tv 2019 Southern Festival of Books CSPAN October 12, 2019 11:01am-1:02pm EDT
check your program guide for a complete schedule. first up today, chris edman chairs the story of his father, a world war ii veteran and a nazi printer prisoner of war. [background sounds] >> good morning. my name is david and would like to welcome all of us here with us and is joining us on cspan2 tv to the 31st annual if it
festival of books. here in downtown nashville. today we are at the national public library and i like to thank them for hosting this if it and monday other sessions. they've been a great partner to this if it for several years and we just want to say thank you. southern festival of books is an annual if it produced each year by humanities tennessee, i would like to take those moment to thank humanities tennessee and all who contribute to the organization for their continued support of the written word and the writers, the young writers, community history and civil discourse in all things humidity here in tennessee. and humanities in tennessee like to say, our story and our state and i like to think humanities for helping us tell and preserver stories. so a pit of housekeeping before we began, in a moment i'll introduce our other and share some stories, and some insight from the book, no surrender.
the conclusion of his presentation, we will open the floor up to questions and if you have a question, would you please ask that you come up to the microphones so that we can continue all hear you in the room especially folks on cspan2 can hear you. the conclusion of the session, feel free to join us at the writers tent at the signing tent. mr. and ms. wilby and you can can get a copy of his book, and get it signed and here a little bit about his story. chris edman is senior pastor of baptist church in maryville, tennessee. the executive officer of bodies code llc, and also inman and ocean. doctor edmonds holds a degree in human resources from university of tennessee and a masters degree from liberty university. he also teaches leadership development to military leaders, and his wife live in maryville tennessee near their three daughters and son-in-law.
in nine of the coolest grandchildren on the planet. so please join me in welcoming pastor chris edman, the co-author of no surrender and father in san and that can use to live on today as chairman. >> thinking he can. it is a pleasure to be here. with all of you and i think all of you for coming out this regularly saturday morning. i want to thank humanities tennessee for the privilege and honor to be here. also want to thank the southern festival of books, that the if it if it for 31 years. how monday of you have attended every one of those events ? >> not everyone. i just want to thank cspan2 i didn't really realize it was going to be on cspan2 until i walked into the room but it is a wonderful privilege. we are celebrating the written word. we are in a building, a library
that is full of millions of written words. i think our love for books, filled with words is amazing because the books inspire us. words impact is in such a powerful way. they can inspire, they can influence, they can even inflame us, most of all the informants. secured maryville. that's where in front. now back where i come from, that's not how we say it. maryville is more trouble can you say that word? you know now gui in east tennessee hillbillies. welcome to the family. so glad to have you. we're talking about no surrender of books that's 347 pages long.
ms. miss bessie were here, my high school english t-shirt, she would be so thrilled that i written a book and she would be proud that when she picked her up off of the floor and were correct, because she would say, chris edman wrote a book, but i had a lot of help. she helped me quite a pit. we collaborated together to write this. in this three and 47 pages, there's words and those words are blended together in a powerful way to tell the stories of my father and monday of the men who served with him when you're in world war ii. it is a story that takes us back from today and thrust us back 70 years ago when you're in the time of world war ii. it's a story that is just rich for two days as it was then, is the story that is just as
dramatic and terrifying today as it was then. because the story as you read it, has anyone read it yet? is anybody glad. just kidding. >> i listen to it on audible. >> willis stood on the way down. listening into a no. i was like who wrote this is pretty good stuff. but it is a wonderful story and a powerful story that i think you will smile we do read it, you will laugh and you have the emotions even to cry. hopefully you stand up and cheer. this is an american story. it is a christian story, is the jewish story, it is a story about the goodness of humidity doing what's right carruthers. i think that's what we need in this day and edge that we live in. always do it's right for others. so i hope that you will enjoy the power of words.
irving roth is the holocaust survivor. he's a gentleman that i've met you become to love. these last 15 years or so, he's been traveling around the world. he's been sharing of his holocaust experience. the one thing that is very clear we do hear him speak is he says this, the holocaust it all started with words. it is untrue. words are powerful. my father was born on august 20th 1919, long time ago. on the same day of my death birth, near osborne germany, a private first class began teaching five-day course for the race worth. the german armed forces. the decorated he received citations for bravery, for single-handedly capturing a group of french soldiers hiding in a show full when you're in
final german end of the world war one. so temporary blinded in a mustard gas attack, near belgium, he was selected as one of the squad 26 instructors to advocate nationalist and the troops. this interjects soldier was ideal because he excelled in the training course and impresses instructors. he was working alongside his unit commander, rudolph investment, dynamic soldier who did most of the training with great passion and enthusiasm. he helped stir discussion on lectures from the days of the rector public and who bears the guilt in world war. he threw himself into work, creating his own provocative lectures. he was fully engaged and a success and for the first time, he learned he could get his audience to go from apathy to action.
almost by chance he discovered this gift. the main theme in his popular lecture was anti-semitism. he'll he held nothing back in his hatred of jews. especially the lecture he felt capitalism which he mentions in the first time, the jewish question. so much so that his commander overly asked him to tone down his anti- somatic rhetoric. he was later impressed with his right hand man ability to communicate and his expertise on the jews. his superior captor carl meyer as the star of lectures to respond to an inquiry about the day judas, the jewish question. in a letter dated 16 of september 1919, the engagement identified the jews as their race responsible for the communist movement in this area and describing them as a popular focus of the people. he wrote that anti- semitism must be based on facts leading
to the systematic removal of the rights of the jews and then in the end, the removal of the juice altogether. can you guess who the person w was. private first class adolph hitler. he stood out as an effective communicator and made his first anti-semitic speeches. those hate filled lectures will ignite a firestorm of brutality that would engulf the world and my father in catastrophic violence. in that very day my father was born, hitler learned he could speak. and from those words, that he to speak our moral were never the same. words are powerful. it all started with words. debts written words is the little boy, they are powerful. he said, a little boy seven years old and i went school all i can i want to a car big enough to ride in. a black derek, all kinds of
candy. please do santa bring food, little six -year-old boy who lives with us. don't forget us, we are good little boys. a little boy that went out a mother and bruises that went out a father. signed robert essman 72. words, i'm sure you get excited about words. dad his favorite words were found in scriptures. he was a man of faith and his favorite words were found in romans chapter eight verse 35 through 37. who shall separate us from the love of christ, and persecution or famine or peril of sword, yet in all these things we are more than congress to him to who loved us and those words were worse he lived by. those were words that carried him into world war ii and on
through world war ii. the very reason that this book was written, is because of words. read the words in the new sentinel, is the picture of dad we need was in world war ii, and the words that he lived by, i just read or found in romans chapter eight but he also wrote the diary. in the diary were words that inspired me to begin this journey. entity here at this, a lot of things i'm not wanted to write because they're not exactly not supposed to talk about. i know god was with us and answered our prayers. i learned men even better than before, some are good and some are bad some are better and some worse. and he learned that in the context of brutality the very balance of war. he also wrote of the things in his diary.
