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tv   David Mc Cullough The American Spirit  CSPAN  December 28, 2017 8:01pm-9:43pm EST

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>> you're watching the tv on c-span2. with top authors every weekend. book tv, television for serious readers. >> today, but tv is in prime time with a look at bestsellers. former secretary of state, condoleezza rice on her book democracy. then ta-nehisi coates looks at the election in his book, we are eight years in power. mark we've been on his book rediscovering americanism from the book tv in prime time, this week on c-span2. >> david mccullough's new book, the american spirit is a collection of speeches about the foundational principles. he talked about the book with journalists, charles gibson. this is one hour and 40 minutes.
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[applause] >> i was about to say how special the slightest but you beat me to it. welcome. my name is steve, i'm the executive director and on behalf
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of all the collects in the foundation and jamie the collects in the library, were thrilled to could be here. all of our forms are great, but tonight is a tree. it's also the beginning of the john f. kennedy centennial weekend. we plan this months ago and we really thought would be the best speaker and moderator week again for this historic time. we're thrilled they're both here. before i introduce them, few brief announcements. first, want to thank our underwriters and sponsors. bank of america, the lowell institute including bill and andrea, i media sponsors. as i say, we're kicking off the centennial was information when you leave about what were doing
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over the next few days. over the next few days there are opportunities to see new exhibits with a hundred items on saturday will be doing a special peace corps day, on sunday we have an astronaut as part of our tribute to nassau. and on monday are having bands, music, and the navy and at 3:00 p.m., 100 years to the minute that president kennedy was born will be having to f-18's flying overhead to honor president kennedy. then we'll be eating a cake. i cake that will serve a thousand people designed by the same company that did the cake
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for their engagement many years ago. i hope you'll join us. tonight we have standing room only and overflown or other auditorium. we're thrilled to be streaming this there are watching parties and places in c-span is here. we appreciate everyone who is here those participating online. we have many distinguished guests. i want to highlight a few many members of our board and we appreciate their leadership. because of our centennial we invited our colleagues from around the country. we have representatives from the presidential library weather
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foundation from the frank and lynn roosevelt, harry truman, jimmy carter, george hw bush, and bill clinton library. again the library or the foundation. we have former senator and his wife paul kirk and former ambassadors alan, nicholas burns, several members of the new england council. [applause] after the first hour dialogue there will be a chance for question. their microphones on the isles. if you don't want to get up or if your streaming you can tweet us a jfk library. you can stay in your seats and somebody will read your question you can get in line. after the events will have a book signing.
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if you have them great, if not the bookstore has them. if you're interested in having a book signed. if you haven't read this yet, this is a treasure. the american spirit, who we are and what we stand for, i just ask questions for an hour but i promise i won't do that. i do want to introduce charlie gibson. [applause] based on the applause, i think i speak for most people who feel we know him even though we may have just met him. for much of what i know i learned from him from listening on the news.
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he interviewed everybody including nine u.s. presidents. a remarkable history. honored he and his wife are here. in the david mccullough what he say? the first of back as he hasn't been recognized much in his life. everybody pretty much has two pulitzer prizes and two national book awards in the francis parkman price of the presidential medal of freedom, everyone i know has been recognized by 54 honorary degrees right? actually nobody else i know. [applause] >> so come over to do the
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colloquy here for an hour later stephen mentioned you can come up and ask questions. people were to tweak questions from outside the room those who be pretty concise. the most famous tweeter in the world is watching. [laughter] i doubt we'll get one of those. i shudder to think what it might be. but, we do look forward to this. it is a treat for me. as someone who is on distinguished history major in college to have a chance to talk to david is something of a legend. of these there's representatives hear from so many different presidential libraries. we do gather in the kennedy library. this leads me to wonder, how
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many books do you think they'll be in the trump presidential library? [applause] well, as he saw in the interview with washington post, said he never read a book about a president, either a biography or book about the presidency. he might someday he said and he doesn't read books kisses mind reaches beyond that. i began to think about the great presidents through the years who have been avid readers of history, many road history, including john kennedy and even those who did not have the
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benefit of a college education like harry truman, read history all their lives. analyzed it's essential to the role of the leader, whether presidency or any kind of leadership. history matters. if i have one message i like to get across in my work, and gatherings like this, is that history matters a lot. [applause] and we are slipping in our responsibility of teaching history to our children and grandchildren. by going on a long time. a number of us have become evangelical preachers of the importance of history.
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i've lectured colleges and universities and i'm astonished at how much these wonderful young people do not know about our country and its story. i had one young lady come up to me after talk and she said sure and thank me for coming to campus because until she heard my talk that should no idea that the original 13, on the east coast. >> and then another one asked and maybe my favorite, this is a university in california, aside from harry truman and john adams the other presidents have you interviewed?
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>> well that may not be many books over trump presidential library but there'll be -- as a historian, what specific steps could andrew jackson have taken to the civil war? [laughter] >> we could go on a. for not going to stick a questions imac, i don't have anymore. >> a live. can you believe it? really, well i want to restore
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our recognition of who we are and why we are the way we are. and what we stand for. and, i think more more that is important as grade school, high school, college, all of that is, may be what's is important is how we are brought up at home. however we raise to behave? telling the truth for example, treating people with kindness, tolerance, empathy, and hard work. i grew up in pittsburgh, pennsylvania. people worked her but if you're good hard worker, that counted high and how you are appreciated by the people.
