tv Presidents in History Memory CSPAN August 28, 2018 3:26pm-5:17pm EDT
also a former white house executive pastry chef on working under five presidents. that's all tonight. coming up tomorrow we'll have live coverage as former white house press secretaries join a discussion with current white house correspondents and presidential historian john meachum to talk about george h.w. bush, andrew jackson and franklin d. roosevelt. live coverage from the white house historical association conference with representatives from presidential sites across the country will get under way wednesday morning at 9:00 eastern.
white house historical association vice chair introduces panel. this is about 1:45. good morning, ladies and gentlemen. i'm very happy to be here. i'm also treasurer of the ronald reagan foundation as well. another presidential site. to get things off this morning, i'd like to frame or session by connecting to the over arching objective of the summit it which is to share stories and memories of the narratives they create and discuss insight spoo the management and out reach of presidential libraries, homes and museums.ispoo the management and out reach of
presidential libraries, homes and museums.nspoo the management and out reach of presidential libraries, homes and museums.tspoo the management and out reach of presidential libraries, homes and museums.ospoo the management and out reach of presidential libraries, homes and museums. the management and out reach of presidential libraries, homes and museums. there focuses on the executive mansion as the sled that connects all of these sights and connects to national stage for communication and innovation among sites and libraries in future. what kinds us all together is our deep set passion for honoring the history of the presidency and individual records as well as our recognition of the importance of preservation of history more broadly. the preservation is not a fore gone conclusion. at the same time america must grapple with the competing interest and budgetary challenges of aging
infrastructure and as a country that has become more culturally and demographically diverse with ideas and ideologies. our collective mission like preservation of history itself must endure. our efforts are helping to shape the future informed by the wisdom that only the recognition and appreciation of history can bring. when one considers the mediums to which antiquity is captured, it's our physical sutructures that make the most indelible marks. for all of us at the association, the white house it notes the unshakable and seemless continuity of the executive branch. a reminder that america is not
governed by enduring presidency. furl still and consistent with our back to the white house theme, the nations still testing the ideal of a collective that could be impervious to treacherous divide. the executive mansion is a visible and tangible monument to the ultimate recognition of such an america. a country that had seen its way through the darkest of threats to emerge. the sense of permanence si represented and imbide by all who work in them and visit them daily is an essential feature of our future as it's been of our past.
in this way, we enable the american people to remain connected to our common past. in doing so, build a bridge to ensuing generations whose only stories will continue to strengthen the fabric that binds us together one by one. perhaps even inspiring them to renew the promise that is the united states. if the past is prologued, reeptd with victories and set backs, future of this great nation holds boundless promise to remain foundationally strong, rich in character, entirely unique, beautiful in its design and above all things, enduring.
unique, beautiful in its design and above all things, enduring. entirely unique, beautiful in its design and above all things, enduring.rich in character, ent unique, beautiful in its design and above all things, enduring. to further enlighten us in this regard, please join me in welcoming this extraordinary panel panand we're going to introduce each of them to you. first let me introduce our moderator. it's a great pleasure to have susan swain join me here.
susan, i'll turn oifver to you. it's delightful to be with you. welcome to my panel of shrinking violets. we're going to talk about presidential myth making and disruptions to the factual history that all of us in this room and whatever capacity we are in strive to tell. we had a really lively organizing conference call and some wonderful back and forth e-mails. my job was to try to organize that for the next hour and a half. what i've done for this morning is to think about the techage. we always hear about disrupters. what i've done is organize our discussion and their thoughts into six disrupters of presidential history. popular culture, current events, research, constituent groups,
digital technology and funding. bring in so many scholars but this most successful had nothing to do with that. >> yes. it's called hamilton. signers of the constitution. 39 super bowligned and three re. in the front of the room is washington and madison. i think we need a rap musical for james madison. i think it should go reason versus passion. the american way, the american led it astray.
we discovered that by putting the name ha millsmilton next to picture, that's great way to bring people into the building. it's harder to bring to life the significant less dramatically compelling frame work. also we have the most important frame from the philosophical perspective, james wilson who came up with the idea that we the people of the united states as a whole are sovereign rather than people of individual states. in the movie 1776, all of us presidential historian junkies
may have seen this dramatic experience. wilson is maligned. he's presented as the foolish character because it's too difficult to tell his story. i did a quick look. the dramatic ones do a lot better. there's a lot more lincoln plays and movies in the 20th century than washington because lincoln is such a compelling human character and washington is almost too good to be true as henry adams said. we have this show of freedom
>> he lost his leg. i think it was john adams who said i think i lost another image. >> he was searching for the original more perfect union. >> we've got the beginning of the musical right here. he was quite a character. >> let's talk about the many modern depictions of lbj and movies since we're on the movie them right now. how does this librarian foundation respond, if at all, especially if they stray from the research.
>> three dramatic depictions in recent years. a film by rob reiner called " "lbj "lbj." they did a marvelous job. ava did this story of selma which included lbj. the first two were pretty good. they help us. we had woody and bryan come to the library and study the role. i was really impressed with how much they immerse themselves into trying to understand lbj.
i marvel at how curious they were. they want to know every facet. it showed him as an obstructionist. >> which was not true. that story seem to continue on and on as a run up to the oscars. we had entertainment tonight calling the library. like don't you have a kardashian to chase. it became a big story. that launched a debate about the responsibility the film maker
has in capturing the reality of the subject in telling it accurate story. lbj is to my kids what calvin coolidge would have been to me. that's a long time to go back. >> a modern president has been treated more frequently in movies than john k. kennedy. with the volume of material does the library and foundation respond or does it have any extra traction for you when he's a subject of yet another film.
>> a series of american political dynasties for cnn. that's going to follow the one on the ken i cans. it's stressful to be in front of cameras and have the make up going. you do your best. take the topic i was assign is to get the information you can find. the information that's in the oral histories in this case at the kennedy library. it's also go to back through the
tape, the nixon tapes, the kennedy tapes. those are just a wealth of information that we can use when we're doing these documentaries. you hope they also come out in things like some of you might have seen the movie that was done in the early 2000s, 13 days about the cuban missile crisis. i teach teachers. a number of us do. an entire teacher institute on presidents and war. i taught one pr the second time on president kennedy in boston. as a sort of lighter fair at the end of the day while it's the cuban missile crisis that popular culture treatment and the way we use that is to say let's turn to the documentary information. let's turn to the oral hifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.hifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.ihifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.shifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was
making in realtime.histhifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.ohifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.rhifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.ihifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.ehifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.shifts. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime.s. let's turn to the reportings that president kennedy was making in realtime. we compare that to how hollywood treats the subject. i find that's a very rich way for teachers to learn about it and take it back to their classrooms across the country. >> the tidal wave of interest that washed over them. they literally, this is not a house that was built to accommodate the number of people who had read the book and wanted to relive the experience by -- i'm sorry. >> when this happens, you worked at so many different presidential sites, how can a site capitalize on that even if it's not your president. is that possible? >> you have to remember most of the presidents i was dealing with, we were more in the mode
of apologizing. >> easy to do. >> i thought but that's an interesting to sort of flip the question inside out. the wonderful thing is with hoover, that's such untap. over and over again we redid it. we tell the story and people don't know the story. they know the depression. they don't know this was a man who fed a billion people in 50 countries who saved more people
the fact is people come to us. first of all, every one walks through the door. secondly, it's like any good story telling exercise. it's extraordinary poi yan gnan and humor. all of those, it seems to me, you have an obligation to our ultimate constituents. those are the people that don't have a phd next to their name but have something just as good.