they're detailed in this book, not all of them are some of them are for instance, about late afternoon, i thought it's about for a while this as well as on the battlefront and just before the battle of the bulge begins. i step out for a while for samir. it was foolish of me to do so. for i was out five minutes a bullet whistled about 2 inches above my head and embedded itself in the wall behind me. boy was i thankful the lord was on the side and i didn't hesitate to tell them either. in other words i pray god happen, almost commits that staying, there are no atheists in a foxhole. so dad his words were very powerful and they served my heart stirred my heart, just a little over six years ago, as i read them, they stirred my heart. it moved me to begin a journey most of what is in this book,
and again i am very proud of discovering is about my father in men who served in werewolf shoe, i did not know, 99, maybe 95 percent of the words in this book, i did not know until the beginning of 2013 and following. some of these words i did not know until the last few months. and so is the great testimony of us being able to research and discover our own roots and their family and even the history and the reason we have what we have and the reason we enjoy will be enjoy. the traces all of the way back to those who lived before us. his words in the diary led me to search on the internet and on the internet, i typed in massive sergeant roddy edmonds, and this words lead me to the first link that appeared that it was an article in the new york times. in 2008, article entitled richard nixon search for new
york home. i was stunned that my dad his name was highlighted in this article. i read the article, it recounted how the president wanted to move to new york in 1980, and no one wanted him to be their neighbor. amazingly enough. so except for one gentleman by the name of lester tanner. and lester was a prominent lawyer in new york. he sold his townhouse to the present. ashley contacted the president himself in the present shared up a couple of days later in the month the townhouse and lester said i should've charged him more. but anyway, he felt the townhouse to him and as i was reading that article, the editor of the new york times asked lester about his past. it is trading at harvard, and lester shared with him that he had been in world war ii. the staff sergeant. he said this, had it not been for the bravery of my master
sergeant roddy edmonds, who defied the nazis to save my live i would never present. i read that and i was amazed. i was shocked and i couldn't believe it. so words are powerful. and we celebrate those words in this festival and in this place, this beautiful library. this letters those words led me to lester and i met him in 2013 in the harvard library club. he shared with me for the first time the amazing story of my dad and the amazing stories that surrounded dad. one of those is lester. lester finished talking to me, he said her father's reserving of the medal of honor. so what you think. i said i have no idea but i think it's worth eight to pursue. and so i left there in new york with the mission and passion to
come back to tennessee in a talk to my congressman jimmy duncan of time, he was all for it. we began pursuing the medal of honor. because of the actions the debt took, in the prison of war camp, you know the words that he shared in the prison of war camp, for he defied the nazi major. they are powerful, the major came up to him in a just wanted the jewish men to fall out on that particular morning but dad had shared the night before with all of the nearly 1300 american non- soldiers. he said, not doing that. tar morning were all falling out. and that's what they did. so when the major appeared, he was shocked and he couldn't believe his eyes. nearly 1300 american soldiers standing in sharp formation. he was expecting just the jews. so walked over to my father and he got up into his face and he was very angry he said, they can't all be jews. my dad said, we are all jews
here. then i'm going to ask you to read the rest of the book to find out what happened. but the confrontation, dad defied the nazi major and is worse later, that he shared turn the tide. because he said what you share a word of truth, they make a difference. so dad and these men that he served with, all stirring up there on the far left, you see sonny fox, down the left corner and i see lester kindergarten this right quarter here, and then you see skip friedman, of above and my father in the right. there is another man who are involved and i've met these men. i've become a part of their families and i love their families. one of the greatest blessings has been to meet these men and to hear the their lives and he
experience the beauty and the wonder of their families. so i'm very grateful. in the words that we have shared together have been precious. and we cherish. because of dad his, actions of defiance, such as the one instance where he protected the jewish men, but also later or he help enable the escape of all nearly 1300 american soldiers. my father has received the highest award given by the nation of israel, the righteous among the nations, is just the fifth american to receive righteous. he is also the first u.s. serviceman to receive righteous among the nations. that is the first of the righteous to be to save american jews. and i love to say, he is the first tennessean to be named among the righteous.
so we are grateful for that. and we are pursuing the medal of honor. obviously, the ceremony was a big deal so to speak. president obama was our guest of honor. he came and spoke. it was incredible if it and we go back to the next one. you see any videos up there that you recognize ? lamar alexander and who else. corker was there, who is the fella on the far left. on the bottom. steven spielberg. so i get a call the morning of the if it was something that afternoon, i get a call i'm already nervous because i gotta speak before the president. i have to warm up the craft and present. that's not going to happen. i can call we got rain is wet. the president is bringing a friend of his to introduce you. who's that. steven spielberg i said zero great. so i warmed up the crowd for mr.
what an incredible privilege it was. and their words were very poignant and powerful. there is a promise that think of a greater expression of humidity thing to say i is it too am a jew. he is correct. and so, we later would travel to israel and as they would be inscribed upon the wall of the righteous. at a special ceremony and we are so grateful for that. then has also been recommended for a medal of honor. really this book comes out of the fact that we pursued a medal of honor. never intended to write a book. but it just was in it need it to be told. i've had hundreds of hours of research and thousands of there's much nonelected is in the book. so we are grateful for that.
and then i had the privilege of meeting prime minister, on one of my recent trips. i think tim and this is real for this great honor. but here's my greatest blessings, these men who served so well, paul who's in a wheelchair, lester is in the purple tie is sonny who is in the live blue tie, and paul's wife, karen, and an investor as well. this was paul's 91st birthday at the ceremony. they said let birthday. it is the president came and sang happy birthday to me. [laughter] and it was quite birthday. so i believe that in ordinary live lived well is extraordinary. my dad was just ordinary just common as you nine. i mean, made extraordinary choices when it mattered. he made choices that were right
for his god that was right for his men is right for humidity and we need to do the same unit i will have the same opportunities even today some.in time to make a decision that will better someone else do the right thing for them. and so i challenge you as i challenged anybody on the basis, to regardless of the rich and the circumstances, do what is right for others. we really are our brothers and sisters keepers. with you here today be the figueroa. so there's my opening remarks. i want to thank you for the privilege of sharing that and i know, we're going to take some questions i guess. if you don't ask me questions, i'm going to ask you questions. i hope you do have some questions. scenic view to have a question, please step up to the microphone. but you know thinking of your
question, i will ask you a question. they're semi- great great stories in the book and i was wondering if you could tell a little bit about the story on train. scenic the story of the train after they were captured, they marched for several days that went out food and water. they were loaded onto boxcars. the same boxcars that were taking jewish people to their deaths. they were taken deeper into germany so you have thousands of american soldiers on these boxcars and they are just slowly going down the track deeper into germany and remember there were trains that were bringing our men and troops by heading for the front. and then the train would shut off to a railcar and then to the sign them. and wait. sometimes they would wait for two hours and sometimes they would wait overnight. so it felt like they were on those in that training on this boxcars forever. standing room only.
and again no food no water in a and no place to use the restrooms. very horrible experience and my father would only describe it as a million 80. they've been on the journey for several days and on december 23rd, the night before christmas eve, actually late on the 23rd, they were shuttered over into train yards, and it just so happened that the skies had cleared that day so the weather had been very overcast and frigid and ugly for days. but the weather cleared and the bombers of the british bombers, got the okay to fly. and they flew, directly to limburg train yard. if you think about this, begin dropping bombs on that trainer because next to those fields, on marked boxcars.
there were trains full of tanks and half tracks and 88, lots of things. they bombed the smithereens added that trainer. in this pows, were left for dead. the germans fled the train and they didn't let the prisoners out. they had to hear one of those bombs coming there where. he described as, michelle start flying, you can usually find a place to hide. we can dig in and find us a place to avoid those shells that we do are stuck on a boxcar, you had nowhere to run. it is the most frightening terrifying thing. you hear every one of those bombs. he said, pouring down at us. my dad his boxcar, filled to capacity again. pandemonium broke out.