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my father used to say charlie, he drinks too much but he's a good worker. fred, he's a terrible exaggerator that i don't believe it but he's a good worker. if you are a good worker that forgave other failings in effect. that's how we got to where we are, by working very hard. what i was doing my right brothers book, two young men never went to college or even finished high school. they were brought up to purpose in life. the values at home to learn to use the english language so that you read their letters that have survived the library of congress, and their humbling the quality of their vocabulary, their capacity to express themselves superbly.
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and never to boast about yourself, never get too big for your britches. one of the things that impressed me and impresses me more given the situation we're in now, said john kennedy almost never talked about himself. imagine, almost never use the first person singular about anything. man who could've gone on and on, to say the least with justification and pride in what he has accomplished. >> imagine that actually in the book. say, i'm searching out for the quote you say the first person singular never entered into anything he said in contrast to some of the other scents.
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once name names? >> there's a good line. it's become sort of what you do in public life's talk about how nifty you are. in many cases that's justified. >> imagine that since the age of 50 you have been giving speeches many contemporaneous you must have many records of speeches you wrote down. i'm curious why you wanted to duplicate speeches now and why you chose these 15? >> when writing my book about harry truman, i love the idea that he went for a walk every morning. so i thought, maybe i should try that as a way of turning up ahead, not necessarily body and
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he start thinking in a way if you're not walking. and so last summer when the common spin made by the republican candidate for presidency were to me not only appalling but unimaginably out of place, i thought, what can i do to provide some counter point of view to this. i started thinking about some of the speeches i gave at national occasions such as the 200 anniversary of the congress, the anniversary of the white house, kennedy's memorial service which owes us to be the speaker, and commencement speeches and speeches i had given a
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particular occasions of importance to the history of other organizations or universities. i found a great many is forcing what matters to me and why i think history so fascinating and how essential i think it is to experience of being a live. why should we limit our lives to this little bit of time in our biological clocks provide when we can have access to the realm of the human story going back hundreds of thousands of years. once so i set to work to look at what speeches might be appropriate. i had the help of my daughter who arranged all of these talks that i gave and who kept the
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records of what i said. >> when i read the book the first time i thought he's writing in the times are picking these speeches because they might be relevant to this current time. historians don't really have a role in turkey talking about current politics but he's talking about current politics. >> but that's before current politics came on the scene. >> i went back and read them a second time thinking what's the point he's trying to make here. that might be taken to heart by people in politics right now. so i read it a second time. each time i was looking what is the one point you might be taken to heart by somebody who might be elected president.
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so let me pick out a few. i want to each one, but 12 out of 15 i found the pertinent point. the first speech, from 1989, you quote margaret smith of me review joe mccarthy. she said, i don't want to see the republican party ride the political victory on the four horsemen of fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear. smear is interesting word here. what did you think that had application to the current time? >> you be perfect if he only had a sense of humor can you imagine somebody reading the in the current political climate psychotherapy wonderful?
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the republicans stand up as she did, she is a woman and it was a rare case at that point in history. most people have no idea who she was. she is a bravest, most admirable political figures we have ever had. >> and that many republicans are standing up now? >> not enough. >> 1998, putting -- rush. speaking of good nature that mattered most in human relations, he said" him this is his quote, i include candor, gentleness and disposition to speak with civility and listen with attention to everybody. and then you read it, words to the wise than, but perhaps in our own day more than ever. >> benjamin rush is one of my
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favorite characters. absolutely remarkable man. nineteenth century polymath is interested in almost everything. he was accomplished physician. one of the first people to encourage fair and humane treatment of people with mental illness. not just toss them away and the sellers if they were animals. he was extremely courageous in his ability to go into places where the pipe was rampant. he risks his life over and over. is one of the signers of the declaration of independence. and was only 30 years old when he signed it. forget how you those people
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were. when jefferson wrote the declaration of independence is only 33. washington when he took command of the continental army was 44 years old. with seven later on with her right hand their legs in the elderly statures, they weren't that way them. they were very young. i think that's encouraging that is part of our story. i don't think we can ever know enough about the american revolution. by the way, the new museum of the american population has just opened. it's a must. particularly as a place to take your children and grandchildren to get them hooked on history.
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it is brilliantly organized. a spectacular building and it is right in the center of where the historic neighborhood is. only steps down the steep street from independence hall. but we live in the boston area take reality of the miracle of that era is part of our environment and world that's good and great, but i love kennedy's profiles of courage. i read that when i was still young and not really aware of what i wanted to do yet with my life. i love his regard for john quincy adams.
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>> what i like in that quote for what i like so much is the word civility. that is a lost art in the public discourse of america today. the sense of comedy that existed among people who share a common goal another needs to be a common end, it's gone. rate that we have deep -- of division that we come out of it. will bring us out of this one? the two sides seem so on a pose. when politics trumps policy. when the sense of a national goal is gone and parted goals
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matter more than national goals. what brings us out of this? >> leadership. leaders have the courage to stand up with their convictions. leaders have the background to do what's right irrespective of what it means to their political future whether chance of being reelected. and, it has to come mainly from the people. we talk about the three segments of government, legislative judicial and executive that there is a fourth factor. the people. and when we stand up and say no more, when we stand up and say, there's a person who is saying the right thing were going to get behind him or her to make sure that attitude becomes potent and decisive.
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when someone reads about margaret smith and says that's what i'm going to do. it will happen. will happen out of the necessity to survive and were going to expect that. >> the david, i believe were centrist nation. basically a country where 60% of the people are in the middle and what government to get something done. were not doing it. >> that doesn't mean we won't. we have come through very hard and baffling times, very pessimistic times. in inappropriate behavior at times and part of our leadership.