they may be school kids, scholars but they are enthusists and curious. that's all you need as far as i'm concerned to be admitted. >> jeffrey, let me get you in on this before we move in. i was thinking about the work you've done with the bush family. we have a situation where the archives are not greatly open pr george w. bush. there's been lots of culture treatments. any of them critical of the president. how do historians not let popular cultural establish a view that may be different from those that worked in the administration and those that will untap the record are available to tell. >> i think that would be marvelous every time we get the public perception of a president doing a, b or c. then we get the records and find out that's entirely the way the
story didn't happen. that can sell books. that can change the ntiv narrat and make a great discussion. the problem is getting access to those records. our national archives system is not as frankly, is -- let's say, not as expeditious as historians would like. how is that for polite? and getting documents available. we're just now feeling comfortable with the record system we have for the george h.b. bush system. and that is only because we invested at texas a&m when i was there, invested a great deal of money and effort in essentially filling out the forms that were necessary to get the document that's we have. as an example, we now have every single phone conversation that president bush sr. had with a foreign leader during his time in office. which is quite remarkable, i have to say. by the way, i encourage you to
go read them. they're online. they're quite remarkable. i it's an amazing to see a president speak with a african leader and asian leader and then no notes in between. it is astounding. so when we have the popular perception, i think our job as historians is to try to move things along so that the new information can essentially help round out the public perception. i got to tell you, one other thing, having just written a book on george h.w. bush, people would constantly ask, what did you discover that is new? what is really shocking? and there were some interesting new things. i have to tell you, the general story of what happened during those years was pretty darn right. which is to say there are thousands of journalists in this city working every day to find out where the administration is doing. they do a really good job. we do as historians is go behind the curtain.
the journalists couldn't but the narrative is quite good. >> let me move on to topic two which is very similar which is societal trends and current events. cookie, i'm going to start with you. i'm going to ask my panelists to jump n hyper partisanship is a fact of our modern age. and with your long experience, you know, we go through cycles. we're in one of those now. but as a historical storyteller, how has the hyper partisanship of the current age affect your ability to connect with leaders, tell the stories and has it changed your narrative at all? >> well, it changes the narrative only in that you're constantly saying it didn't used to be this way. and but the fact is that it does affect not so much how you tell the story but how the story is received. because people have gone off as we all know into their camps. and so they agree or disagree
and decide only to listen to or watch the things they agree or disagree with. it becomes very difficult to have a straight story. i mean, journalists really do try to do that every day all day. and particularly now with being under attack as fake news, that becomes a bigger problem. people really believe that. and do have a sense that they can't trust anything that they read or hear. so that becomes a bigger problem. the burden which is a good one on us is to really make sure you're getting it right. because you don't want to give any ammunition to the people who think that you are making it up. and so -- and i think that's a good burden. we should have always been getting it right. but there is more pressure to do
that. i have to say that the miller center makes a huge difference. it really does. that's the place where you can go and i do a lot of history in my pieces as well as the books, obviously. but that's the place you can go to get the straight stuff. and to really know what the presidents were up to. and listening to the tapes which is just plain fun, you no he? it's eaves dropping. i mean it's fun enough to read dolly madison's mail, but to listen to the tapes is really instructive. and as in the cuban missile cross-ice it, for example, what you hear on the tapes is the evolution of john kennedy as president. and all of the people who were in the room with him who thought he was joe kennedy's kid and been in the senate for 15 minutes and didn't know anything, suddenly developed a respect for him. and you can hear that evolving
over those 13 days. it's fascinating. and so i think just constantly going back to the sources, constantly making sure you're getting it right but understanding that they're tl a -- going to be a bunch of people that simply don't believe it. >> it's a special opportunity in a polarized time to encourage people to rise above their political biases. and susan, c-span and the constitution center has this wonderful collaboration. we have this joint mission, private nonprofits with a congressional mandate to be nonpartisan and our experience on our landmark supreme court cases series of bringing together the top liberal and conservative scholars to debate not the political issues in the case but the constitutional issues is the most elevating project that i've been involved in. and broadly, that's what the constitution center tries to do in all of our discussions. i'm a law professor. i begin every discussion by
saying let's set aside our political views. but converge around what we agree and disagree about the constitution. so the question is not is gun control a good or bad idea. it's does the constitution allow it or prohibit it? and then you invite people to open themselves up to the possibility that their constitutional conclusions might diverge from the political ones. they may think that gun control is a great idea. the second amendment prohibits it but the second amendment allows it. and just by framing it that way, i have my law school classmate, that's what we were taught to do in law school. our mission with the constitution center is to bring this method of constitutional analysis to all citizens. and to think about the presidents in similar terms. so, for example, for people who are bashing the current president about his use of executive orders on our podcast we'll say but his predecessor used just as many executive orders. the imperial presidency -- or
presidential tweets. president obama was the first tweeting president. once you view the office of the presidency in constitutional rather than purely political terms, it's a tremendous opportunity for historical and constitutional education and it's what gives me great confidence that in the end as historians and teachers we can -- this is all of our mission. it's our obligation, ladies and gentlemen. we've got to elevate the country above partisanship because we're not going to get out of it, you know, that the causes of it are geographic, self sorting and filter bumbles. that's a problem. that makes our mission all the more urgent to lift people above their partisan disagreements to converge around the history and constitutional ideals that unite us. >> susan, there are moments, right? and it's not just movies or books, whatever. there are moments. we are living through one right now with the death of john mccain where we have really had had a lesson over the last few
days and we'll continue to through saturday of what it is to rise above partisanship. and to put country first. and those -- you know, in his post humous words, how anyone can read them, i don't know. they were so moving. but those are moments in our history and people are paying attention. and i think that we all have to take advantage of this moment which is exactly what john mccain would want us to do. >> it helps when you have a president exert moral authority to reinforce that moment. and i have to say walking past the white house yesterday and seeing that flag at full mass was a moment for me, a sad one. just if i may just comment on the question about the fourth estate. susan, the -- there's always been friction between the press and the president. there should be.