it was chaos. the men were even harming each other trying to get out. they were trying to break free from that boxcar. there was no way out. screaming and scratching and gnashing and pounding and you name it. and hank friedman was in the boxcar. he was one of dad his sergeants. he said, in the midst of the chaos and confusion, we were really literally try to kill ourselves try to get out, i heard the voice with a southern drawl rise of above the boxcar. he said it was her father. he said your dad said boys, if you've ever pray to god, you need to pray now. or god will save us. he got pray. he said a boxcar god deftly part of why it's and we prayed. and we prayed. then i heard your father's voice of prayer over all of us who are
praising silently. and then, suddenly as the bombs stopped. and we were saved. chris, that was your dad his faith in mays me. i grew up as a jewish boy and i never seen faith so strongly demonstrated in your dad his faith was absolutely amazing. hank is still alive he's living in georgia. i just got a facebook and an e-mail from him. just days ago and he loves the book and is in the book. and so, hank is one of those dear soldiers who served the long-ago that he lived a live in ordinary live of extraordinary influence that he is still influencing people today. do having veterans here today in the room. who served in the armed forces. i just want to thank you. let's give all hand. [applause] [applause] of our
veterans. i love those who have served and those who are surfing. so i salute you. thank you so much. another question. anybody. >> immediately stepped to the microphone. the bringing to you. >> 1300 u.s. soldiers. >> 292 soldiers 1235 because several of them died starvation camp. civic when her father told this that we are all jewish, he saved all of the soldiers i'm sure that he actually, how monday jewish shoulders. >> a little over 200. he didn't have an exact count but there were over 200. i was going to ask why there was
such a large contingent of jewish soldiers there. and the of 1300. the reason is because they had monday of those men had served in the ast v. the army specialist training program. as a special program for the army came out of their request, the best and the brightest. they set them to college and all across the united states. this was in the plan was to create an train of officers. and through their college experiences, so they were still in the military, they were still up bright and early in the morning is still getting out of there meals and their soldier training that they also cut classes and friedman and his mari ended up at the university of of emma. actually skip in it up at the university of alabama because his brother had been armed as
scholarship of the football team. and skip is the great football player two, but in the midst of mari, his brothers experience at the university of alabama war broke out in mari joy the service. he stepped away from his album scholarship. in between service. we had so monday patriotic voices stepped up to the plate. i'm grateful for that. he gave up his scholarship. since given mari in it up at the university of alabama through the training is soldiers and also studying so that they could be officers. after d-day and the rate losses that were being experienced on both of the pacific and the european front, the army need it guys with rifles. they need it journeyman so they disbanded the program they took all of those best and brightest that they had pulled out and slid them right back into
infantry. and most of them lost their rank they had already earned, they lost the rank. they started almost from scratch again. lester said he was going to be a fighter pilot. but they busted him right back in. and he ended up right back in with dad. he said i was so grateful i ended up with the father because he trained me and recommended me for officer school. so that is why there is close to moore a little bit more than 200. i still haven't been able to verify is that for every one of them, all of the jewish men that i've been blessed to connect with and fall in love with have all verified that there was a great consistency of jewish men there. they were so grateful that they were noncommissioned officers because they had been in the first camp and it was 90, it was kind of a large holding camp for
thousands of american prisoners. in selected there together were privates and officers. in about 30 days into their pow experience, transferred to the officers to another camp and they transferred all the noncommissioned officers out into the camp. and those men, those jewish men who'd already been segregated, they segregated the men in that first camp. in that jewish men. but nobody stood in the right. as all of the jewish, most of the jewish men went and stepped out. the orders and the second camp, tomorrow morning we want only the jews to follow. a morning roll call. all who disobey the order will be shot. that was their orders. the first experience, the jewish fill out and what lester described was the prison within the prison. they took them to a place in the
camp that was surrounded by extra barbed wire and so that's where they stayed in the barracks there. once the noncommissioned soldiers were sick to see a name, so long with dad, he was the highest ranking noncommissioned officer in the group. lester was pulled out and skip and sunny and all the skies were pulled out and sick to the second camp. so then asked the same thing over the loudspeaker in the second camp and two days after the there. so they said, we want only the jews to follow in the next morning roll call. all who disobey will be shot. and dad said we are not doing that. we all fall out. they'll debt. so dad must've been the figueroa and all this. all of those guys were heroes because any of one of those men could've refused to fill out. and i are going to go out there and be shot. only say the brakes. they all went. some of them even really were very weekend. it would to get out there.
the second thing is, the threat appeared, enumerating the book the major pulled his gun and pressed it to my father's four hood and threatened. to turn over the jews. and my father refused. going that threat occurred, any one of those non-jewish men could've started pulling out jewish men. because they knew they were. but none of them did. they were all heroes. so i'm grateful. they're just bullies when they went into the armed services because they were men in that pow camp. great question. yes sir. >> i am the son of a baptist pastor like yourself, and i was never going to live in the baptist pastor any longer in the edge of 18, i left and i joined
the air force. spee8 thank you for your servicer. >> you are welcome. within ten days after going in the air force, i got pneumonia and they put me in hospital brooks army hospital in san antonio texas where if the wounded from the korean war, made it, that far that is where they were. in those days, they had 50 men and 30 mentors, whatever. they were very skilled in getting wounded and all of the stereotype typical views that you ever had, about people wounded in all sorts of body cast and all that stuff was the sea. every night people would say,
somebody, pray for me. somebody come pray for me. and the chaplains couldn't be there. so i led there in the bed, and i said will i know how to pray. get up and go down there and pray. because it might be the last time anyone will pray with them the person before they die. it was not unusual at all to go to bed and got beside you was very quietly taken away because he was dead. but we do mentioned the influence of your father, some of the most influential man that i have ever met, were in the military in the last base i served on, every squatter commander had been a prisoner of
war in korea. even air force chaplains, and they were so influential in my live that i've spent the last 55 years of a baptist minister. praise god. >> thank you for that service as well. >> whenever you mention that, he really was about the dead. there is no way to know until we get to heaven, and monday people your dad influenced or how we as believers, influence others. so i just thought i would chew that. i think we all have the potential to make a difference in the lives of others. obviously your father did. sue neck i believe in prayer. by the way, i'm going to buy you a book. praise god again.
[laughter] you'll notice that chris edman and douglas, is the dear friend of mine now. when i begin this process somebody said you need to write about. i was like, you crazy. but then i began seriously thinking about that and praying about that and things were falling into place where that was what i need it to do. live but on the top of my prayer list, i wanted be a jewish co-author. no i need it to help with it. and i know i could bring the christian part of the story to the table. in ductless entry was my answered prayer. he lives in new york, is the fabulous writer and little bit more than that, he is the fabulous friends i am grateful for him. then of course esther had a whole lot to do with this. lester and his mental they need to be thanked and tell their stories. frank is an italian kid grow up in new york, need to read about
frankie and his love affair with his wife lucy. it is just a great story. so glad going to buy the book. i hope all of you get the book. the book is actually also coming out next week kenny young readers addition. some very grateful for. it's for nine to 14 -year-olds. it is a fantastic read as well. it is also an audible, you can get on audible and in the audio forum. has something that i really been thankful for harper colleges they have been made cd sets that they are going to be sending to libraries. and so i'm grateful for that. this book is chock-full of historical information but also chock-full of humidity. and how we are to be kind and loving to our neighbor. and to do it in the midst of nazi terror, to do what's right,
lester said it was the defining moment of his live when my father decertified that nazi. he says from that day forward i chose to do what's right for others regardless of the risk and regardless of the circumstances. he started grinning, he said. new york attorney, this hard to do sometimes. >> [laughter] the question are we had about out of time. i got a question. sue neck i read somewhere that this book is described as a detective story for you. there were lots of discoveries made not just by you but by the people who you were interviewing an if it, i think it was lester who didn't know how old your dad was. when this are together he had been your dad had been, in the army a little bit longer than some of the people he was surfing with and they saw him sort of as the old man. >> the colleyville men. >> i think the idea that he
didn't know he was only three years older than him, is interesting. it was a powerful, revelation to lester from sitting in the harvard club, he is telling me part of the story and again he was so much older than us, he had to be in his 30s. i said lester, you are talking about my father he said yeah, he was 25. we need stood up to that nazi guy, he said 25 coming about fell out of his chair. he had to be older. he is the master sergeant. he has such command of his personality and his ability to lead. lead. the army we need was 21, and by and in less than 22 months he was master sergeant. it's incredible the journey that he took. i didn't understand how he became master sergeant but i do know that it's in the book as well.
his commanding officer told him we need received his masters, you know now the youngest person who's ever received a master sergeant. i'm sure that my big difference now. but it becomes 15 to 20 years to become a master sergeant today. so lester was just ford. he was so surprised. we've had lots of aha moments so long the way. other questions. yes sir. [inaudible conversation] in 1912, he got wooded and brought back the lid stories. >> was in the army >> yes. did your dad come across on d-day. >> no. he was still the stateside and d-day. he came over as the or towards
the october 1944, specifically over 206 introductory where he served, the 22nd, the industry actually replaces an army on the front lines. and so they came on them either way, they knew it left new york harbor from october 20th in the me the way to the front lines in germany and got there on december tenth. on december 16, is when the war came to the end. they thought they were going to a quite center as a matter fact it's going to be a picnic. like these green troops saw them in there and get acclimated to it means to be on the front lines. six days after they got there, he was horrible. the onslaught of the german ar army. that was the battle of the book. he was at the tip of the spheres where they were spread out very
thin, was no way for them to truly defend that area if there was a major attack like that. then it was. but i will say that the hundred and six infantry, all of those men who were captured, for three days, basically with their no good against tanks and fire. he wrote that in this diary. but they felt and bravely everybody who served there, are more than heroes because they stopped the germans in their tracks. i believe, this is what doug and i have postulated is that the insert of the ast see soldiers who were so bright and so brilliant and brave, made all the difference in the world. for that battle.
