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tv   The Presidency Presidents in History Memory  CSPAN  September 3, 2018 8:00am-9:51am EDT

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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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, 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.
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first let me introduce our moderator. it's a great pleasure to have susan swain join me here. she's the co-ceo of c-span. joining her is our panelist. first barbara perry. jeffrey engel. richard norton smith. jeffrey rosen, president and ceo of the national constitution center. koki roberts, journalist at pbs. please join me in welcoming our guests here today.
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[ applause ] 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.
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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
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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
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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.
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we have this show of freedom rising with a great actor. it's this elevating, thrilling, educational experience for all of us. we just finished four weeks on figures of reconstruction. it's a great way to connect. telling stories is crucial. >> you can do governor mars who
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wrote the we the people. there's a very sexy story. >> 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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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they know the depression. they don't know this was a man who fed a billion people in 50 countries who saved more people from starvation than hitler, stalin. even in the former soviet union. he's a totally different hoover. when you have this vast reserve, i joke about it, we're not ap l apologists.
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the point is to be as rigorous in your scholarship. 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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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>> 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
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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
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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>> 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
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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?
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 or google it. you can see the evolution of the office of the presidency from a
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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
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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.
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 . . happen. let's suppose there are impeachment hearings. just suppose. hypothetical. and we see a tremendous amount of evidence for whatever the
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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sacrificing that personal experience in the name of convenience. >> a great question besides presidential hist rich. presidential hist rich. my fourth captioning performed by vitac 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 thi there are microphones on the side of the room. interactivity is much more interesting for us. okay. constituencies. what i was thinking about was presidents themselves or presidential families. the former cabinet members and their defendants. local and state historical associations. their 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 when you're running an institution. you have so much experience. >> well, i ran five presidential
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libraries in 17 years. which tells you right away i couldn't keep a job. >> neither could the president. >> yeah. yes. something about those many influences that are pulling on you. and you have a new library. probably different from an older library. you have a living former president for whom you work, whether nyra knows it or not. guess what, you work with 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.
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well, ford is on its third permanent exhibit and in any event my last job -- you'll understand why was in springfield, illinois. and the constituency was a state. it was the lincoln fraternity which is the least fraternal organization you'll ever want to run into. it was the lincoln lovers the world over and but ultimately it was the state of illinois. the valuable lesson i learned was that success in illinois government consists of getting out of town before the indictment. not just in springfield. now -- but individuals. we can never forget in the end, it's passionate, enthusiastic, in the case of springfield there's a woman who more than
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anyone else single-handedly imagined an abraham lincoln presidential library as an outgrowth of the existing illinois state library. she had lots of help and obviously the state became involved. the federal government, the government system came in. had it not been for one person, the lincoln presidential library would not exist. now, the problem with that -- and quite frankly, they and they're experiencing this right now, they did it backwards. when you build a presidential library, the president, his friends, his supporters, they all get together, they create a foundation. they raise the money. they build the building and then they create an endowment so that you can program an institution long after they are gone. and the paradoxical -- the ironical result of the grass roots enthusiasm in and around springfield that created the
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lincoln library was they built the library first and only then created a foundation. that's a model that i don't think even they would recommend for the future. >> but you had that in places like mt. vernon, you know, wh e where -- >> jim reese. >> right. >> one person. >> well, before that cunningham. >> of course. absolutely. >> but 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, you know? so the johnson daughters are very much involved in the foundation and the storytelling to this day. someone on our call talked about the belief when family members and former cabinet members and the like have a still active
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role. how do you balance that passion that comes from being a family member with the storytelling and dealing with other constituencies? >> depends on the fact -- that we in 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 barkoff with friend and foe alike. he did not want direct history to i think -- richard, i think you mentioned it. somebody wanted to open the records -- i'm sorry. they wanted to open the records as soon as possible on -- i forget what -- >> on russia. it was the reagan library. >> russia, right. but lbj wanted the records on vietnam opened as soon as possible. because he was confident he was doing what was right and he wanted the american people to be exposed to that story. so the good news about the johnsons -- and i think what makes the lbj library a solid
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institution is they have never been heavy handed about the story we're telling. >> unlike the kennedy library. >> well, it's different for the different institutions. there's a great story, one of my favorite stories. it may be true, it may be apock rafal, but richard nixon attended the inaugural of john f. kennedy who beat him for the presidency in the election of 1960. and as he was walking out, he runs into ted sorensen, one of kennedy's speechwriters and nixon says, i wish i had said some of the things. you mean the part where he said ask not what you can do for your country? and nixon said, no, i solemnly swear. every man who takes the office wants to put his stamp on the
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presidency. his unique stamp. the institutions that bear their names after they leave office also have their own -- because they're all unique institutions and the families too are unique in the stamp that they want to make on it. 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. >> any comments on this, on the constituencies? >> i'm just going to speak as a constituency of one. as an individual who grew up in louisville, kentucky, and was taken at age 5 to the birth place of abraham lincoln. as i sat last night listening to the beautiful concert sitting in front of the lincoln memorial and there's a miniature version of the lincoln memorial in hopkinsville and they have a
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giant log cabin. but i remember as a child of 5 not being able to quite comprehend that wasn't the actual cabin in which lincoln was born, but that in terms of sites and places i do remember seeing a tree there, they said this tree is so old it was here when lincoln was born. that was so meaningful to me. and it goes from there to my first trip to hyde park which was just eight years ago. and i love fdr. i loved seeing the library and the museum. i loved going through the home. i loved going to see eleanor's home, but we rounded a corner and we came to the bedroom the ranger said, this is where fdr was born. i burst into tears. and i didn't even know why. but i realized as i looked back it was because my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles had said to me as i grew up, fdr save us.