>> that's right. >> that's what democracies are about. we're about friction. lbj said that if i walked across the potomac river, the headline in the next day's "washington post" would be president can't swim. but the difference is that if you look at nixon, probably in my lifetime, the greatest friction between a president and the media was with richard nixon. but -- and he had his henchmen really take on the press. but what do we remember? what is the phrase that he invoked? that is light stuff in 2018. you have a president calling the media the enemy of the people. and i think that certainly, like the flag being at full mass, crosses a line. but i won't agree with cokie. i think the press has gotten
better because -- i say we, i do a little journalism as well. but i think we're thinking very seriously about what we're putting into print. knowing it's going to be scrutinized. knowing that we're going to have people on the other side of what we're saying, criticizing everything that we do and i think that my hat's off to the journalism world. i think that reporting is sharper. it's better. it's more factually based and i marvel at the reservations and reserved journalists are in this very hostile climate. >> richard, you are knee deep in agnew right now. >> please, i wouldn't put it quite that. >> you're well into your research about -- >> gerald ford. okay. >> but my point is just picking up on jeffrey rosen's comments
about moments and turning them into teaching moments. so if you have a period of time where there's antagonism with the press or use of executive orders, can we historically use them as teaching moments? >> you know, it's interesting. the unacknowledged privileges of being a historian is the option if you don't like the present to live in the past. and i'm doing that right now. very happily. you know sh it, it's funny. i look at this differently. that is the relationship between journalists and historians. it's sort of like in oklahoma, musical, the song with the farmers and the cowboy "should be friends." i'm not sure -- ironically, some of our best historians are journalists. maybe vice versa. there's a reason though thafr it
said that journalists write the first draft of history. the classic example in modern times is dwight eisenhower who at the first poll after a presidential historian after he left office, he finished below chester arthur, that doesn't happen anymore. and so i raise the question, what did we get wrong? dwight eisenhower was along with george washington was one of maybe the only men in our history for whom the presidency was a demotion. you know? there is that wonderful story that involving milton, ike's brother who is president of the university of pennsylvania and they were getting ready. he persuaded ike to come give the commencement address. and it was outdoors and the weather was threatening and making small talk. and milton, you know, said just
to kill time, god, do you think it's going to rain? and ike said, milton, i haven't worried since the weather since june 6, 1942. >> puts things in perspective. >> puts it in perspective. the difference is historians have tools and materials that in some ways are denied to journalists. we're utterly dependent on journalists for what we do but we also have the advantage of time. it takes time. particularly where polarizing presidents are concerned. it takes time for passions to cool, for papers to become available, and above all, for us to examine how many -- a dozen american presidents have had to deal with the middle east. you can compare them. so instead of having -- i mean how many of us have gotten called by journalists wanting -- what's history going to say
about the incumbent? you know? and, well, you know, ask me in 20 years. >> give it time. >> that sort of thing. >> they do tend to give it too much time. when i was researching my first history book, i called historical society that should go unnamed and i said you have the papers of so and so. do you have his wife's papers? and they said, oh, you know, we haven't come anywhere near finishing going through his papers. it's been 200 years! honestly, as a journalist, that is not acceptable. >> that drives home a really central point. yes, it takes time and patience. it tauz a lkes a lot of resourc energy and effort. presidents who are still alive,
it takes their enthusiastic embrace of the scrutiny of history. why did eisenhower go from being one of the least respected presidents to one of the best? there's a single answer -- we got access to the records. once we saw what was really going on, we realized what a master he was at everything that he touched within the oval office and how everything within his government went through him. we didn't have that sense before we were able to see the documents. in fact, i would even pause it that every president that we have gotten access to the documents over the course of the researching and the investigation public's estimation of that president has gone up. >> yeah. >> which is to say if i was running a -- the campaign for an expresident's prestige, the first thing i would do is open up everything i could because the more people realize the complexity and the difficulty and the nuance that presidents have to deal with, the more impressed they become. so we can be in a sense the
gateway to understanding the better sense of the president but only if we have the access and enthusiastic support of those who control those documents. >> ronald reagan wanted to open every single document immediately dealing with u.s.-soviet relations. he had that folk wisdom. he understood this is important and this is going to make me look pretty good. >> and lady bird was the hero on the johnson tapes. you know, she had a lot of opposition of people not knowing -- she didn't know what was on those tapes. anything could have been on those tapes. >> sometimes was. >> and she just said open them up. >> barbara, we're coming to you next as we're morphing into research. but you want to comment on this section too. >> yes. this serves as a segue to that point. susan asked me to think about
the place of documents versus oral histories, for example. and speaking of lady bird, she did a tremendous oral history with the johnson library that oxford university press which has a long and venerable history of publishing oral histories published that oral history. with some light touches of analysis along with it. because we have done every presidential administration's oral history starting with jimmy carter and even starting a little bit with gerald ford and a group oral history we did back in the late 70s as soon as he left office, ted kennedy came calling. and he said he would like the miller center to do his oral history. so i've just been finishing the touches of a manuscript for that for oxford. so to jeff's point about it certainly does take time and resources for these papers to come out. we haven't mentioned the security issues. and so all of these papers have
to be run through security protocols to make sure that they're still kennedy document that's are not out yet for national security reasons. so it takes that time. it takes the processing time to do. and so how we view oral history in working with usually the top 100 to 150 members of an administration and we always hope the president and the first lady themselves, but we view that as filling in a gap because we can usually get through those in about ten years which seems at the time to take a while. but compared to 200 years of waiting for these papers to come out or in the case of others may be ten, 15, 20 years. we do know there are document fetishes among historians. they say who is going to believe in oral history? that's just going to be someone telling his or her version. and, you know, sort of shading the truth. again, we -- i view this as a puzzle. you're looking for as many piece
as possible to complete the picture. i see the oral histories falling into place as part of the pieces of the puzzle and you take the documents that come out at various times and you can begin to put that piece of the puzzle together and come up with the full picture you hope. >> i think that is right. it is the full picture in trying to get the mosaic is right. one thing in particular that is a little different which is we allow, we mandate that all of our oral histories be videotaped. because then you can see what the person is saying. by the way, you have a better sense that transcript is actually accurate if you can check it yourself. maybe they can't edit what they said because we have the video. there are few exceptions. for example, vice president cheney refused to let us videotape his interview that we
did for our research project. i said mr. vice president, you have to understand, you know, your facial expressions will help tell the story to future generations. they want to see the twinkle in your eye. he looked at me and said, my eyes don't twinkle. now, of course, at that point i have to concede his point. what is really critical as well, i think oral histories are by and large terrible. and i run a oral history project. they're by and large terrible if you're trying to get any particular detail. if i ask people in this room what did you have for lunch today? about 40% of you will get it wrong and 30% of you can't remember if you had lunch yesterday. but at some point in our conversation, at some point in our oral histories, every former
poll smaker wi policymaker will say, you know what matters? that one line is worth the interview. that gives us a real sense of what they think upon reflection is important. but again that, is only available when we have the enthusiastic support of administrations. >> and also you've seen a change tremendously though. they've gotten so much better. i mean the kennedy ones are really bad. and as you see all of you progress and ways of interviewing people, they've just improved dramatically. >> and moreover, the historians perspective is get the details. what's the true story as we've been talking about trying to reach as a political scientists and my colleague russell riley and i who now co-chair the oral history program, we are looking for institutional information. how does the presidency operate? how does the bureaucracy
operate? we're looking for decision making processes. how did these people go about making decisions in addition to trying to find the tick-tock as they say in washington. >> they say c-span is an oral history in progress all day every day. and is providing a tremendous service. >> absolutely. >> for the older presidents, the oral histories take different forms of just finished a biography of that underappreciated constitutional hero, william howard taft. and his main oral history is archie butt. he served theodore roosevelt and he gave a sense of taft's thin skinned tendency to lash out at those that are disloyal. but to really capture the essence of the man, i just read his papers. they're in eight volumes. it takes a while. you read them and you have touchdown enly throu
suddenly a sense of this chief justice who views every decision through constitutional terms and think the president can only do what the constitution explicitly allows unlike roosevelt who thinks he can do anything the constitution doesn't forbid. so the combination was useful. i should say on documents too, at the constitution center, text is sacred. and it's incredibly wonderful as a teaching tool. so we just started an exhibit with the five rarist original drafts of the constitution. they've never been put in the same place before ever. james wilson's drafts. and it is interesting. we put the text online. go to americantreasures.org or google it. you can see the evolution of the office of the presidency from a six year term leelected to the evolution of the preamble of we the people of the states of new