>> were almost out of time with the session. i just want to ask one last question. for you specifically. how has this journey changed your live in journey in your faith. i know you have an organization, and you continue to speak into teach people how they can be heroes. how is this all changed you. >> wow, you only get nitty-gritty personal and three minutes. okay. from the standpoint the title is no surrender. they were captured. but they never surrendered their will, wits or the willpower or the faith or the belief in the goodness of humidity. they never surrendered that. for me, i had to surrender some things. i've been administrative kind of personality. icheic the boxes and i calculate
all of the cost, if i go home until regina, let's go to gatlinburg and hang out for the weekend. i've artie checked the cost of the hotels and another outward taking, i know the schedules were going to keep, i've got it all but enough. know that like that in your lives? if i go home and she says hey babe let's go to gatlinburg, she's a range of the car, she got called anybody or checked any money she doesn't care she just is ready to go. for me to jump out into and start pursuing death live and figure out all of that. i've had quite a full-time job. i couldn't do both. i was a nonprofit leader for organizations called young ministries in knoxville. his organization that mentors middle school students on campus and then connects them with college kids and take them to
camp two or three times a year. just build relationships. help them bridge through that difficult time the hard living middle school. i had sick up on that. i did jump into the ocean and depend on god and that went out land in sight. so that is been my journey. i've had to surrender and give up and say okay god i don't like how this feels because i'm not in control but i'm going to let you take care of it. that is has been powerful and wonderful experience. i will say this to give god credit all have that is been accomplished, god is done. i didn't go for a publisher naked, and look for somebody to take me to germany and follow my father's footsteps and created a documentary that was turned in last year to the academy awards and won an honorable mention at the academy awards. i didn't pursue anybody to maybe make a movie but there are
people in hollywood who are looking at this and hopefully it will be on the big screen seven day. i haven't any of that. it's all been come to me. have never expected to be in cspan2 today. the here i am. i can't wait to watch it. we'll get to watch the rerun of this? [laughter] suite. let me show you my dad his real legacy. my grand babies. that is my dad his real legacy in my legacy. in my wife's legacy. those are my grandbabies. they are special. that is seven of the oldest ones, the other two or older. but there in the picture. anyway, so as you leave here today, we went for a spring in your step and encouraging your heart and do what's right for others be the figueroa thank you. [applause] thank you all and enjoy. >> will be heading up to the
writer his den, and he enjoyed the session and you plan to enjoy more please visit humanities as he got hard. but about how you can contribute. also another side chapters 15, that's a wonderful site about writers events and poetry in all things about the written word. again you for being here thank you pastor edman. >> thank you. background sounds. [background sounds] real-life from the southern festival of books in nashville today and tomorrow. in a moment, we'll be back with a conversation about war and military history. while we wait, is the portion of a program airing tonight with
secretary of the smithsonian institution run a bunch. from the creation of the national museum of african-american history and culture. >> i think when we created this museum we know that there was no post- racial america. we knew that there was hatred and pain and racism and this in fact, we got here. people set us death threats. people told us we shouldn't build this museum. and then we knew that this museum had to be more than a monument to the past. and a place that force people to confront the pace. but also contextualize the world that we live in today. help people understand what confederate monuments met. there were less about the confederacy and more about the struggle to maintain segregation. so we wanted to make sure that this museum would be a place to bring healing but can't do that
unless you grapple with the unvarnished truth. for truth the unvarnished truth was the first step in helping the country confront is tortured racial past. we felt that was crucially important for this museum. >> in terms of the obstacles that you had to overcome, there's an anecdote but a congressman here who wasn't generally a great supporter of the smithsonian but it began to have second thoughts about all of this. he expressed reservations to the secretary of the smithsonian about the museum his existence just prior to the groundbreaking in 2012. i was concerned so i immediately made my way to his office. clearly uncomfortable, the congressman applauded my efforts but stated quite strongly that he did not believe that there should be a black museum for black people on the national law. he talked about his believe the
segregation was wrong but then revealed that he was interested in supporting an idea for a museum of the american people that was being floated as a response to the creation of the museum of african-american history and culture. but if you tell him. >> i do not believe that there should be of museum by black people for black people and i said me is it too. i said this is the museum that uses african-american cults as a lens to understand what it means to be an american. but this is the broader story that if you think this is the story just about black people, you don't know your history. if you think this is the story that is just about yesterday, you don't know your history. so it's a told them that, he basically said okay i guess i am a supporter again. because it was really crucial to say to him, think about this museum in a different way than you would normally do. i think candidly that is been
one of the great stress of the museum. dennis says, it is a story for us all and that we have all confined ourselves, our history, our understanding of america in this building. >> one of the things always struck me as a powerful lineage, is the location of the museum next to the washington monument. we have this monument to our great first president but a president who was a slave owner area and now we have this in the shadow of that monument. we make of that position. we do make of it. >> is about time. [laughter] >> i think getting the side of the mall was so crucial. normally when congress told the smithsonian to build. i said build in a certain place. because this was going to be the
last museum on the mall, maybe the african american museum there is a great hesitation necessity in the mall. there was a discussion about could be in the old arson industry building. or could it be its eyes off the ball but only people number they are. i don't know where they are. so for us, the big challenge is getting in the mall. and there was a great deal of opposition. i remember once a group that is called the prince of mall. they weren't the friends of us. [laughter] a similar one staying that you can't build this museum on the spot. it would kill grass. [laughter] and josh and i send a picture, the rest already dead. i think for us it was crucially important to really help the regents who had make that decision see how important it was for this use the museum to be on the national how this is the story that i must make a
plate, the story of what else was on the mall. the lincoln memorial the washington monument, so i think the greatest moment candidly wasn't groundbreaking, and he wasn't even really open, it was the day we convince the regents to say on this spot, there will be a museum that america can never ignore. [applause] is the book that the smithsonian thought that it would be adequate to have a wing of the national museum of american history devoted to african-american history. just a wing in the building. >> but it was smithsonian was variability it. back 25 to 30 years. should there be this museum, but in the mean for the rest of the smithsonian. it is only because really, of
the efforts like john lewis, who kept bringing this up every year staying you have got to pass this legislation. what is important for us was to say that the story of the african-american experience, is bigger than wing. it's bigger than an exhibition. it deserves its own museum. they have to be honest, when i came back, there were a lot of people within the smithsonian themselves who said that should happen. i remember going to a meeting or very early on the other museum directors and one of them said we gotta worry about with lonnie and josh are doing because that building they are raising money that's going to hurt the smithsonian. and it really we had to say, i thought we were part of the smithsonian. for me the best examples of the very small. on the smithsonian id, and has the initials of the museum. in asm for the national space museum. i came back, they said, you
don't have initials on pictures. you are not a museum. and i said wait a minute, it's disrespectful. they said, you are not anything because you don't have words on your card. >> signage he was actually go in a meeting the senior leadership of the smithsonian and say you are going to put mma even though i couldn't spell it, on this card. because for me, i was a symbol that this was an equal part of the smithsonian. so much of what we did early on, was to fight for respect. to fight that this was an equal museum and as i said. i made sure that they called the deputy director of a museum. none of the project. [applause] was big. >> creation of the national museum in culture in washington dc.