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we have come through them all. and very often when we do, the stark cluttered sky times when we come through we were better for having done it. people say that was a simpler time, not wasn't. never was a simpler time. things have never been some so batter dark so foreboding. yes i have. and if you don't understand that you don't understand the reality of our story. like to point out the influenza cap epidemic which my parents and your parents probably went through, 500,000 americans died of that disease. a disease they did not know where it came from if it would ever go away or how to cure.
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if that were to happen today, given the size of our population, a million 500,000 people would die less than a year. now imagine if that were on the nightly news every night. we would all be terrified with who would be next. just as the depression of the civil war, horrible times. but we came through them. because we knew that we would include we understood that nothing of much consequences ever accomplished on. it has to be a joint effort. . . . .
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well, this is not an answer. this is part of the answer. let's not forget. the popular vote, hillary clinton won by almost 3 million votes. so it isn't as though a landslide and donald trump really won by a very narrow margin. i think we have a role major problems obviously. one is the poisonous effect of big money and politics. the idea that members of congress are dialing for dollars half the day. half of their time. the fact that we are inclined
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to become or have become a nation of spectators. we sit around and watch things all the time. we watched television, we watch athletic events. let somebody else do the performing to amuse us to entertain us. we are not doing things as much as we should. we are not making things on our own. we are not getting out there and helping to solve these problems. that is not true of everybody, of course. we are immensely generous. we are immensely philanthropic. we care, sincerely and with fervor about education. still.and we should be infinitely proud of what we have achieved in the last 200 years. in the way of the greatest universities in the world. yes i have problems, yes cost
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is gotten out of hand but there are no institutions of higher learning anywhere on earth comparable to our own. and never has been in all of history. this is an immensely admirable and important accomplishment. just as immensely as important and admirable that we are making advances in medicine such as no one ever imagined! i think the future historians when they are looking back at our time and i will say, yes, politics and military and war, political upheavals all over the world. all very important. but look at what was happening in medicine! look at what happened just in our lifetime. we were just looking at diseases that john kennedy in the new exhibit that is about to open. the diseases that, this is kennedy, jen can be his mother.
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put on a little card, a file card. he had had this as a child. my wife and i each had brothers who had infantile paralysis. it does not even exist anymore! scarlett fever, all of that. not to mention the dna or the successful transplant organs. we are spoiled! we have been given so much that we take it for granted and we should be grateful. and you should be making our teachers and heroes. we should be celebrating -- [applause] we should have major awards. we should have statues in our towns. for the great teachers that have shaped the lives of so many people. i feel that our teachers are doing the most important work
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of any of us. that we all ought to get behind them and make sure they understand we are all for them. [applause] being married to an educator, i would second that. and they ought to be paid more. [laughter] >> absolutely, no question! >> we do stay on that forever. what do you think john kennedy would think of donald trump actions?>> who, trump? >> yes. >> we all know, he would be embarrassed, appalled. he would not believe it. no, we've never had anything like this happen. in the country. never. has anyone even remotely so inappropriate for the responsibilities of the presidency in the job. never!
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[applause] virtually every day he makes sure that we know is even worse than we thought! [laughter] it is as if we put someone in the pilot seat who had never flown an airplane. and you never come who does not think it is important to know how to fly an airplane. [laughter] is just a little surprised at how much more complicated it is than he thought. [laughter] i love the fact that the fellow who is going to solve all of our healthcare problems, we discovered that healthcare was complicated. i was at college history major. and one of the things that always struck me where the different prisms through which history is seen. social historians, economic historians, political historians, demographic historians, natural resource historians. it goes on and on.
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but whatever prism you are looking through, it is different. in your mind, what kind of an historian are you? >> i am not an historian. i am not.i had no advanced degrees in history. i never studied history the way i would if i were an academic. i am a writer who took operating about people, real people and events that really happened. and my job is to tell that accurately as possible. with the basic conviction that history is human. it is about people. it is about the human potential and human limitations. it is about good people and bad people. it is about the whole mix.