hampshire and prove sense and to we the people of the united states signifying wilson, james wilson, maligned hero, his belief that the whole people were sovereign. so just putting the text on -- there is one other really cool thing that you can find online at the interactive constitution center. you can click on the first amendment, for example. and see the documentary sources in the revolutionary state constitutions. so madison didn't make up the bill of rights, he cut and pasted from the massachusetts constitution of 1780 or the virginia of 1776 and seeing the evolution of the text throughout the convention is just a great way of diffusing the partisan passions. you say to students, you see that two states, virginia and pennsylvania recognize the right to bear arms primarily as a right of citizens not to be disarmed, two states saw it as a right of self-defense for people to defend themselves or for purposes of hunting game and the other saw it as a militia right and you make up your own mind. text is sacred and nonpartisan
and wonderful. >> to bring it full circle, it's -- my experience, i've done 170 interviews now for the book i'm writing on gerald ford. and the irony is as a historian, i bring a journalistic sensibility to the interviews. the best oral histories are with journalists because they're story tellers. because they have an eye for detail that quite frankly might elude the political scientists and because they give you a vivid sense of being there. >> but the other thing is they don't put themselves in the story. >> right. >> the problem with, as barbara knows this well because of all the oral histories she's seen, people inflate their own importance. >> and you have to keep that in check. as you read these things or if you do these, you have to factor that in. >> the schlesinger interview of jackie kennedy. he keeps trying to get her to
say what he thinks. >> and also has no interest in what she thinks. she's only interested in the president and not in her. >> part of the reason for that is as journalists, we tend to know the story ahead of time. and have done the research on it. way too often the oral histories are sort of, barb, tell me about your time with the president. and what you have to say is october 13th, 1962, what happened that day? >> let me pick up on that. so much of your scholarship is on women's role in american history. i'm wondering going back to current events, with the increased interest in women's history, with the me too movement, has there been more
material available for you? have the libraries been open to look more at the role of first ladies in american history? >> yes. yes. the role of women is suddenly noticed. you know, half the population. but it's definitely gotten better. it's got a long way to go. it definitely has gotten better. and there is particular interest, since we're talking about sites, the place that's are best about this frankly are the historic homes. mt. vernon or montpelier, the adams homestead which cracks you up abigail in there with four kids and soldiers and about the size of this stage. and writing these remarkable letters at night by candlelight after the long miserable day.
but they do care about the families. so you get more of the women's story from those sites than do you from other sites. >> before i leave this topic, i want to understand what the future looks like with the digital age. first in the preservation of history and an age of presidential tweets, social media and electronic communication and what the future historians will have to access. the sec thiond thing that crossy mind about this is the role of research librarians as artificial intelligence becomes smarter and easier to search for things. what role will those folks have in the future of telling presidential history? what are anyone's thoughts on the future preservation? >> we're working with the obama foundation as we look to have a piece of the oral history there. and so you might have seen a tweet that went out for president obama's birthday this summer that announced that a
really different kind of oral history, a grassroots, ground up oral history that they're going for the obama which is i understand is not going to be called a library. it's going to be called the obama presidential center because to your point, susan, they'll not have hard copies of documents and archives, rather, they will all be digitized. that is one difference there. taking advantage of the process of digital media and not attempting to have the hard copy documents. one person that regretted leaving card cad logs talogs, io go through the cards, i appreciate the fact that this will be a different approach and probably in the end even a better approach. but for doing this ground up oral history, they just spread the word to say to people they want to focus on the 2008 historic election of president
obama. send us your memories. take out your iphone and record your memories and go to your neighbors and go to your friends and to your family and record their memories. so they're going to start from the ground up. we hope to do what is called top down, obviously, and talk to the key members of the administration. >> crowd sourcing. it is really the future. and it's going to be difficult because, again, what is true and when i was working on civil war book and was talking to the people at princeton who have a lot of papers, they were sable sayi -- saying all the re-enactors, they learn everything about their character. and if we could crowd source with what they have and bring it together, you'd have a completely different civil war history. and it would be fascinating.
i think that's where we're headed. but it's very dicey. >> i think if you combine the fact that crowd sourcing can be key with the idea that we all know at this point that we're in separate political tribes of various stripes, what we need to find is some way to get the tribes organized so the crowds at least know what is true and what is not. i think this is one of keys for historic sites and historians to -- essentially be the arbitors of what is and is not fact. you know, you cannot say that john kennedy won the revolutionary war. somebody has to be able to stand up and say i'm sorry, no. that's simply not right. and one of the things -- >> everyone knows it was lyndon johnson. >> what's amazing is he walked across the delaware to do it. >> exactly. >> one thing that is really wonderful about the new resources offerous resources obviously is how we
get access for everyone. every library is trying to put more and more online. so every citizen can go and see the raw material. not just the result but the raw data, raw oral histories in this case. what concerns me in the future that even with a sense of having historians be ar about itors, we are increasingly seeing a segment of the population that refuses to be swayed by fact. we're in the ready is truth moment. i'm concerned about what happens. give me a theoretical question, can't possibly happen. let's suppose there are impeachment hearings. just suppose. hypothetical. and we see a tremendous amount of evidence for whatever the crime that a president might have committed, high crime that, is similar to what occurred for richard nixon and the
prosecutors tell us is irrefutable. we hear kennedy or nixon. we know the voices tell us something that is actually in the record. they say we actually verify this is true. but that is a more dicey question in the 21st century. >> we won't solve the problem of fake news which is a serious one. one thing question do as conveners is to bring together trusted organizations from both sides. so the most important thing the constitution center has done is bring together the federalist society, the leading conservative and libertarian lawyers organization and the american constitution society, the leading progressive organization, to co-sponsor and online interactive constitution!
and now is the time i make my plug. i pull out my iphone and ask you to download it. not now because we're talking. but after the show, it has an 18 million hits since it launched three years ago. it convenes the top liberal and conservative scholars to write about every clause of the constitution describing what they agree about and what they disagree about. so you can click on the first amendment or the second amendment or the export and port preference clause and find 1,000 words by the liberal and conservative collars about what they agree like a unanimous supreme court majority opinion and separate statements about areas of disagreement. first of all, as a constitutional wonk, it's the most exciting thing i ever experienced. there are 80 clauses the constitution. i teach this stuff. it is the interactive constitution in the app store or online. and the college board, i'm doing my plugs here but it's so exciting. the college board agreed to work with us to create a two week course on the first amendment
that they're going to require of all five million ap students and then the next goal is to bring it not just to ap students but to every citizen in america. but the federalist society and the american constitution society love working with each other and the scholars, remarkably, this is another extraordinary thing, were able to agree on their 1,000 word statements quickly. there are only a couple cases where they had a lot of back and forth. and that's because it turns out that there is much more about the constitution than united states us than divides us. so we have this great role to play. we can fight the polarization. >> we have to move on. a quick comment? >> quick comment. the whole issue about information and access, there's a statement being made here. and i'm still trying to program my dvd. but the fact of the matter is the older presidential libraries
had it right. he understood that whether if you were a researcher or what museum people call a grazer, a casual visitor, the fact of the matter is whether you set foot in the archives or just a museum or just the estate, it was all an xiblexhibit. you can provide access, i suppose, to more people than ever before. you can provide a certain amount of information. to go back to what i said earlier, there is no substitute for being there. i wonder whether we're sacrificing that personal experience in the name of convenience. >> a great question besides presidential hist rich. my fourth disruptor is
constituent czys. you're t -- constituencies. you're the lead on that. this being covered by c-span, i reserved 15 minutes at the end for your questions. so i hope along the way you've been thinking about things you want to follow up on and there are going to be micro phones on the side of the room. interactive tv is so much more interesting for all of us. get prepared to ask questions in the last part of this. constituencies. what i'm thinking about is presidents themselves or presidential families, descendants, former cabinet members, local and state historical associations, constituencies, communities with economic interests, universities who have an interest in their institution being well served and being involved academically. that's a lot of people pulling you in a lot of different directions what you're running an institution. you've had so much experience with that. >> i ran five presidential libraries in 17 years. which tells you right away i couldn't keep a job.