>> good morning. we are here to commemorate these authors and their work. the festival is relying on your donation, relying -- that is why we can keep it free. after the arthur q and a there will be a book signing. ellior ackerman, they have brought their new books for us and elliott is a marine war veteran, published many books. he is a national book finalist award winner and also wrote for the new york times, the atlantic, the new yorker. clay is a native nashville he
and who has published many works as well. mostly historical and also deputy editor in chief or up in chief for the new york times. we are going to let them talk about their books individually and after a few minutes you can you and a on points of the books that they enjoy. >> great. thank you very much and thank you for coming out. it is always a pleasure to be back here in nashville. when they told me we would be sitting together on a panel i was elated because i'm a great admirer of your work. one of my good friends at work is one of elliott's editors and
over the years i have come to admire his work and maybe we could get into it at some point but despite the fact my book is about the spanish-american war and his book is about more recent wars, minus a history and his is a personal experience i think there are things to find in common. >> outside we wrestled for who would go first. i will let you guess who won and who worked out. >> in the spirit of disclosure. i will talk about my book and you can talk about yours and one of the things elliott asked me and i often get asked is why did i write this book and how did i come to it. there are two answers. one is not static. i was here in nashville as a boy scout in truth 92.
we were the roughriders and growing up, it was a super visual version of the roughriders story, the part of our narrative, teddy roosevelt charging up san juan hill, a bunch of guys getting together volunteering for the spanish-american war, that was the east coast we carried with us. i knew a little bit about it but never dug in. one of the nice things about being a journalist, being a history writer, part of your job is to explore the things you find interesting. that was something at a certain point i decided i would like to know more about that and i write about american history and moments in american history that i think help define through the 20th century have helped define who we are today and i felt this was one of those. the other one is more prosaic. i was looking for a topic.
i was going through old obituaries figuring that would be a good way to find people who were important at the time. i came across an obituary for a rough rider, a member -- not someone famous or significant for any other reason than he had been a rough rider. my suspicion started to grow that there was more to this story than these guys who helped make roosevelt famous. that is part of why we remember the roughriders but it became clear to me and the more research i did the more this became glaringly apparent, at the time, they were celebrated, they were famous when they came back from cuba. they ended up in new york city for a variety of reasons and
they couldn't buy drinks or pay for dinner or hotel room. everybody wanted to touch the roughriders, they were famous. because they embodied something about, what america thought of itself at the time. the war itself was an important moment that has also been forgotten a little bit. we learned a few things about the spanish-american war in our high school history classes. we forget most of it and move on. it came to a time when america was growing very rapidly. our economy was growing. our population was growing. cities were growing. the west had been conquered. america was looking at the world and saying we are up there with europe, we are up there with britain. we are also very different. how are we going to do fine ourselves in a world we don't
want to be like russia or germany but we kind of do. we want to be a world power. what does it mean to be an american world power and particularly when it comes to the military america, one of the striking things we were talking about. america had no military to speak of. we had a navy but as far as land forces go we had bylaw 26,000 soldiers, most were spread around the country to be a soldier, to be one step up from being a convict and a lot of cities and towns, presented soldiers from going back to their for its because they were so demeaned in the public eye. then we didn't have enough soldiers to go to war.
one of the reasons the roughriders, one of the reasons it was created, 26,000 soldiers, we needed a lot more but the best we could depend on where half serious melissas so we created -- roosevelt had the idea to go -- it is harebrained when you think about it. cowboys and college athletes and police officers and veterans, and assume their lifestyle and backgrounds were good soldiers in the war department that roosevelt could say this to the secretary of war. you guys do that. it is conceivable, it was a desperate situation.
roosevelt did that and the weird thing, the striking thing is it worked. they perform as well as soldiers, roosevelt had a great media following but he was a very good officer. he started as a lieutenant colonel and became the colonel. he ran the regiment that day of the battle of san juan hill and purported himself very well. especially when he wasn't fighting. just keep the men in line. the siege after the battle the biggest problem was disease and malnutrition. americans saw this, what was going on and saw the war as a whole, it was a moral war, something we forget today but i was struck when reading the
journalism, how people -- a humanitarian intervention. this is what america does to fulfill its purpose. not the conqueror, and all of those things were there. the story americans told themselves. and terrible war going on, hundreds of thousands who died and there was a real cost, a real justification to do something but it became the story. the fact that a regiment like the roughriders came together and went and did this changed the way americans saw the military or created a new narrative around what it meant to serve but also what it meant
to have power. we need a large army, because we want to free the world and help people. that didn't change overnight. americans went back to their old ways after the spanish-american war. it put in place a way of thinking about ourselves that over the 20th century became a dominant narrative so by the end of world war ii americans could do no wrong. we were the liberators, to fight the fascists, we have a conversation for another day whether that was ultimately good for the world or bad. it very much with how we saw ourselves. but this was the microcosm of the regiment.
it speaks to why this war was so significant and it is important to relearn that or learned for the first time because i don't think it is something that is taught when we do learn about the war. because i have a book, i want to read a little bit from the book and handed over to elliott. the thing i remember about the spanish-american war's two things, the battle -- the battle of san juan, remember, those two things basically. americans trying to capture sandy argo and the spanish atlantic fleet was bottled up and the only way to capture it was to go by land and 16,000
men, we didn't have enough ships, cavalry, roughriders were a cavalry but they did not go with horses. if you ever see paintings and there are lots of them, right away you know it is not accurate. the americans got to santiago and we have a river valley and a ridge, there is no one san juan hill but several multiple hills and the spanish were entrenched along it. july 1, 1898, was the day they decided to do something about it. at 4:00 am on july 1st, nearly 17,000 men comprise the fifth corps, the invasion crawled from under their blankets. there had been no blast of reveille so as to warn the
spanish but sergeants, around the main place in san juan hill. the rest were a few miles north preparing for the assault, if the men. hard enough, you see the glow santiago seven miles away. and time and inclination, they set small -- they ate hardtack and called it breakfast, no one spoke, few had any illusions what the day had in store. the night before words passed down. that morning they are going to take the hyper. on paper the battle that unfolded that day paled in every way to the civil war and see them in gettysburg but fights had receded from common
memory. like iwo jima, it was a one day assault on the outer defenses in the caribbean with a few hundred deaths. the spanish defenses were formidable but the landscape and not compare with the imposing escarpment union soldiers scaled at the battle of lookout mountain in 1863 or army rangers climbed on d-day and the battle of san juan heights remains one of the most important, celebrated, and contested engagements in american history. numbers and photography tell us little how the soldiers from roosevelt to the greenest volunteer private felt in their bones, what they were about to undertake. for many, it was their first experience in combat and for most, their last.
they were right to be afraid. by the end of the they one of every 6 of them were dead or wounded but there was something else, something collective and energizing and in a way much more daunting than the prospect of being shot by a spanish bullet. they would declare to the world the united states army could be the european military power and they were not just any army but a small untested force of enlisted regulars and the force most european -- you would think spain ceased being a first-rate empire or the soldiers were dragooned into service. and and the spanish general in charge of defenses, deployed in weapons sites. far away, resulting in a 10-1
ratio on the eastern line, nor did the rank-and-file grasp how many mistakes would come close to the racing whatever advantage americans held, no one understood what would come next. and the inner circle of officers, it is unlikely anyone realized. and with them watching, news of their fight spread around the world in an instant thanks to the telegraph and presence of william randolph hearst in person watching the battle unfold. that morning as mister rose above san juan river, there was only this. this valley, this hill, this flight.