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and it is about stories that really happen. -- had great influence on me as a writer of history. there is no trick to teaching history effectively or writing about history. tell stories. and that is what i have tried to do. i've also tried to bring down to front and center stage, people who have been in the background more than they deserved to have been. like john adams. like the builders of the brooklyn bridge. for the people that made the success in panama happen. [inaudible] and women! abigail adams, the wife of the build of the brooklyn bridge. and now catherine wright. the sister of the wright brothers. and to her they would not have
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succeeded without. and she never gets credit for that. it brings her to the point where she is recognized and not only having been important but interesting and admirable as a human being. >> i am also struck by how history gets revised. over the years. that there are people that are seen as heroes and perhaps, they do not fare as well in the historians eyes and they make a comeback and there is a renaissance, etc. i do think john kennedy is claimant. >> i think very well but we only had a part where we can really start to pass judgment. truman said you have to wait 50 years for the dust to settle. it has now been 50 years. and he will begin to -- it is not just who went before him, it is who has followed him. and how does he compare and what are the consequences of decisions that he made or did not make? we need to look much more at
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the importance, the decisions that the presidents did not make that were as important as decisions they did. the decision in eisenhower made not to go into vietnam, for example. the decision of john adams made not to go to war with france. which the whole country was dying to do. which would have been absolutely catastrophic had we done so. and this is all a big part of it. the problem with kennedy will be that it is cut off too soon. we very rarely take a presidents serious, as seriously as the others. who has only served one term. and here is a man that did not even served one term. but yet, look at what a, what footprints, what mark he left on our sense of who we are. >> one of the interesting parts to me as someone who is read
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the volumes that robert carroll wrote about johnson. >> yes. >> which are terrific books that tell great stories. >> yes indeed.>> it's interesting that relative look at the kennedy presidency and then the one that follows. because he was not in tune with his predecessor but he really took his predecessors agenda to heart. and it became his. >> yes, indeed. >> it is amazing how that really in many respects, johnson may have been able to do things that kennedy could not have done. >> it would be hard to find two men were different from each other. and i'm sure that -- use of you've interviewed 11 presidents? >> nine. i started with john quincy adams. [laughter] >> i interviewed i think seven 46. something like that. i have gotten to know those
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that, through the research i have done in past days. what strikes me is how different they are from one another. really different. jimmy carter compared to say, george h. w. bush. or bill clinton. and some of them in my view, deserve more focus, attention and the way that i, my instinct is that gerald ford deserves more attention than he has received. he deserves a first rate biography. because when you think of all that happened in that very brief time that he was president, and may think of what he coped with. they tried to kill him twice. his wife suffering from
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alcoholism. and i was here on the profiles and courage panel that gave gerald ford the courage and profiles award because of his pardoning nixon. and we did that he knew it would probably cost him reelection. almost certainly. he did it anyway. he did the right thing. saved us all kinds of grief and contentious behavior. all kinds of track for all people and all roles. the big difference today is that you look at gerald ford and i discovered this when working on harry truman. the volume of material that you have to deal with as a
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researcher, as a biographer. it is overwhelming! and otherwise, you just are skimming through all of this material. what's in this collection here, could keep one doing research for a full lifetime and never get through all of it. not that that's not of importance that we have all the wonderful material. but it is a staggering mountain to try and climb and every book of the kind that i write and others right, biography and history. is a joint effort. it is a group project because you have editors and copy editors but you also have archivists and librarians and specialists that you want to
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interview. so when you see those acknowledgments in the back of a biography or history, those people are not just there to tip your hat to friends or something. those people all contributed enormously to the results of the book and make one more point, charlie, we have a problem we're not teaching history as well as we should. we are not requiring history as a course that is required in college, in universities anymore. 80 percent of the colleges and universities require no history to graduate. that is wrong! i believe in required classes. i think it is important that americans at that stage in life, some things in life are
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required. [laughter] surprise, surprise! but the satisfaction, the gratification that comes from working with good people. such as are in this library of having the help of their -- not just what they know but their ideas. their suggestions on which path you shouldn't or might take to make new discoveries are invaluable. importance and should never be underestimated. and we have right now, some of the finest writers ever writing marvelous history and biography. and they are reaching a very large audience and that is encouraging. people like robert carroll and many others. many others! and we have superb documentary
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films being made. and broadcast by pbs and other networks. all of that is important. in part, i think it is because so many people today reach the age of 35, 45, 50. they realize, i do not know much of the history that i ought to know. i'm going to read that book. or i'm going to watch that documentary tonight. >> talking about how history gets revised. there are some interesting things going on today. you are a proud son of yale. i am a proud son of princeton. yale has taken the name of calhoun. princeton has go through agonies trying to figure out exactly how to depict woodrow wilson. his name is so closely associated with the college. and now, there are statues in the south built to civil war leaders that are coming down.
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to the consternation of many that live in the south. what you think of that kind of revisionist history and are those things proper in your mind? >> well, i think you start renaming everything because someone did something that is no longer acceptable as being virtuous. like owning slaves. there is no end to how much you will have to rename including the l country and you have to take down the washington monument and so forth. i much rather see us start to raise statues or rename new buildings or monuments to those who didn't own slaves. and who did so contrary to the mode of the moment. most importantly, john adams. the only founding father president never owned a slave. out of principal.
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in this next president in line who never owned a slave, his son, john quincy. and there are no kuwait buildings name for either of them. no great statues for either of them. i think the taking the statues down the south is the right thing to do. because most all of the statues, as you have read, or put up in the jim crow era. not in the civil war they were done in the early part of the 20th century. and they were really saying that we believe in inequality of racial citizenship. professing where we stand on this. i would not have renamed calhoun college. i certainly wouldn't take wilson's name off of buildings at princeton.
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if it were my decision. and i do not want us to start renaming our cities and towns and the rest. i am more interested in giving more attention to people that we had ignored then getting too worked up about getting too much attention to the wrong people. >> he mentioned and talked a number of times here about the importance of history. and yet, we are in a situation in this country where things are changing so fast. that this location of the job market for instance is incredible. there are those who say in 20 years, half the jobs, maybe more, people will occupy have not been invented yet. >> think of that. >> i was on the board of my college for eight years. the graduating seniors would stand up and lead the board would be sitting up on the dais
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looking at them. and when i went on the board the first graduation i had was 2007. and there were a handful of graduates in computer technology. when i left the board in 2015, the number was huge! the number of engineers that stand up is growing exponentially. bill gates the other day said, if you're a student in college you should study one of three things. artificial intelligence, energy or the biosciences. you can talk -- he did not talk about history, humanity or social sciences. the pertinence of those things, given how things are changing so fast. do you believe the pertinence of those things stand up or should kids be more worried as they graduate about what is changing? how to change and how to adapt, how to prepare themselves for a job market that is so uncertain?
