to key events as they happen, without interruption. watch on-demand at or listen on our free c-span radio at. p. radio ap >> all weekend long, american history tv is joining our comcast cable partners to showcase the history of pittsburgh, pennsylvania. to learn more about the cities on her current were, visit our website. we continue now with our look at the history of pittsburgh. mayor peduto: we are in pittsburgh, pennsylvania. this town was a frontier town with a fort that was settled by the french.
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along came a young major in the virginia militia with a mission of saying, this is land that great britain wants. thus began the french and indian war, the seven-year war, over who would control the confluence of pittsburgh. that major's name was george washington. it is the history of meriwether lewis, taking off down at heinz field in a boat to meet up with his buddy clark, and in the process discovering america and the idea that it would be a country from sea to sea. it is the idea of them looking over their shoulder and saying, who is going to build this country? and it was pittsburgh. at first it was glass, then iron, then steel, then aluminum. in the process, we built this country. if you were to ask what has made pittsburgh pittsburgh, i would answer it has been resilience. back in the day, like a lot of cities, we burnt to the ground.
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during the 1920's and 1930's, our city was flooded. we also created a disparity between people like my grandfathers, who worked in the mills, and the people who owned them. we were able to overcome that and build a city that became the third corporate center in the united states in the 1970's -- new york, chicago, pittsburgh. in 1979, we died, and we had to come back again and re-identify ourselves again. during the 1980's, steel died. i watched as some of my friends and family left. we lost more people than new orleans lost after katrina, and they never came back. even our city government, operating with a debt that was greater than new york city's when it went bankrupt. but just like all those other
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times and all the challenges that we had, we know how to do two things really well in pittsburgh -- one is to work hard, and the other is to innovate. we ended up with some forward thinking people who said back in the late 1970's, let's create a robotics center. let's create the first phd in robotics and start working to make it an industry that can help advance manufacturing to be able to maintain some of the manufacturing here. those seeds that were planted back in the 1980's as we were going through that depression have now taken hold, and they have taken us into a brand-new economy, an economy that is based on engineering and technology. and we stand here today as a new city, again. announcer: this weekend, we are featuring the history of pittsburgh, pennsylvania, together with our comcast partners. learn more about pittsburgh and other stops on our cities tour at you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3.
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>> were asking students to participate in this year studentcam documentary competition by telling us what is the most urgent issue for our next president and the incoming to address in the competition is open to all middle school and high school students grades six through 12. students can work alone or in a group of up to three to make a documentary on the issue selected. a grand prize of $5,000 will go to the student or team with the best entry. $100,000 in cash prizes will be shared between 150 students and 53 teachers. the deadline is january 20, 2017, inauguration day.


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