[applause] >> that was great. i wasn't a rough rider but i wish i had been. i was a marine for many years. i'm just going to read from the opening of this very briefly because it sets up the book and i will talk about it. from a chapter called the revolution is over. crowds in the streets, marches and songs, the revolution is over, the war can begin. a column of smoke boils up word, a hamlet on syria's northern border with turkey, they need the blanket of slate cloud democratic of rifle fire
comes at odd intervals. the islamic state battles the northern store, a brigade of the dissolving syrian army. the air is still in the wind, the smoke continues to climb, perfectly straight, building like an obelisk, a monument. and on the low hills of turkey's southern border. just after sunrise a week ago journalist stephen sotloff crossed and then he disappeared on the road to aleppo. a year later the islamic state would behead him. today the group's name means nothing. they are virtually unknown. today a revolution has ended. i know i have come to be close to something familiar. standing along the roadside next to the border crossing,
everything is confusion, confusion and suitcases. the morning's refugee don't know what to do with themselves so they move their suitcases from one side of the road to the other and stacked them by the bus stop and an overhang, a schedule attached to its side. they read the schedule. it has no meaning. the buses don't come, they glance at their watches, checking the time which i was has no meaning, the hour and minute hands will never point out the answer how long they must wait. a column of 16 wheelers also waits. the cargo can go no further but can't go back. confusion is suitcases, confusion halted 16 wheelers, confusion is waiting.
[applause] >> i make my way as a novelist and my prior three books were all novels but also as a journalist and began traveling to southern turkey on the border with syria in 2013 and i went with a friend of mine who was a humanitarian aid worker who spent a lot of time in iraq and afghanistan and as the beginning of this book alludes to a moment when the revolution in syria was ending and the war was beginning meaning the ideals of that revolution were starting to bog down and see the emergence of groups like the islamic state. strange to think of it now but the beginning of this book took place when nobody knew who the islamic state was. and they were fighting asad, secular parts of the revolution began to fight against the more
fundamental islamist parts. i started traveling with my friend named matt and i write about him in the book, if he was starting this humanitarian aid organization, and they were based in atomic was 30 miles from the border crossing and a total drive of 45 or 50 minutes from aleppo. this is the part of syria we see in the headlines which is contested with turks moving in to fight the kurds. matt started his organization, hired a number of syrians living as refugees in southern turkey to work with him and one of them was a guy named document who i write about quite a bit. he was from damascus, worked at the -- console for many years, a great nephew, one of syria's poet laureates.
and in our office, i was making dinner and awkward drives up at 9:00 at night, he gets out of his car in his clothes, walks into the house and i said how is your day? he was like elliott, i had an interesting day. i was down in a refugee camp. it is this wisp of a town on the turkish syrians border bisected by railroad tracks, the northside is turkey and the south side, he says i was in a refugee camp and i met someone i think you should meet. he thought for al qaeda and iraq and i thought you could get along.
he said okay. i am game. what you think we should tell them? mines think was telling him a special marine operator, that might not go over as well. why don't we tell them, you spend time in iraq, and we see how it goes. we set up the meeting. abu had run guns and fighters from eastern syria to western iraq where i had fought as a marine for many years and eventually he was arrested by the assad regime and when the revolution happened something assad did early on was release all the jihadists from his prison. in the international community, fighting radical jihadists and
democratic activists, very astute move. he had wound up as a refugee in this camp to fight the jihadists. the two of us wind up meeting. the concept of this, two veterans of the iraq war, we find on different sides. we strike up a bit of a rapport and think we can tell him, it was odd that was translated for us. then leans back and that was the case. and we ask each other the questions you can imagine like simple things, what was the
toughest thing about fighting you and when were you the most afraid and all these things but the fundamental premise of our meeting and the desire that infused it and the gamble i felt i was making bike going down to sit with abu hasare, the war was the event of my young life. and when you are at war, particularly the wars on insurgency you are engaged in a dance with your adversary, your partner. you can feel them acting on you. you act against them and you are engaged in this movement but it is a shadow dance. very rarely do you see your partner and you never get to know them well so i had this curiosity about who my partner was as manifested in abu hasare. you need to understand the
person i was engaged in that dance with him the gamble i was making was that abu hasare would feel similar curiosity about me being defined by the same experience. this proved to be the case. we started having this intense conversation. there were some areas where there was no overlap so talking about the weapons, how do you wait for us? then abu hasare would slide into these long tropes, fundamentalist islamic dogma. in the day's battle, all christians would be killed and ramada he would return and abed would be sitting there, he had been a democratic activist in the syrian civil war and he would be translating this stuff and 30 minutes went to an hour, two hours and the meeting kept
going on and the more abed had to translate the more frustrated he would get. he tells you run body is going to come and might sound obvious but i could see abed whose cause defined him, his participation in a nonviolent protest, is an irrefutable cause when you thing of it. he and his colleagues in 2011-12 during the height of the arab spring went into the streets to demand democratic reforms against an authoritarian regime, the assad regime that had oppressed his people for decades and you can't get between your cause and that and he had seen his cause hijacked and undermined by among other forces, this radical islam is to. that was evident to me as he's forced to translate ideology
into english. i reflected that my own experience had some overlap with abed, he wanted to bring democracy to syria. it is not fashionable to say this but i remember the conversation in the united states about the reason ostensibly we were going to places like iraq and afghanistan to bring democracy to people who live under oppressive authorities with saddam hussein. we did under different means as opposed to a revolution. democracy can flourish in this part of the world and this led me to understand the connection that made us veterans of similar conflict. sitting across from us is abu
hasare, undermined the revolution, they undermined what we were trying to do in iraq highlighting the connection we had. the meeting goes on and on, lots of drinking and tea and smoking cigarettes and he gets up and goes to the ends room. .. >> and i have my notebook in front of me. and i had before sketched, like, a very rudimentary map of syria and iraq and the border. and he takes my pencil and writes down the name of a village, then next to it a number, and he hands me the pencil. so i put a number next to his number and another name of a
town, his number and the pencil, i put my number next to his number. and so sort of as we had once chased each other around the country, our hands are chasing each other around the map. because what -- those towns were places where we had both fought, and the numbers were the dates we had been there. and we were trying to see if we had been fighting at the same place at the exact same time. and what i realized is i hadn't realized this connection between abu and i before. what really dawned on me at that moment was that language, a language of places and dates and names, was a language that even had abed been sitting next to me, he could not have translated. it was a language that abu and i shared. so this book is about many of those overlaps that exist in the iraq war, the afghan war, the syrian civil war, what's going on with the kurds today and the places where we find
similarities amongst people who are very, very different. so we'll do questions, but thank you. [applause] >> so now if you want to ask a question or discuss, try and come up here and use the mic because it works better on tv for it. so feel free asking any questions that you have about the work or previous works. [inaudible conversations] >> so, clay, a question of -- for you. when i was hearing you talk about or listening to you talk about the impact the war had on american perspectives about, you
know, the place of the united states in the world, it sounded -- i was thinking of american exceptionalism. and it sounded like, you know, american exceptionalism took on a more global perspective after that war. i mean, we had american exceptionalism going back to colonial times, but it sounds like it was kind of a shift, like a -- looking at the u.s. place in the world and its role in the world. >> yeah. so all through the let's say the preceding decade at least, but like you said going back further than that, there had been a tension in the united states you can kind of reduce to -- it's not perfectly predictable but sort of a hamiltonian view of what the united states should be and more of a jeffersonian view. and the jeffersonian view is small government, it's more pastoral, but it's also they
didn't use this word, but it would be isolationist. and exceptional in the sense that we are a model. the city on a hill, you can pick out any number of founding fathers who -- besides hamilton -- who expressed a view that we should not entangle, we do not go forth in search of monsters to destroy, that kind of thing. and that was a dominant, that was probably the dominant view through the 19th century. and when we would go to war, we would -- americans would pour forth, and they would fight, but they would be things like the civil war, war of 1812. they would be defensive or sort of existential, internal conflicts. or, you know, the west is a different question, but even there it's an internal question. so, but then there's a countervailing view which is, no, america is a growing country, america is a place that can only grow by making centralized decisions. different versions of in that
come out of a kind of hamiltonian view. roosevelt was very much of this view and the view that, first of all, we need a strong military simply just to defend ourselves, right in and we with need to be able to sort of that -- as an undergraduate, he has written the naval history of the war of 1812. and he looked at the war of 1812 as a great example of what happens when we're not defending ourselves. but there was also a positive view or let's say an offensive view of this which was, no, americans can shape the world, right? we don't just need to defend ourselves, we can shape the world. some people say that's for economic reasons, but others had an idealistic view. we'll bring the city on the hill to world. and i think that that's what came to a held with the war of 18 -- the spanish-american war. and, you know, it's not like the day after that all americans agreed that that's the new kind
of exceptionalism -- >> right. >> -- we're going to carry forward, but it's a seed that was planted and a resolution to that conflict that, i think, began something else going forward. and, you know, you talk about 2003, 2004 the way people talked about the iraq war, there was coverage of the leadup to war, to spanish-american war where if you had taken out some places and names and a few details, it was the exact same thing that people were saying about bringing freedom to the cubans, democracy, rebuilding cuba. and then when we took over the philippines, it was the same thing again. and the philippines was a disaster. cuba, actually, wasn't that much of a disaster, but the philippines was utter disaster. and we ended up doing things in the philippines that we had -- war crimes that the exact same war crimes that we had criticized the spanish for doing we now did to the filipinos.