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fda saved us. we lost the home in the great depression and i think my friends were ready to call security. because of -- of my face. but it says to those of you in these sites 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 you can know these presidents without going to the sites and going to the libraries. >> there was a comment made on our preplanning call about the town versus town relationships and i'm going to ask both jeff engel and richard to talk about that. you have the board with some pretty 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 constituents in their communities that they have to deal with. the same question for you. >> well, first, i really do i
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think i have the best job in the world because i run an educational institution with no students and no faculty. the idea -- 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 keeping people up to date and in understanding what their special passions are. the most important challenge that a nonprofit like the constitution center has is fund-rai.t's privately funded. we have the inspiring congressional mandate that no congressional money which is the -- you know, a challenge. and it's also inspiring but challenging. you think, well, everyone cares about the constitution, but in the tribal, polarized world, if
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you're not going hard left or hard right or not playing to the extremes but are trying to bring together what's shared, there's a small but passionate group of people who are able to really 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 in a polarized environment to be able to talk directly and relevantly about all the constitutional issues in the news and be relevant and be able to talk about impeachment, treason, the emoluments clause and bringing together those sides. only talking about the constitution, not about politics is crucial. it is also very important, small nuances of word choices are important. we're going through a branding exercise with as many people -- as many people do. and talking about freedom versus
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liberty, for example, appeals to one side versus the other. or emphasizing the civil war exhibits the quality versus freedom. so coming up with language that accurately conveys what everyone can agree on is crucial. we also finally -- the constitution center at least three things, it's a museum on independence mall, an education center, digitally and online and a producer of public programs. the town hall, happily on c-span. and it's teaching which is what the functions are americans from 8 to 80 or 9 to 90 speaking about the constitution in different ways that everyone can understand. never talking down to people, but inspiring them to develop their faculties of reason and 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 you can hear it from the way i'm talking about it i think the
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way to do it is not to microtarget messages, but try to focus group a particular idea, 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 and one of the most obvious when we're talking about the town, whether it's the university, in our case, the university and a presidential library, whether it's the board of trustees and the historic site and private ownership, the most important thing is the most obvious which is the sense of trust, which is that the people who are running the foundation need to trust the people who are running the organization are trying to do their best job without a political agenda. and the people who are running the actual exhibit need to know that the people who are on the board are there for a reason. because they care passionately about this issue. it's really quite fascinating
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that we have a great sense of misunderstanding and mistrust immediately based upon occupation, based upon region. a good example, i'm a professor. you all know therefore i must be a communist. and we laugh because that's -- that rhetoric and that mantra is out there in american society. first of all, i really like to take a step back and say, you know, if you think -- not you, the big you, that as a professor i spend all my time trying to indoctrinate my students, let me assure you i spend all my time to get them to hand in their papers. i wish i had time, that would be wonderful. but we need a real sense that individuals are trying to get the story out and frankly if you don't trust the people you're working with you shouldn't be working for them. >> you know, this is -- there's been a big change that needs to go further.