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>> well, i may be stuck in my ways and i may be so out of rhythm with realities of modern high-tech society. and i confess to it, i do not use a computer. i do not know how to work the computer. i write on a manual typewriter. [applause] >> what kind of a phone do you have? you talk into a pop tart? [laughter] >> are you ready? >> sure! >> where is it? [laughter] i am way ahead of all of you. there it is! [laughter] [applause] >> now they tell me about all of the things it can do. it is wonderful! i'd only wanted as a telephone. [laughter] i think that the decline of the
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emphasis on the humanities is a very serious mistake. i really do! because let's suppose you come out of university with a degree in chemistry or a degree in high-tech communications or whatever. and that might get you a very good job right away. and it might lead you into a very important and constructive career. but if you come out of college knowing how to use the english language, you're going to be a rare bird of great value. truly! almost half of the law schools in our country today, now require the incoming freshman, who are of course college graduates. to take a course in basic writing. because i do not know how to write a presentable letter or
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report for analysis and that sort of thing. they do not know how to express themselves in our language. and this is not only a handicap, is a risky trend in any kind of reasonably civilized society. and being capable of using the english language, expressing yourself in words, and also have no sense of the past of our country and our nation is to be really held back. to have serious drawbacks to your qualifications for leadership in all fields. and it must be encouraged among our students and among our universities and colleges. and a lot of us who are working hard to bring back the humanities. and with good reason. think of the jobs that are open
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to people who can use the english language. i know how to write and who know how to think in the english language. words are what we think with. and if our vocabulary is declining then which they are, there is very specific proof of all of this. our children today have lower vocabulary spirit less than what our generation has. words are what we think with. thinking by the way it is important! [laughter] one of my favorite of all discoveries in the diaries of john adams, and he kept marvelous diaries. by the way, no one in public life would dare keep a diary anymore. it is true! it can be subpoenaed and used against you in court. [laughter] but an entry for january 15 would say, at home thinking. [laughter]
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can you imagine if somebody in washington today were to write that his or her diary as an honest record of what they did that day? thinking! >> i would add a one addendum to what you said. and perhaps it reflects the profession in which i come. but, there is no question that the ability to write is something of a lost art students. a very good friend of mine who is a, actually past president of princeton. i dinner with recently she was about to read five or have five oral argument presentations for phd. and i said, how good were the thesis? and she said well, two of them were legibly written. and three of them were not very good. but the addendum i would add is also the ability to present your argument verbally.
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>> yes, on your feet, absolutely! >> to be able to present, to defend your argument orally. warren buffett said recently he can predict anyone who is a good speaker and who could logically present an argument and due to a card and urged people to learn to speak publicly. he said you will make 50 percent more in your lifetime then you will if you can't do that. worked for me![laughter] >> i guess it did! >> but lord knows what i could have done if i had been able to write. [laughter] but it is important, both of those things. and i think what you are saying is so important because of that dislocation of the job market. we don't know what you're going to be doing 20 years from now. and so, in a basic grounding in moral thought, in the humanities and social sciences and history. because the critical thing is that you be adaptive. that you can adapt yourself to
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a changing environment in the workplace. >> i would like to read something, if i may. from one of john kennedy speeches. that i think could not be more valid or relevant to today's situation. and think, this is a man who is new to the job still. but not new to what the proper objective of education and learning and civilized society should be. i look forward to an america which we reward achievement in the arts as we awarded achievement in business or statecraft. i look forward to an america which commands respect throughout the world. that only for strength but for its civilization. this country cannot afford to be materially rich and
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spiritually poor. arts is the great unifying and humanizing experience. the life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction in the life of a nation. is very close to the center of a nations purpose. and it is the test of the quality of a nations civilization. i am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, week two, will be remembered. not for our victories or defeats in battle or politics. but our contributions to the human spirit. [applause] yes, yes. >> with that, let me invite any of you who have questions. and i do ask you to keep them brief. audience when they want to ask
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questions i was a do not make a speech. while you make your way to the microphone just two quick questions to your most interesting person you've ever met? most interesting person you've ever researched? >> one of the most interesting people i ever met is a man named tom -- this should be a name everyone knew. tom change history in a way that very few human beings ever do. and yet, he is a largely unknown person except within the medical profession. he was the physician who successfully made the first double transplant, organ transplant success. he changed that whole realm. one man! and who kept, who kept at it. if i have a theme in this book, it is a line i quoted at the
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beginning for george washington. and i think it could not be more true and it certainly is true of tom. he was interested in everything. washington said perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages. you've got to keep at it. you do not give up. and if you get knocked down, we do not lie there and whimper. you get back up on your feet and continue on. and i think that that is something that we all need to be reminded of. and thought to be reminded of by the examples set in this story of our own country. >> most interesting person you researched? >> i think right now a man named manessa cutler. who i speak about in my commencement speech at ohio
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university. manessa cutler was a preacher. in massachusetts. he had a church there. he was also a dr., he was also a lawyer and practice all three of these professions. having achieved degrees in all three. and he was the man who convinced the continental congress in the summer of 1787, before we had a constitution, to create what was known as the northwest ordinance. that was the territory ceded to us by bryn at -- that ended the revolutionary war. an area the side of all of our 13 colonies and all wilderness. and no roads, no bridges, no towns, nothing! but wilderness. and native americans and wolves
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and panthers and rattlesnakes and bears, and you name it! and he specified in this act, passed by congress, that there would be total religious freedom in this area. which would be made into states. five states. five states would be ohio, indiana, illinois, michigan and wisconsin. it would be total freedom of religion. there would be government support for education from grade school all the way through college. the beginning of the first state universities and there would be no slavery. imagine! >> even before we have a constitution, even before we have a national government the president of the united states has eliminated slavery from what was half geographically at least, half of the country. phenomenal accomplishment in this one man.