and it's that very rapid irony and tragedy that gets repeated throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. >> my question is for elliot. i don't know whether you speak about this in your book or you became acquainted with the white helmets when you were in that region? >> i don't write about the white helmets, but i certainly know their work, and i think they have done, you know, pretty remarkable work over the duration of the conflict there, you know, and trying to respond to what's been a massive humanitarian disaster. >> just speaking about your friends and knowing their story, i just feel like there's a book in that needs to be written. >> i think there are many, many books, great books that have been written and many more books that will be written. i certainly hope so. >> okay. >> for elle9 yacht, i -- elliott, i read a piece the other day, i think in "the new
york times," about a woman who hasp recently become a mayor in iraq in a small community. can't remember the name of it. she had difficulty even holding the position and threatened that she would put herself on fire in front of the office if they didn't let her take her position to which she was elected. the other thing she did, and this gets to my question, she wanted to create a clean-up in the community. took garbage sacks out to the people and tried to get them to pick up just the garbage and trash the in their community. and they wouldn't do it. and what struck me was what is their self-interest about care for their own neighborhood, their own community that would not allow them evened to do a simple thing like working together to try to clean up their community? and i thought to myself, how could anybody establish anything in that that kind of setting.
i wonder if you would make an observation about your experience in that. >> sure. i can't speak to particulars of that story because i haven't read it, but, you know, my experiences in that part of the world is, you know, i mean, there are incredibly intact communities, but this is also a part of the world where, you know, history really matters, and there are incredibly complexerer liberties and ethnic identities. and i think as americans often times, you know, we have of a tendency to believe -- and this kind of gets to what clay was talking about -- that we can do anything, we can go to any part of the world, and if only we as americans can sort of figure out the exact alchemy of policy positions to put together, we can solve these problems. and when you spend time in that part of the world, it becomes very, very clear that these are
not our problems. and what i mean by that is they're not ours to solve, nor does anyone want us to solve them. the people who live there want to determine how they live, what the construct is of their countries and communities, and we as americans can -- we are ancillary actors. we can help on the margins, but we should not be sitting there there trying to drive a solution. and in the past we've done that it not only has gotten us in a lot of trouble, but i would argue it hasn't been, ultimately, to the benefit of the people who live in those communities. but, you know, it is all incredibly complex, and it's very difficult to know what the right balance is of helping and also trying to stay out of it. >> thank you to both of you. it's been a treat the hear from you about both of your books, and my question is for elliot.
in kind of picking up where you left off, kind of this language of overlap, i wondered as you kind of have that insight into a language of overlap and the work that it takes to get to a place of overlap especially with someone on the other side, if you caught a glimpse of how to make that scalable for communities and countries that have to e build and recover from war -- rebuild and recover from war and conflict. there's all these strategies out there for how to bring people back together who were once enemies or combatants against each other, and just if you had any insight or glimpsed anything from that, from your book. thanks. >> sure, thank you. i think probably all of us could agree that at this particular moment in time there are no shortage of voices highlighting and accentuating to all of us at every moment the many ways that we are different and voices that
are encouraging us to parse our differences and cast ourselves away from one another. you know, i was, you know, i was a professional soldier for many, many years, and since i came out of that i think sometimes people think it's sort of strange that i didn't i didn't become a novelist. i spent a lot of time thinking what does art do. i think all of us have had the experience of, i don't know, let's say you go to a film and you cry because it's very moving. or you go to a museum and you see a total overwhelming piece of art, and you're just taken aback staring at it. for me, when i'm working on a book, if it's going well and i'm writing, i'll feel something as i'm writing and putting those words down on the page. and if i've done my job as an artist world, the reader might read what i wrote and feel some,
i don't know, small percentage of what i felt when i put that down on the page. 10%, 15%. i call that emotional transfer reasons. i have -- transference. i have taken my emotions and translated them to you just as the filmmaker did, just as the artist that hung their work in the museum did. and that, in fact, is a pretty incredible thing. that is an a asetter circumstance of our human -- assertion of our humanity. you also feel something because you are human. so in this time where we are being encouraged in every single way to focus on our differences, i feel that art is one of the few places where we are continually encouraged to affirm the ways that we are the same. and that that, to me, sometimes feels like an almost defiant act in that it is inherently optimistic.
>> [inaudible] when you're over there and is you come back and transfer your emotions to paper, do you write while you're in the action, or do you sit down and reminisce and does it come back? or for when you look at things, do you have these moments of not an epiphany, but moments of relatability when you're researching yours as opposed to when you're actually experiencing wars? does it come back to you or, like, for example -- >> yeah. i mean, one of the -- so i write, i like to think my books are narrative nonfiction, so narrative history. looking for characters. and i one of the challenges is, obviously, they are real people in the past, so i can't just make stuff up about them. and also i don't have access to them. i can't interview them, i can't -- i really just have documents they've left behind. so there is a certain amount of
imagination that has to go into interpreting what i think their experiences are. also because i didn't two through anything like what they went through, there's an added layer. so that's the challenge. and the exciting part about being a writer of history is two parts. one is finding those characters and coming across them. one of the characters i tell about, talk about in the book partly because he's just left a diary, he left a lot of letters but also because he feels very accessible to me. he was a law student in new york who came from a well-off family in ohio, went to yale, he was obviously headed places, and he was a second-year law student and the war broke out, and he said i've got to go do this. i've got to -- i need to quit -- i mean, not quit, but i need to
go join this conflict. and his cousin became a roughrider, and his cousin said i think i can get you a spot. so this guy, theodore miller, his father was from the civil war generation and said i know what that's like, i don't want you to go. so there's this back and forth with him and his father and his sisters, and he left this record of how did he work through that. and then once he -- the deal was he could finish the school year and then go off, and it all happened. so he ended up joining the roughriders and going off to cuba and fighting and all that. but he left a wonderful record that feels very modern. i mean, to me, it was this vast spot where you're looking for people who are very much of their moment and really do express something about what it was like to fight, in his case, what it was like to be a civilian to then decide i've got to go do this m.