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which is that for a lot of these institutions, particularly some of the smaller historic societies which had some very valuable documents, there's been a sense that we are the priesthood. and that these things are just here for the chosen few who are worthy of reading them. and you dirty public people don't come in here and touch our beautiful things. and that is changing but it needs to change more. >> very quickly, i think jeff's point about the dangers of microprogramming, targeting specific constituencies, i think for example think of the african-american experience at a place like mt. vernon or monticello. which has literally been transformed. >> right. >> and is being transformed as we speak. i have not seen the sally hemmings quarters but i read about it and i'm eager to see
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it. >> fascinating. >> it's remarkable that these institutions that are grounded in veneration can find it within themselves to renew themselves and to be contemporary in the best sense of the word. and i really tip my hat to organizations like the mount vernon ways association and the thomas jefferson foundation. i mean, they are models i think in a lot of ways. >> so with the slave quarters, justice ginsburg has a beautiful phrase about the constitution constantly becoming more inclusive and that idea of telling the story in ways that gives voices to all of underrepresented groups and includes them is a great privilege. >> so we'll move quickly here. jeffrey, you're the lead on this one. we touched on this, digital technology. i chose you for this just to pick up on the targeting by the generations.
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because of the speed. i was just overnight reading a study based on the scientific research that the digital generation are having brain changes about absorption of information and processing because of living their life on the digital technology. they learn differently, their attention spans are different and all of us are serving constituencies that learn one way versus people who drew up with traditional books and other access to information. how do you serve those? >> let me say two contradictory things, just as my job as a professor. the first i could not agree with the point that this internet thing is i think turning out poorly. and in particular, in the way that our students are engaging information. so 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 to
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go for stimuli and the e-mail is more stimulating than the professor. true. it's campus wide policy you cannot use a computer in class. you have to actually write things down because when you're writing about things, you're actually thinking about them in a way that's different than having your computer open. now, the difficulty there i think is that we are also as presidential sites somewhat in the entertainment people. we want people to come through the door and people like to be entertained and like stimuli and flashy things so i think the difficulty is finding a way to, again, get people to come through the door, but also be able to have them take the time and stop. because when i think about the presidential sites, when i think about the books that we write, oral histories and cnn programs what i try to ponder what is the one thing that someone is going to take away? as you put it, people have
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historical interests. they have gotten through the door. what are they going to tell their friends that they learned? or turn to their spouse preparing dinner, i learned something interesting today. if you can focus on getting 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 primed to have memories that are selective. so let's help them select the right memory. >> well, your library does such a great job with the decisions from -- i mean, that's just fascinating. where they present to you the actual decisions that 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, you know? >> what's great is to sit in the back of the decision point theater and watch different crowds of different people choose different things.
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because there is even among people who are staring at computers somehow a sense of group think develops. so we actually have people who will in one session say, yes, invade iraq. ten minutes later the group don't invade iraq. the next group, invade iraq and that reinforces the idea that the more people think about the problems of the presidents, the more they come to appreciate that presidential problems are big. nothing comes to the 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 memoirs, so you have communication with audiences, all with the same team. i'm sure that was not accidental. >> no. but let me complicate things a little bit further. going back to the town and gown issue. i wanted to be very clear, i'm not taking any credit for decision points theater because i do not work for the bush library or the bush foundation. i work for the university that has partnered with the bush
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library on our campus. and the reason i make that distinction is really important to my life at least. it shows that you have to have people who are promoting a message and then people who are still -- who still have the scholarly distance if you will, to evaluate the message. and they can work together and they can work together what are moanously but they need to remember they have different jobs. i'll mention the most important thing about having a job is tenure. i encourage all of you to go to your board and ensure you will not be fired for telling the truth. >> well, we have about 15 minutes left. anyone who thinks they have a question, to start getting in line for us and then we'll get to them. you have a thought on this? >> a trick is to slow down deliberation rather than speed this up. this is is the madisonian point. it's in large face-to-face assembly, reasoned plans over passion, athens would have been mobbed with madison, so the
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constitution is designed to not allow mobs, the majorities to form quickly so that the slow voice of reason will prevail. that's why tweets are so unmadisonian, because it's a tweet based on passion, they're going faster than the arguments based on reason. on the other hand, podcast is a dream. and people can listen to in their car or while jogging, it really gets a tremendous response and tremendously spreads the light. so technology is a thrill. what an astonishing world we live on that online you can have original access to all the c-span programs, the podcasts, the interactive constitution. but we have to inspire citizens to have the habits of discipline so they're watching c-span or listening to the podcast or watching cat videos or whatever we do when we're not elevating ourselves. very much an opportunity as well