manufacture t many of the influences are pulling on you. you have a new library. it's different from an older library. you have a living former president for whom you work, whether they know it or not. you're a employee of the national archives. guess what? you work for the president. or the first lady. or subsequent generations of the family. invariably, i have to say, my experience, the families in the presidential libraries have been absolutely essential to building on the initial enthusiasm. there is no such thing as a permanent exhibit. i think you'll find all the libraries -- i think the johnson library, are you on your fourth permanent exhibit since 1971? the ford is on its third. and in any event, my last job,
you understand why, was in springfield, illinois. >> i don't want to run into. it was the people of springfield. it was lincoln lovers and the world over. but ultimately a state of illinois. and the valuable lesson i learned was, success in illinois government consists of getting out of town before the indictments. but individuals, we can never forget, in the end, it's passionate, enthusiastic, people who still, you know, whether they're donors, in the case of springfield, a woman named joy solini who more than anyone else, single-handedly, imagined
an abraham lincoln presidential library as an outgrowth of the existing illinois state historic al historical library. the federal government came n but if it had not been for one person, the lincoln presidential library would not exist. the problem with that and quite frankly they and they're experiencing this now, they did it backwards. when you build a presidential library. the president and friends and supporters, they all get together. they create a foundation. they raise the money. they build a building. and they create an endowment. so you can program that institution long after they're gone. the grassroots enthusiasm in and around springfield that created the lincoln library is they built the library first and only
then created a foundation. and that's a model that i don't think even they would recommend for the future. >> but you have that in places like mount vernon. you know, where -- >> jim reese. >> right. well, before that. miss cunningham. >> yes. absolutely. >> so, you know, you had this falling apart place there. but they were able to bring it together and make it what it is today because of a couple of people. >> so the johnson daughters are very much involved in foundation and story telling to this day. someone on our call talked about the vehemence of beliefs when family members and former cabinet members and the like have still an active role. so how do you balance that passion that comes from being a family member with story telling and dealing with other
constituencies? >> depends on the -- the case of the johnson library, lbj set the tone from the very beginning. when the institution was inaugurated in 1971, he said "it's all here. the story of our time with the barkov for friend and foe alike." and he did not want to direct history. i think, richard, you mentioned, somebody wanted to open the records. actually, i'm sorry. it was jeffrey. they wanted to open the records as soon as possible on russia. >> right. >> he wanted the american people to be exposed to that story. and so the good news about the johnsons and i think what makes the lbj library a solid institution is they never been heavy handed about the story
that we're telling. >> unlike the kennedy library. >> it can be different for the different institutions. there's a great story, one of my favorite stories. richard nixon attended the 1961 inaugural of john f. kennedy who beat him for the presidency in the election in 1960. and as he was walking out, he runs into ted sorenson, one of kennedy's speechwriters. and nixon says to sorenson, i wish i said some of those things. and sorenson said, you mean the part where he said ask not what can you do for your country? and nixon said, no, the part where he said i do solomnly swear the point about that story is every man who takes the office wants to put his stamp on the presidency, his unique stamp. and the institution that's bear their names after they leave
office also have their own -- they're unique institutions. the families too unique in the stamp that they want to make. i think it's best when we're not heavy handed. when we let people tell the story as it was. and generally speaking, that reflects well on the principle. >> barbara or jeff? any comments on this, on constituencies? >> i'm just going to speak as a constituency of one as an individual. i was taken to the birthplace of abraham lincoln. as i sat listening to that beautiful concert and sitting in front of the lincoln memorial and there is a miniature version of the memorial. one of the ideas for the lincoln memorial is build a giant log cabin there. but i remember as a child of five, not being able to quite
comprehend that wasn't the actual cabin that lincoln was born but in terms of sites and places, i do remember seeing a tree there that they said this tree we know is so old that it was here when lincoln was born. that was so meaningful to me. it goes from there to my first trip to hyde park which is just eight years ago. i loved going through the home and seeing eleanor's home. but as we rounded a corner and came to the bedroom the ranger said this is where fdr was born. i burst into tears. and i didn't even know why. i realize that my grandparents said fdr saved us. my dad's family lost their home in the great depression. and i think my friends were ready to call security.
the mascara was rolling down my face. no matter whether we're a child coming through or a scholar as an adult, they are so meaningful. as you say, you can't know the -- i don't think can you know the presidents without going to those sites and going through the libraries. >> i'm going to ask both of you to talk about that. you have the historic district, the city of philadelphia all with interests and the constitution center. you have a board with some high powered public officials on it. talk about managing those relationships in a way that might be meaningful for people from smaller sites here who also have constituencies in their communities that they have to deal with. >> i do think i have the best job in the world. i run and education foundation with no students and in faculty.
that is ideal in every respect. so next to that, the need to deal with and be accountable to an extraordinary board of patriotic philanthropists on both sides of the aisle who have individual needs but are responsive and committed to this nonpartisan mission is really just an exercise in personal relationships. and in had keeping people up to date and in understanding what their special passions are. the most important challenge that a nonprast like tofit like constitutional center has it is privately funded. we have this inspiring congressional mandate but no money which is, you know, a challenge. and it's also inspiring but challenging. you think everyone cares about the constitution. but in a tribal polarized world, if you're not going hard left or right or not playing to the extremes but trying to bring
together what is shared, there is small but passionate group of people who are really able to support that. so the most important part of constituency relationships is having a clear sense of mission and never deviating from it. of course it's challenging to be able to talk directly and relevantly about the constitutional issues in the news, toing rep, to be able to talk about impeachment, treason, all these hotly contested issues but do so in a way that all sides feel heard, bringing together both sides, only talking about the constitution, no the about politics. it's crucial. word choices are important. we're going through a branding exercises as many people do anticipate talking about freedom and liberty. or emphasizing in a civil war exhibit a quality or freedom.