and, you know, it's not my personal experience, but i know you probably felt a certain, you know, why do i need to go do this, i need to go enlist. and theodore miller felt that same thing. so there's something very, i'd say modern, i'd say universal about his experience. and so you find people like that. and there are other characters in the book who are like that, but you feel that that's the glue, that's the thing that will give this story that could just be a dry history, suddenly gives it the emotional power that will lead people through the book but also, hopefully, communicate something that i'm trying to -- you know, i'm trying -- at the worst, sometimes it feels like being a puppeteer, right? it's not my exe pierce. all -- experience. all i'm doing is trying to shape and tell someone else's story and trying to interpret their
emotional education appearance in -- experience in a way that the reader will get some of that. and, of course, along the way i'm impugning all of my opinions, and it's not purely just carrying one thing to other. to that's something that you wrestle with as -- at least someone in my position. you want at the end, you want it to be honest and transparent. i don't want to give theodore miller emotions that i don't feel or motivations that i don't feel, and yet you want to do it in a way that is powerful. so balancing all of that and making it all work in the end is both the challenge and the real joy of writing history like this. >> i also work as a journalist, so a lot of the times my journalism feed my fiction. but i i think in both what you're looking for are these little, just these little kind of gems that convey a character,
whether they are real or imagined characters, like, their humanity. i think we all know that the way jay gatsby calls everybody old sport. that just says, like, a lot about him. or holden callfield calls everybody the -- caulfield calls everybody the phony, phony, phony. as a writer, you're looking for that. as a journalist i'll be talking to somebody, and so much of who you are seems to be encapsulated in this thing you're wearing. and then how that translates into my fiction, you know, when i'm writing fiction, i sort of feel like -- bear with me, it's a metaphor, but i feel like i'm standing in a field, and the field has got a lot of tall, dry grass in it. and my job is to set this field on fire, and i've got two things in my hand. they're flints. and i'm like banging the flints together like crazy and trying to catch sparks. so the flints are inevitably something that's actually happened to me, whether it's related finish the it's always
emotionally related to this field i'm trying to catch on fire. and the sparks come from the names and the fire is your imagination. it's something you're making up. so much for me when i'm frustrated i'm lapping my flint -- banging my flints together trying to get this damn fire going. but when it's really roaring, and it's warm and toasty, it's a great feeling. >> for clay, you've written a lot of different stuff. i mean, late 19th century, mid 20th century, whiskey. so how challenging is it to shift so seemingly dramatically on different topics? >> yeah. i mean, i think -- [laughter] it's funny, when you, i don't know how much you prepare, like think through, oh, what's the panel going to be like, what do i imagine -- what's the question i don't want to get. [laughter] and one of those questions is that one, because i do -- no, no, and it's a good question because it's something i ask myself a lot, right in do i, i
mean, i don't talk too much about my career, but do i just pick and choose stuff that's interesting to me, or is there something deeper there. certainly the first part has to be true, right? i don't want to -- i'm not going to tell you i write about stuff that i don't find interesting. i wouldn't want you the buy my books if that were the answer. so all these things are fascinating to me. obviously, i'm fascinated with american history. it's one of the things about american whiskey -- i mean, i love whiskey, but the thing that really motivates me to write about it is the history. and that's where i really am energized in both the role that industry in american history, but also there's something expressive about the american character that comes through in the history of american spirits. but, you know, a book like this, my last book was about the civil rights act, i think the thing that fascinates me particularly about the 20th century and let's say the period going from around
this time up through right before i was born. i was born in 1976 and, you know, what's that span like, right? the ascendancy of america in its own mind and also in the world. so what is the development of that character and what are the tensions in that character. my background academically, to the extent that i have an academic background, i studied international relations and history. and so i, something that really fascinated me about this was the opportunity to do both of those. what does this story that's sort of archetypal story about these men and this man, theodore roosevelt, what does that say about the american character in relation to america's movement into the world? and how did it define how we i saw ourselves in the world? and that, i think, follows through all the way up to our
debates around the civil rights act. who were we as a country, especially a country that, you know, was telling the world and telling ourselves that we were the bastion of liberty and freedom and equality, and yet we're oppressing an enormous part of that, of our people. and so i think that there is kind of a thread that goes through there. but, you know, i also don't want to bear down on that too much because in the end they're just things i find fascinating as well. >> all right. so this concludes our discussion portion. both authors are going to be in the tent signing their books. the books are also for sale under the tent, so feel free to go in there and discuss with the authors if you didn't get to ask your question. and we just want to thank elliot and clay both for being here today from new york and appreciate it. >> thank you. [applause]
[inaudible conversations] >> we'll be back with more live coverage of the southern festival of books in a few minutes with new york times reporter jason deparle on three generations of a migrant family. >> in the meantime, we wanted to show you a bit of a program you'll see tonight at 6 p.m. eastern. here's former utah republican congressman jason chaffetz discussing his new book in which he argues that liberals are trying to undermine the trump presidency. >> there are whole books you could write on just the kavanaugh situation, but the prework, what we try to focus on, is the work that they were doing and the outlines that they
had no matter who it was. this is going to be, this was going to be a narrative about a frat boy who was just out of control and gone awry. the clearest example x it's been out there. it's not brand spanking new in my book, but we remind people about the press release that was already written with x, x, x, they just needed to fill in the name. and when you see that in sum total in retrospect put together in the way we did it in this chapter, it reminds you of how evil and how bad it was. and i do think it's almost humorous that these democratic senators, every single one of them had pledged to vote no and then complained about the lack of openness and transparency. you still have senator schumer and the others say -- and this is the trick they always do, right? they always do this. they ask for things that they know cannot be p given to them.
you cannot reveal, by law, grand jury material. you cannot -- there is executive privilege that a president has with his seniormost advisers. what jerry nadler does time and time again, and they did it in part in the kavanaugh situation, is they asked for information that the president has executive privilege on. it's the same claim that barack obama claimed. believe me, i wanted to get ben rhodes before our committee to talk about that iran deal. and i started -- i invited ben rhodes to come testify before the oversight committee. he was in the new yorker, he was doing public speeches. certainly, he has time to do all the media and public speeches, he can come talk to congress about this. oh, no, no, no, no. they called the executive privilege. they said there's a separation of powers issue, and i dropped it. i didn't issue a subpoena. the difference now is cummings and nadler will issue a subpoena. see? they don't comply.
but they know that if it goes to court, they will never win. but they don't care because that court date's going to come after the next election. they want to create a narrative, i guarantee you you're going to hear mad areler and cummings say we issued 250 subpoenas. they never responded. most of them are wholly bogus, and a court would just laugh them out of there. the reason jerry nadler became the chairman of the judiciary committee is he went before his colleagues on the democratic side of the aisle and said i'm better suited to pursue impeachment. come with me, i'm going to do impeachment. and that's how he out bill lock remember and became the chairman of the committee. >> one last question from me, then we'll shift to -- we'll end on a positive note like you do in your book. >> yeah. >> what's the path forward, what should conservatives be looking towards to kind of rein this in. >> so i tried to do this in the deep state, i did this in power
grab on purpose. i don't want to just lay out all the bad, right? you come and you listen, and you're bummed out, you know? it's not the feel-good meeting of the year. try to end on a positive note that this is the the greatest country on the face of the planet. somehow, some way the american people figure these things out. they sniff out authenticity. they understand these issues. but we have to be the aware of them. the very fact, i write, that you're reading the book is good news. the fact that people want to dive deeper on these issues. but i also think it's incumbent that we engage in federalism, that we push back on the tenth amendment, we push these -- the federal government does too many things to too many people. so much of in the either shouldn't -- of this either shouldn't be done at all or should be the purview of the states. somehow we've got to neuter the power of the federal government and just get them out of so much of this business. and i think a lot of those
answers will be pushing forward states' rights and doing those types of things. >> and the entire program with former congressman jason chaffetz will air tonight directly following our live coverage from nashville. check your program guide for more information. >> you're watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> here are some programs to watch out for this weekend. we're in nashville with live coverage of the southern festival of books. on our author interview program "after words," former obama administration national security adviser and u.n. ambassador susan rice will reflect on her life and career. also syndicated jackie gingrich cushman will share her thoughts on how to reduce political polarization. biographer benjamin moser recounts the life of the late republican intellectual, and it's an extra day of booktv on
monday with a full slate of author programs including talks by hillary and chelsea clinton the, columnist michelle malkin and former nsa contractor edward snowden to name just a few. for a complete schedule of everything airing this weekend, check your program guide or visit our web site, booktv.org. .. [inaudible conversations]
>> welcome everyone. a beautiful brisk fall day at the southern festival of books. i'm a professor of law and history. i have the pleasure of hosting our session with jason depaul. before we begin just a few quick announcements for me. we had had 31 years of incredible conversations with amazing authors here in nashville.