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virtually pulled it off. he was a classic man like benjamin franklin. brilliant botanist. he was an astronomer. while you asked me, most interesting man! he qualifies hi! >> and as part of those five states went for -- >> we belong to massachusetts and rhode island for one of the most liberal states. i'm worried, for years from now that there does not seem to be a leader of the democratic party. we have a guy named seth that looks pretty good. but he is not married, single and an ex marine.i wonder what you're feeling was with the next leader of the democratic party will be? >> you know, i could tell you personally i would -- joe
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biden. [applause] joe biden is a man of character. he also has experience. both personal and professional. he has been knocked down and got back up in a way that is admirable. [inaudible] >> he does not want it right now! [laughter] but somebody will come forward. somebody strong character and admirable attitude and outlook. could come forth in the republican party. if this president, occupant does not last much longer. >> it is interesting, and i'm so glad that you cited jerry ford. it was the first time i had a chance to be the white house reporter when he was president. and the decency of the guy, to
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do what he did with nixon. his first sentence when he went to the chamber of the house. it was, it was the day he assumed the presidency. our long national nightmare is over. he is the right man. and it is amazing the genius of the american system how it tends to bring those people to the top. >> he was a grown-up. [laughter] and a gentleman! >> i do not with a chuckle from the audience -- but i think i do. over here. >> you say your book is largely based on his papers and documents. letters and those sources. so few people write letters take a newspaper seem to be in decline. what do you think, what sources do future writers have? >> there in trouble. there are no diaries to go by. they will not know what we are
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like. what we write on a computer might not last. there is a very good chance an awful lot will not last.and it is not exactly heartfelt, personal expression of the kind that letters and diaries have traditionally been. it is too bad. if any of you, by any chance are interested in immortality -- [laughter] start keeping a diary. write about anything you want, every day. and keep on doing it until he reached the point where you think the curtain may be about to come down. [laughter] then give it to the massachusetts historical society. it will be quoted forever! it will be the only diary in existence. [laughter] >> just as you mentioned in the book, an interview that you are doing that you are reading the diary of elizabeth dinker.
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>> no, i am not. >> somebody else! >> your book is about speeches that you have given. i was wondering if you would comment upon the ability of president kennedy in his capacity as a person who gave speeches. you stated, he had a very brief presidency. yet, it seems he gave many, many, many memorable speeches. i think more so probably then any other politician who was around in the television age. where we can actually see, hear and listen to the speeches. i was wondering if you would comment on that ability.>> if you do nothing then give the speeches again he would be of immense value and importance in our history. he was extraordinary. in his speeches stand the test of time in a way that is not
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the usual case. except for abraham lincoln. and of course, franklin roosevelt. no one has used words with such power and effectiveness and pertinence to the moment as kennedy did. and when i gave the memorial address at the site in dallas where kennedy was killed, i devoted most everything i said to excerpts from what kennedy his own words were. and because it is not only that you sense the nature of this man and his personality and his talent as a leader, but the gift he had. to use the language. he was in his way, a master literary figure. and a great reader and he
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understood the use of the language. the power of words. >> you know is a pertinent question. i would make the case -- not carrying anyone for any politician but barack obama speech at the 2004 democratic convention in kennedy speech on religion in west virginia that was so important. an obama speech on race in philadelphia one of the greatest speeches. >> barack obama is a very powerful speaker. and a thinker! of considerable importance. and i think that he has been an inspiration to many young people. in a way that a president ought to be. >> without that 2004 speech, i doubt he would have been president. yes? [applause] >> thank you very much and a
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pleasure to meet both of you. my name is carol cohen. firstly, i wanted to say thank you for all of the information on john and abigail. i was a park ranger at the historical site and everything you say and more. he needed presidential -- also has the mother of an actor. but i would like to further comment on your belief that history should be required. and ask a question. because i am a professor of social studies methods. and i teach both in-service and future teachers. and who are elementary, going to be elementary school teachers. he said that it is the family's and the lack of learning about history and culture and learning to live with others and appreciate differences that is not going on in the house. but what about in the
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elementary school? i go around lots of elementary schools. hundreds! i am told there is no time for social studies. william half an hour a week and we have to do math, science and reading. i brought this up at the national conference and cannot get an answer. i am wondering what yours is? >> well, my feeling is very strong feeling, a way to get young people involved in history, the best time to get them is in grade school. because they want to know about presidents and heroes of accomplishment and so forth. and they love stories! and there are wonderful books that can be used at the grade school level. in my own case, i was swept away as a grade school by a book called "ben and me".
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about a mouse that lived in ben franklins hat. absolutely marvelous both! [laughter] i cannot go into that, ben grew up as one of a very large family in a famous old church in philadelphia. then, the mouse. [laughter] the name of the mouse was amos. i would go to the church and wonder if any of the descendents were still behind those walls! [laughter] one of our granddaughter's was in a class in grade school. and the children will all told that you can pick a first lady or a president that you are going to be and we are going to have to put on a pageant or a show. all of your mothers and fathers will come and you introduce yourself as the president so and so.
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and talk about yourself. and my granddaughter caroline, was harry truman. [laughter] other good friends were franklin roosevelt. the night of a gathering for the parents, these little people came out there in gave a wonderful account of who they were and what they did and why they should be known about. and all of us were just amazed! and i know for certain, that not one of those children will ever forget which president they were. it will be with them for the rest of their lives. that is the kind of thing that can work wonders in many ways. i think we need to bring what i call the lab technique, to teaching history more than we have in this is true all the way through high school and college. get them involved in a project where they have to do the work.