so always being attentive to the nuances and coming up with language that accurately conveys what everyone can agree on is crucial. there is also, finally, the constitution center is at least three things, museum on independence mall. it's an education center. and it's a producer of public programs. america's town hall happily many on c-span and in philadelphia and around the country. teaching, that is ultimately what all the functions are. americans from 8 to 80 or 9 to 90 speaking about the constitution in way people can understand. never talking down to people but elevating them and inspiring them to develop the faculties of presenting them with the best arguments so they can stretch and grow and learn and be inspired to be life long learners. that's the special passion and as can you hear from the way i'm talking about it, the way to do it is not to micro target messages to individual
constituencies but to spread the light of learning and reason as authentically as you can and be confident that people will respond. >> you know, i think one of the most important things is the most obvious. whether it's a board of trustees or historic site, the most important thing is the most obvious which is a sense of trust. the people that are running the organization are trying to do their best job without a political agenda. the people who are running the exhibit need to know the people on the board are there for a reason. because they care passionately about this issue. it's yareally fascinating that have a great sense of misunderstanding and mitts tr t
misunderstanding and mistrusted based on occupation. i'm a professor. you all know therefore i must be a communist. and we laugh because that rhetoric and that monday tra is out there in american society. first of all, i like to say if you think, not you the big you, that as a professor i spent all my time trying to indoctrinate my students, let me assure you, i try to spend all my time getting students to hand in papers. but we need to have a real sense that individuals are trying to get storty out f you don't trust the people you're working with, shouldn't be working with them. >> on that, though, there's been a big change. but it needs to go further. which is that for a lot of these institutions, particularly some of the smaller historic societies which have some very
valuable documents, there's been a sense that we are the priesthood. and these things are just here for the chosen few. of reading them. and you dirty public people don't come in here and touch our beautiful things. that is changing. but it needs to change more. >> i think jeff's point about the dangers of micro programming, targeting specific constituencies, on the other hand, i think for example you think of the african-american experience at a place like mt. vernon or monticello which has literally been transformed. it is being transformed as we speak. i've not seen the sally hemmings quarters. i read about it and eager to see it. it's remarkable that these institutions that aren't grounded in veneration can find
it within themselves to renew themselves and to be contemporary in the best sense of the word. i really tip my hat to organizations like the mount vernon ladies association and the thomas jefferson foundation. i mean they are models, i think, in a lot of ways. >> montpelier has done it too with the slaves quarters. the constitution is more inclusive. and that idea of telling the story in ways that gives voices to all of underrepresented groups and includes sthem a great privilege. >> i have two more disruptors and 22 minutes. jeffrey, you're my lead on this one. we touched on it a bit. it is digital technology. i shows you fchose you for thisu teach and i was just overnight reading a study based on
scientific research that the digital generation are having brain changes because of digital technology. they learn differently. they learn one way compared to people that grew up with books. how do you serve both? >> let me say two contradictory things because that's my job as a professor. the first is i could not agree with the point that this internet thing is turning out poorly. and in particular, there are legions of studies that demonstrate that when students have their computers open and are typing their notes they're not learning. why? because every human being is programmed to go for stimulus and the e-mail is more stimulating than the average professor. it's true.
so consequently, we instruct our students increasingly, it's become a campus wide policy that you cannot use a computer in class. you have to actually write things down because when you're writing about them, you're actually thinking about them and in a way that is different than having the computer open. the defensivelifficulty there i also as presidential sites in the entertainment business, we want people to come through the door and people like to be entertained and like flashy things. the difficulty is trying to find a way to, again, get people to come through the door but also be able to have them take the time and stop. when i think about the presidential sites and the books that we write when i think about oral histories or cnn programs, what i really always try to ponder is what is the one thing that someone's going to take away? people have gotten through the door. what are they going to tell friends on monday morning at the office that they learned?
or what are they going to turn to their spouse as they're preparing dinner and say, you know, i learned something really interesting today. if you could focus on forgetting that one core idea through, then i think we can bring people in with the new technologies but still remember that human beings are still prime to have memories that are selective, let's help them select the right memories. >> your library does such a good job with the decision room. i mean that's just fascinating. you know, they present to you actual decision that's george w. bush had to make with the arguments on both sides and then you decide. and other people in the room can also engage with strangers. >> yes. >> it's fascinating. >> what's great is to stay in the back of the decision points theater and watch different crowds of different people choose different things. because there is even among people who are staring at computers, somehow a sense of group think develops.
and so we actually have people who will in one session say, yes, invade iraq. ten minutes later, next group, don't invade iraq. ten minutes later, invade iraq. and that reinforces the idea that more people think about the problems of the president sh the more they come to appreciate that presidential problems are big. nothing comes to a president's desk unless other people haven't been able to solve it. >> the other thing about the decisions point that was the organizing principle for the president's memoir, so you have multiplatform communication with audiences all with the same theme that was not accidental. >> no. but let me complicate things just a little bit further. i'm going back to the town and gown issue. want to be very clear. i'm not taking any credit for decision points theater. i do not work for the bush library or foundation. i work for the university that has partnered with the bush library on our campus. and the reason i make that distinction is important, to my like, at least, it shows you have to have people that are
promoting a message and then people who are still have the scholarly distance if you will to evaluate the message and can work together and they work together harmoniously. they need to remember they have different jobs. now we mention the most important thing about having this job is tenure. so i encourage all of you to go to your boards and ensure that you will not be fired for telling the truth. >> great. we're going to invite -- we have 15 minutes left. anyone that thinks they might have a question, start getting in line for us. then we'll get to them. >> a trick is to use technology to slow down the liberation rather than to speed it up. so this is the madison point. the thought is large face-to-face assembly reason triumphs over passion, so the constitution is designed to not allow mobs or majorities to form quickly so that the slow voice of reason can prevail.
and that's why tweets are so unmadisonian because tweets based on passion travel farther and faster than the complicated arguments based on reason. on the other hand, podcasts are madisonian dream. an hour of wonky arguments which people with listen to their car or jogging really gets a tremendous response and tremendously spreads the light. technology is a thrill. what an astonishing world we live on. online you can have access to the original records of the convention to all of the c-span programs to the podcasts and interactive constitution. but with very to inspire citizens to have the habits of discipline so that they're actually watching c-span or listening to the podcast rather than watching cat videos or what those do and not elevating ourselves. it's very much an opportunity as well as a challenge and i have confidence we can do it. >> mark? >> i was just going to say, we
have to remember when we're talking about fake news, when our country began, all the media that were available were partisan newspapers. >> right. >> we had to overcome. that you weren't -- >> the fact they did the first amendment what the press was like is quite remarkable. >> that's exactly right. so it just -- this whole notion of fake news, which is ridiculous, by the way, you can say we have had fake news throughout the course of our history. there is nothing but fake news if our environment is steeped in fake news today. >> abigail adams called it tith scurrility of the press. we need to bring that news back. >> madison is excited about newspapers because he thinks the literati will use the newspapers to publish the federalist papers and allow reason to spread slowly over the land. so you get an advantage of an
extended republic and a large republic, mobs can't form quickly but the slow growth of reason will allow the -- reason to triumph. that's the challenge of fast media that travels quickly and that's why we have to -- >> thomas jefferson said the only truthful thing in the newspaper is the advertisement. >> far be it from me to step on thomas jefferson's immortal words. a couple minutes on my sixth disrupter, funding in the future. the announcement by the obama folks that they are abandoning what's become the traditional model of the 13 big presidential libraries with the administration of documents, minimum level of foundation work. they are going forward with their own. the documents will be managed -- i'm talking to people who know this but for the c-span audience, the obama library will be a visitors center telling the obama story and the records will be separately managed by the
national archives and records administration. what does this mean for the future? is it a challenge to the entire structure that's been built up? how do you see this playing out, mark? it means the paradigm has changed and i think irrevocably. presidential libraries have evolved through times. richard directed five of them, one of which was the hoover library. if you look at the hoover library, it's a very modest structure when you compare it to the george w. bush presidential center. they have evolved through time. they have gotten far more ambitious. the reason this changes things so much is that the obama folks have said, yeah, national archives, you take the records, you deal with the records, we'll control the story. we'll take our institution and we're going to tell the story, we'll determine how that runs without your partnership. and i think that's going to change. and i can't see trump changing that. trump is -- when he built his library, perhaps on the board
walk of atlantic city -- joking -- >> maybe. >> maybe. it could be. >> people believe you on that one. well within the range of possibility. >> i think he's going to want to control his story and he's certainly willing to put money into it. we've seen an irrevocable change. >> consider the dangers inherent in this. fdr just as he invented the modern presidency, invented the presidential library. it was his notion thatymbiotic with popular history in one part of the building and research in the other part of the building and as we've seen with presidents like harry truman, dwight eisenhower, that contributes to the evolution of how both scholars and the general public see the brie brars. if you take away the scholarly
function, it's no longer a presidential library. it may be something else, it may be very, very useful and i expect it will be a great success but it's not a presidential library. >> and it might be financially unsustainable, too. because they have gotten so big and ambitious can you rightfully ask the federal government to fund those institutions? >> that's a fair question. >> there's a back story here. the fact of the matter is, there are people in the national archives who have never particularly liked the presidential libraries and over time foes of the libraries on capitol hill have increased steadily the amount of the endowment. now no longer does the foundation not only have to build the building, they have to provide an endowment sufficient to cover 60% of all operating costs. can you think of another cultural institution in america
that operates under that formula? it's as if we're punishing these institutions that are en'd have the world over. people come to this country from other countries all the time to look at our presidential libraries and see if they can reproduce it. it was a stroke of genius on fdr's part and unfortunately it's being done done. >> i'm going to get to our questioners in the audience. >> i work for the national park service and we're working on a major renovation of the lincoln memorial to create a visitor experience in the undercrop to tell not the story of lincoln but of his legacy of why he was memorialized and how the evolution of that site significance has changed over time. we also have the eisenhower memorial being constructed in d.c. i'm curious about your thoughts about the opportunities and maybe more importantly the dangers inherent in
memorializing a president as it pertains to preserving the authenticity of the president's story, of their legacy and maybe most importantly their humanity. >> i'm going ask you to pick a panelist. who would you like to have respond to that? >> how about cokie? >> well first i want to say what a great job the mark service does. it is terrific and what you have online historically is really valuable for those of us who write history. it's not all rosy glasses. it's truth and you keep doing that more and the education of your rangers and other people is just phenomenally good to thank you and the park service has been under tremendous financial
pressure the last several years so that is really a -- you're doing it under difficult circumstances. >> one other panelist have a comment and then i'll move on to the next. >> well, memorializing presidents, we're going to do it so let's do it right. >> and let's also be open to recognizing that interpretations change. >> right. >> over time. hopefully not quickly and profoundly but the sensibility of 2018 is not the sensibility of 1865. >> except for james buchanan. [ laughter ] >> you're going to get in trouble for that. >> in pennsylvania and i'm happy my chief executive -- >> you notice there hasn't been another president from pennsylvania? >> i have. >> my name is michael lynch, i work for the abraham lincoln high brar and muse
library in eastern tennessee, not the one in springfield. dr. smith, presidential libraries and some museums and other sites have a very broad mandate where we're charged with a cradle-to-grave approach that requires interpreting a person within their historical context, the decisions they made, the way they affect institutions and on the other hand looking at them as people, their private lives, domestic lives, relationships, their hobbies. how do we balance those subjects and should we balance them? do you think we should privilege one over the other? >> internally we balance them if we're to have credibility. there's a curious thing at work here. there's the passion for your subject with the detachment that is required in telling the story. at the hoover library, for example, one thing everyone knows going in is that hoover somehow was involved with or caused the great depression. we create an exhibit at the end of that gallery where you vote
on how you think hoover did and however you vote you see a two minute video showing you the other side. i mean, that's one concrete example of balance. but the other thing, in a broader sense, the fact is people go to presidential libraries overwhelmingly not to learn about the finer points of the caribbean basin initiative but to have an encounter with ronald and nancy reagan. and don't condescend to that. the wonderful thing is, if you do it right, if you tell the story properly, if you pull people in both emotionally and intellectually which is what any good exhibiter, any good story does, the fact is the ultimate test, the question that i would ask of my museum if you want to know what is the measure of success and that is very simply when you walk out the door do you walk out wanting to know
more? >> i hope we've done that today, too. you're up next. >> first of all, this session has been absolutely incredible. i could not be -- i just -- you mentioned earlier about your feeling when you were at hyde park. that's how i feel now because i've always had such a love of history like all of you. cokie, you, ann compton, nancy dickerson, barbara walters, all through the' '60s help me develop the interest i have to this day in government, journalism, getting stories right, attention to detail. >> well, thank you. thank you for citing my age. [ laughter ]
>> in saying that i'm not sure i said my name. my name is ann marie bresunis and my husband and i are here visiting from valley forge. we're near to the park, it's possible though not proven that george washington may have slept on our property. but my question is for cokie. earl you you alluded to the fact that when you're interviewing someone you have the answer. you've done the research, you have an idea of what to expect. in all the interviews that you've done, have you ever had an experience where you asked the question and the answer that you received was quite different from what you expected? >> sure, all the time but you still need to know the topic, be able to -- it's kind of like saying to your old uncle "tell me the one about." and you'll get the best from somebody because you know that he tells a good story about the one about but often when you're
on that train of questioning -- you don't know everything going in, you wouldn't learning anything, but you learn a tremendous amount, you're often surprised and sometimes unpleasantly so. >> you're up, sir, welcome. >> my name is paul st.lair, director of the george w. bush home in midland, texas. our goal is to talk about the bush family during their ten years in west texas and my question is for jeffrey engel because you brought it up in your discussion. as a small organization that is not owned, operated, funded by any branch of government -- in other words, we're trying to be self-sufficient -- we have a need to reach out through social media, get more interest and get more visitors from around the world, although we have seen them from every country in the world in the 30 years we've been