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they can dig in and get their hands dirty and do the research. we should not just hand them everything and say here's what you need to know, here is why this is important. all of this and all of that. it will be on the test. number get them pumped by getting involved in the detective case aspect of it. and that works like nothing else. >> yes, sir? >> imagine the importance of universities. and the world-class universities that we have is a great asset to the country. there are two elements of universities today that i personally find very dismaying. what is the emphasis on political culture, pc. even administrators seeming to fall into the trap of protecting the students from controversial opinions. providing bubble rooms. for example, what if you can comment on that. the second situation is, i found it dismaying the other
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day to watch c-span in which there were two african-american professors and there was also two feminist professors. both in well-known universities were talking about the irrelevance of the constitution. since they were not blacks and women were not part of the decision-making at the time. i was wondering if you can comment on that as well?>> very easy question, wouldn't you say? [laughter] it is appalling! it is very disturbing and unsettling. i personally, and this maybe is to simplified a response and it may indicate i really do not understand the actual workings of a modern day president of a university life and decision. i think when that happens it is a lack of leadership on the part of whoever is running the university. and not just the president, but
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the faculty. the political correct vote -- vogue is awful and unrealistic. it does not have anything to do with understanding reality. and we are not that kind of a country. we are able, we are still able to express our opinions, let us hope, without fear of being attacked or degraded or made to feel like a fool. >> so, when speeches are canceled because of student uprisings. at places or when hundreds of students walked out of a graduation or when things are canceled because students do not agree with the opinions of
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those who are about to speak. i presume you would oppose that? but so, are there people trying to be provocative in the way they both days. >> if i were the president of a university, or a member of the faculty where something like this happens, i would speak out. strongly in favor of a different attitude. and hope that the majority of the students and members of the faculty and alumni, would be persuaded that the stance i was taking was the right one. i am surprised at how few university presidents take any position politically. i don't understand it. is it because they are afraid it will damage our ability to raise money? i don't know! but the old days, it was not
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how it was. they spoke out and voiced their opinion. >> how about the second part of the question involving the constitution? and the fact that perhaps, there are people in this country because it did not represent them or did not feel that they were fully represented in earlier days that it is not important? >> we have had i think, 17 amendments in the constitution that have done a lot to straighten out and level the playing field. >> over here? >> if i may, one of the things we need to do is teach the constitution! [applause] absolutely! i do not know how many of you have seen the test that incoming americans apply for citizenship have to pass. on the history of the country. i bet you, probably two thirds of the country could not pass that test. but they have to pass it, and they do! and some of the most ardent readers and enthusiasts of
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american history that i have met over the years are immigrants. who cannot understand how many people among us know almost nothing about the history of our country. and it doesn't have to stay that way. >> here. >> i know when you are researching your book sheila to visit historic houses and see where people lived. what is the relevance in your mind of historic houses in today's society and why should we preserve them? >> i'm sorry, the importance ... actually mention the book that when you are doing a history about an individual, that you go and see -- first of all, you see what they read and
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then you go where they grew up and what their surroundings were. should we consider that as people who might be interested in a particular historic figure? >> i think it is essential. let us remember, we have very distinctive traits that are common among animals. and when is that we are imprinted in childhood by our environment, by the terrain. what kind of a horizon is out there and all the rest. we grow up in some section or other and we don't realize how much, what we think comes from that environment. if you want to understand somebody, you have to go to that environment and see how many other people -- for example, many of the common popular traits, characteristics of ways of harry truman. if you go to independence, missouri and spent time at
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their, you realize it is the way a lot of people are. and the expressions they use, the language they use. i stressed very strongly, not only do you have to read what they wrote, we have to read with transport what they -- the literary spirits of their childhood that shaped them. i remember reading a wonderful line in one of john adams letters to abigail. in which he said, we may not succeed in this struggle. we may not prove successful in this struggle. but we can deserve it. and i read that and i said, nobody thinks like that anymore. we can deserve it, even if we do not win.
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and, then some months later i was reading a letter that george washington wrote. and there was the same sentence. the same observation. >> was he a plagiarist? [laughter] >> and washington! in the 18th century, they did not use question marks were quotation marks. and so, often quoting somebody. you do not know it, but they know it. this was a line by joseph addison from a play in which they had all read this. it was one of the most popular literary accomplishments of the 18th century. and this happens again and again. and they are shaped by what they read. as we have been shaped by what they have read or what we read. it is characteristic of the time in which they were living. i've always felt i had to go
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where i could smell the night air, or whatever and i can walk the walk. and feel that i am entering into the lives of these people who are just as real and just as alive as we are but are no longer around. >> a long, long time ago, gerald ford was my congressman. it is nice to hear the kind words that you have to say about him because lots of people really do not appreciate the kind of things that he did for this country. thank you for those comments and i'll be looking forward to the book that is coming out about gerald ford that you said! >> there is actually richard norton smith who is the president of the ford library. but i do not think he has written a biography. >> no. >> this has been an amazingly profound evening for me. hearing you talk.