open. but you mentioned that tours such as what we give, we want people to interact with us, our docents as we're taking them through the historic home, stay away from social media during that period of time. how do you recommend us joining the need for having that social media interaction and the need for keeping people away from social media during that interaction? >> well, first of all i recommend you do what i do which is say you will fail the course. [ laughter ] that is a difficult question. let me give you one practical suggestion that leaps to mind which is make your exhibits not have wi-fi. if you can seal them off in some way -- which i don't know, is that legal these days, jeff? but i think the real key is, again, to get people to try to
focus and you mentioned the docents and the docents are key because they are going to have the opportunity to continually remind people why they're there. they're not there so they can look at something before they look at their e-mail. they're there because they made the decision so reinforce the enthusiasm for having come. this is why it's so important that you're here is a good line. >> we have two minutes, i'll presume it's okay to run over a little bit for our last three questioners. go ahead, please. >> my name is michael verachiaelli. i've visiting from long island and i've been a presidential history buff since -- my entire life. my question is for the lyndon johnson foundation. at the time when johnson was in politics he was hard core democrat, probably if you can compare his presidency, the most
progressive president until barack obama and when he retired, he -- the state was a solid blue democratic state but now it's pretty much republican and as conservative as can be. so my question is how difficult is it to promote one's legacy in a political climate that has changed profoundly since the time they had existed. >> thank you. >> one of the reasons that texas is now a rhett state as opposed to a blue state is because of lyndon johnson, because of the sweeping civil rights legislation of the 1960s. there's a great story about about lbj, one of my favorites, he's talking to richard russell. richard russell is in the news because there's talk about renaming the russell senate building the mccain senate
building. richard russell was a mentor and friend to lbj and helped him to ascend the ranks in the senate and lbj knew that when he was endeavoring to pass the civil rights act of 164, which would get rid of jim crow laws and their false promise as separate but equal facilities that he was going to have to run over richard russell to do it, his owned friend and mentor and out of respect for him he calls him into his office and he says dick, i have to run over you on this. we're going to pass civil rights legislation that means something but if we do -- be prepared and russell says mr. president, you can do, that i believe you can do that but if you do, you will lose the southern states to the republicans and you will risk losing the presidency in your
own right in the election later this year and he hears him out and he said dick, if that is the price for this bill i will gladly pay it and i think that shows why texas has changed to red, as did the deep southern states and they remain red to this day but they story also illustrates why we're relevant today. that the inherent drama in that story, you get swept up in the story and the times. if we continue to tell that story, continue to show the lasting legacy of lyndon johnson -- and that's easy to do, we will continue to be a relevant engaging institution. >> but it's also a bunch of yankees that turned it. i did a story in texas in 1980, which is the year it turned forever and it was a bunch of people from new jersey and ohio and they had basically never heard of the texas democratic
party and they were for ronald reagan. >> last two questions, you're up, please. >> my name is kate morgan, i'm one of the 15 student scholars. i'm specifically from american university here in d.c. >> wonderful. >> great. >> i was wondering if we could pivot back to the topic of technology in regards to twitter and tweets. just going into more the conversation of how should we preserve tweets? i know that -- i guess this can be directed at mark for the lbj foundation library because you mention the shift in paradigm but i liked the term used not specifically for tweets that was about selective memory. so if we choose to only preserve certain tweets, that almost plays into that same idea of the selective memory and whose voices and whose tweets are still heard centuries from now. so what are your ideas on how we should preserve those voices?
>> thank you. >> may i derve thfer this to ba >> i just remember you saying something about the shift in paradigm. >> in terms of the presidential library model but i would love to hear your thoughts on this. >> i've thought -- great question. i've thought a lot about this for this president's tweets and i view it 234 several ways. so if you walk into the miller center's library at uva, we have volumes and volumes of presidential papers and these include speeches and proclamations and statements in the rose garden so i view them in that way when i'm putting on my objective scholarly hat with president's tweets, starting with president obama. my next thought is looking at paradigm shifts about how new technology affected how presidents relate to the public. so with fdr and radio particularly and fire side
chats, president kennedy and the televised news conference with the rise of television and in both of those instances those presidents seized those moments and they perfected the use of that media and that medium to reach the american people. now to jeff rosen's point about a constitutional structure. i'm calling this period we're living in now a tweetocracy. because when you take the expansion of voting rights to universal suffrage to where everyone 18 and over can technically vote and lay her upon the social media and you layer facebook and twitter, aside from potential russian meddling, you have a very different polity from what madison envisioned even when he talked about the extent and proper structure of the government because you have presidents directly relating to the people so the term social media in a way is a mishow many
inner -- misnomer. medium indicates something between the people and the government and that has been removed. so to your point -- and i think you must be asking as well -- what about the other tweets? what about the people responding to this president or the other night when i heard john mccain died i tweeted out under my account a clip from a statement i heard senator mccain make at the smithsonian april a year ago at the john f. kennedy exhibit when he talked about being on the uss "enterprise" as a newly minted fighter pilot thinking he might go into combat the first time. it turned out there was no combat but he remembered listening to kennedy as mccain was on that ship teaming towards cuba and he said i remember hearing that voice and i remember thinking this was the man for the job and i remember thinking that night, here is a republican speaking so highly of a democratic president and what
those two men had in common, john mccain and john kennedy where they were navy combat veterans who almost lost their lives in the service of their country. so i hope someone comes upon that tweet but i don't know how t answer to how do we save them? do we save them? are we selective and in what way? >> i think the library of congress gave up on the project. >> we are intruding on your coffee hour. we have one last question. >> my name is elizabeth from the hoover presidential library and usually we're forgotten so thank you for talking about us so much. >> you're remembered in the wrong way. [ laughter ] >> but today in a positive way so i'll take it as a victory. my question is for cokie. i worked on a first lady exhibit and used your books with children and adults which was wonderful and was discouraged when we started working on the
first lady exhibit to hear that when it comes to first ladies there is two things that sell, fashion and food. >> you're talking about the exhibit at the american history museum here? >> we did one at the hoover library and we fell in the trap and displayed first lady dresses and it was well received and people showed up but my question is how can we as historians and journalists and people preserving the stories interweave the narrative of first ladies so we can move away from judging them by what they wear and cook and judge them by what they do and who they were? >> susan has also done a great deal of work on this subject. it's fine to show the dresses, they're interesting. i like to see them but the problem is when the dresses are the story and it is fascinating. particularly the shoes, they're really little.
[ laughter ] . but i'm very disappointed with what they did at the american history museum here. they had a better exhibit in the old structure which was about their policy and from martha washington on first ladies have had policies and i think the thing to do is to just make it very clear what -- what was her name? mrs. hoover -- lu hoover. >> she was phenomenal. >> and she was phenomenal and everything she did from the girl scouts on was just remarkable and so i think what you do is tell her story. her clothes can be there but her story and her influence were tremendous and that's the thing to do is to make sure that everybody understands she wasn't just walking around in that dress, she was also doing something very significant and that's true of all of them. >> cokie i just reviewed a brand
new book by the university press of kansas which has an entire series starting with mrs. mckinley on modern first ladies all done from a scholarly perspective so it gives you more than the fashions and food but i just reviewed a book by jill abraham hummer, a young scholar, called first lady and american women and it starts with the relationship between first ladies in american history and particularly feminist history so i think that's the way to do it as well. >> thank you for your attention and great questions. please join me in thanking our panel [ applause ] tonight, american history tv is in prime time. we'll show you our coverage of the white house historical association's presidential site summit with a discussion on presidents in history and memory featuring several presidential
scholars. also a former white house executive pastry chef on working under five presidents. that's all tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span 3. coming up tomorrow, live coverage as former white house press secretaries join a discussion with current white house correspondents and presidential historian jo stoto meacham will talk about george w. bush, thomas jefferson and franklin roosevelt. live coverage from the white house historical association's conference with representatives from presidential sites across the country. we'll get under way wednesday morning at 9:00 eastern. former white house executive pastry chef roland mesnier worked for five presidents. he's retired now but was invited to talk about the presidential site summit taking place in washington, d.c. it's an hour and ten