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one of the issues that i've had for many years, is that people, kids are not taught civics anymore. i took civics in the eighth grade. i have been a political junkie all of my life. when i talk to people about things like the constitution. i studied to studies of a history and government major. i am appalled at the total lack of knowledge and just this interest in the constitution. but if kids are not taught basic civics, in grade school, the chances that they will continue that as adults will be pretty slim. i like to hear your thoughts and i would like to know what can we do to bring this back? >> make it required! >> okay! >> truly, absolutely! one of the things about the military academies, they all
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require that kind of course. and in many, the grant coming away with the advantage the students in regular universities are not necessarily going to have. when i was in college, i took, we had to take a science course. and the word was out. commonly understood that the easiest science course was geography i'm sorry geology! so i immediately signed up for geology. >> it is called rocks for jocks at princeton! [laughter] >> and the professor was, his name was professor richard flynt. and of course he was on his rocky flynt. and that was a very tall severe man, severe looking man. in very impressive. i'll never forget, many others
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who went through the same course will never forget. the first day he walked out on the stage. here is what he said, imagine the empire state building. now imagine a bible laying flat on top of the empire state building. now imagine a dime lying flat on the bible. the empire state building represents the history of the earth. the bible represents the history of life on earth. the dime represents the history of human life on earth. now talk about putting things in perspective! and, i quickly found that i loved geology and signed up for another term. it was not required! because it is history. and it is relevant to so much that we just do not even bother to try and understand. and i think that is what
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happens very often when young people are assigned to take some course or other. and i have always advised students to take the teacher, not the course. find out who are the great professors. who are the exciting lecturers, the inspiring professors that will make a difference in what they are teaching. >> i will add one thing because it is an important question. i covered a lot of local government in my time when i was a beginning reporter. i covered city councils and school boards. and the interest in what school boards are doing is very, there is a lot varied. but school board members are very susceptible to lobbying by the public. if you go to the local school board people and say, you ought to require civics. if enough people do it, civics will be required.
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>> yeah. [applause] >> this is a question from twitter.i'm a representative of the library. the question is, if someone like jfk were to take office today, how do you think he would approach the foreign policy challenges that we are facing right now? >> knowledgeably! [laughter] [applause] he was a natural born diplomat. not to say that he was a smooth talking or something. diplomacy is essential. in life and relations between nations. >> i had, i went back after i heard the inaugural speech delivered last november. i went back and i reread jack kay's inaugural speech.
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i will not cite the well-known. >> because there much remembered but he said, one quote - comments to those people struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves. for whatever period is required, not because we seek their votes but because it is right. contrast that to last november. every decision on trade or taxes on immigration on foreign affairs will be made to benefit american workers and american families. it is a real contrast. ...
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>> what is that message and theme as a well-known historian what is the key that you think it's so important nowadays? >> while, fortunately, i have considerable irish blood in my background, and i don't just give one. one of my favorite quotes i have on the mantelpiece in my house this from jonathan swift who says may you live all the days of your life. live every day, all the best of
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your life while you are alive and that feeds energy on the expending energy. it rarely sits behind a writer whose taste is fast enough. you don't sit around and mope or feel sorry for yourself. self-pity is an ugly human inclination. make the world a little better. in some small way or another. be kind and have empathy. put your self in the other person's place and try not ever to be boring. it is unkind.
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and we will go here to the final question. [laughter] >> eye and a history teacher here in cambridge massachusetts and i have to quick questions for you what are you currently reading right now for enjoyment? >> i don't read anything more than i need to be competent enough to write the book so right now i'm reading about the northwest territory and getting biographies on the whole cast of characters. i've always wanted to write a book about people you've never heard of. the capacity in the story itself not to rely on the story.
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the celebrities to get you in and i was greatly influenced as a student in college in his novels and his play for what you could write ifyou could write at real people in a real talent and have sufficient material to get inside their lives and nature and the letter use and diaries and so forth. it was the first settlement in the northwest territories.
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it's those from the civil revolutionary war who had been inadequately compensated with what was then called the script. so they were going to compensate for that terrible oversight and unfairness so they were veterans of the revolution and had been through eight years of tormented difficulties and then they go out and start this whole new wilderness and i'm able to get into their lives in a way that you could and should do for people today. and every imaginable thing that could go wrong but they wouldn't
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give up. we tend to very often to misjudge people because they are members of this group or that group of this religion or that. and one of the people that we have tended to misjudge or the parents. there's this idea that they were against having any fun whatsoever in life, so they wear colorful clothes, like to have parties and sing and dance and drink and one of the things was education. it was essential. it took the ideal of education to the freedom of religion out. it was exactly what they had
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when they were coming back here and i want to know more about it. i said to play the confession. i wouldn't want to write the book because that is the adventure, and i am learning all about what it was like to be a pioneer. with that, we are going to wrap up and do one more thing before i send you all on your way but i do appreciate you spending an hour and a half being as attentive as you have been. i can tell you that it's an exercise in control. [laughter] so is being here for an hour and a half but as i read the book, i wanted to find something for the evening that would be a good way to wrap it up and i think all of
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us profoundly remembere remembee period after 9/11. it was a very special time in this country, and it was a time that there was wonderful and unity that i wish were still around in our society. we are in the position now that we cannot talk to each other and that is dismayed and on the speech that he gave after 9/11 he sai said this and it is justa paragraph but i put it there on the left hand page. it said that everything has changed, but everything has not changed. this is the plain truth. we are the strongest and most productive and will be just most creative and most ingenious and generous nation in the world with the greatest freedoms of any nation in the world of any
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nation an all-time. thank you all. [applause]
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i was looking forward to finding that because i loved the speech and thought it included a wonderful passage and it was to a television commercial to the 1980s or a commercial where somebody is making pasta and the
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husband says to his wife before using this store-based sauce, what about the oregano and she says it in their. what about the pepper, garlic and my dad would say we have that kind of constitution now you want the right to an abortion is in their. anything that is good it's in there no matter what the text says. >> sunday night at 9 p.m. on c-span2 book tv. former secretary of state condoleezza rice appeared at the national book festival to talk about the book democracy. in his event in washington, d.c. ihe's interviewed by bloomberg television host david rubenste rubenstein.


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