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as a challenge. i have confidence we can do it. >> mark? >> i would just say we have to remember what we're talking about fake news, when our country began all the media that were available were part of the newspapers. >> right. >> and we had to overcome that. i mean, the fact they did the amendment given what the press looks like is quite -- >> exactly right. so this whole notion which is ridiculous by the way. you can say that we had fake news throughout the course of our history. there is nothing but fake news if our environments is fake news. >> abigail adams called it the -- of the press. it's a word that we have to bring back and it matters. >> madison is all excited about new -- about the newspapers because he thinks a new class of enlightened journalists he calls the ill lit aty will publish the
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federalist papers and allow reason to slowly expand over time. then the mobs can't form quickly, but the slow growth of reason will allow the -- you know, the reason to triumph. that's the challenge of the media that travels quickly. >> thomas jefferson said the only truthful thing in the newspapers were the advertisements. >> hard for me to -- very quick, a couple of minutes. on the sixth disrupter, funding of the future. the announcement by the obama folks that they are abandoning what's now become traditional model of the presidential libraries with the administration of the documents, minimum level of foundation work. they're going forward with their own. so the documents will be managed i'm sure people all know this, but for the c-span audience, the obama library will be actually a
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visitor center telling the obama story and the records will be separately managed by the national archive 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 paradox is st n stained. if you look at the hoover library it's a box structure, but particularly when you compare it to the george bush presidential center. they have gotten more ambitious and the reason that this changes things so much, the obama folks said, yes, national archives you take the records. you deal with the records we're going to control the story. we're going to take our institution and we are going to tell the story. we are going to determine how that runs without your partner. and i think that's going to
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change. i can't see trump changing. trump, when he builds his library perhaps on the board walk of atlantic city -- i'm joking. >> maybe. >> that could be. >> people believe you on that one. well within the range of possibility. >> but i think he's going to want to tell his story, and put money into it. so i think we have seen irrevocable change. >> think of the dangers inherent in this. fdr invented the modern presidency, invented the presidential library. it was his notion that there would be symbiotic relationships between historical research going on in one part of the building and for lack of a better building, for lack of a better word popular history in the museum. and the two interact. as we have seen with presidents like harry truman, dwight eisenhower, you know, that contributes to the evolution of
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the scholars and the general public. the libraries. >> see, if you take away the scholarly function, it's no longer a presidential library. it may be something else, may be very, very useful. and i suspect it will be a great success but it's not a presidential library. >> and it might not be financial sustainable too. because they have gotten so big and ambitious. can you rightly ask the federal government to fund those? that's the question. >> here's the thing. 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 those are 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 now have to provide an endowment sufficient to cover 60% of all
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operating costs. can you think of another cultural institution in america that operates under that formula? it's as if we're punishing the institutions that are envied the world over. people come here from other countries all the time to work at our presidential libraries and to see if they can in some way reproduce it in their own. i mean, it was a stroke of genius on fdr's part and it is being undone. >> i'm going to get to our questioners in the audience. you're up first, sir. >> i work for the national park service at the national mall and memorial parks and we are working on a major renovation of the lincoln center, to tell not the story of lincoln, but of his legacy of why he was memorialized and how the evolution of that significance has changed over time. we have the eisenhower memorial that is being constructed here in d.c. i'm curious about your thoughts about the opportunities and
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maybe more important the danger of memorializing a president as it pertains to preserving the authenticity of the president's story, of their legacy. and maybe most importantly their humanity. >> who would you like to have respond to that? >> how about cokie. >> well, first, i want to say what a great job the park service does. it really is -- what you have online historically is really valuable for those of us who are -- who write history. and it is not all, you know, rosy glasses. it's truth. and it's -- and you keep doing that more and the education of your rangers and other people is
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just phenomenally good. so thank you. and the part service has been under tremendous financial pressure over the last several years so that is really, you know, you're doing it under difficult circumstances. >> one other panelists has a comment? >> memorializing presidents, we're going to do it so let's do it right. >> let's be open to recognizing the interpretations change over time. hopefully not quickly and hopefully not profoundly. but the sensibilities of 2018 is not the sensibility of 1865. >> right. >> except for james buchanan. >> who has -- >> in pennsylvania, i'm happy that the chief executive -- >> sir, you're up. >> i work for the abraham lincoln library and museum in eastern tennessee, not the one
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in springfield. i guess this question is primarily directed to dr. smith. presidential librarians and some museums and other sites have a very broad mandate over basically -- where we're basically charged with the 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, also looking at them as people. their private lives, domestic lives, relationships, 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, one thing everybody knows going in
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everyone knows that he was involved with the great depression. we created an exhibit at the end of that gallery, where you vote on how you think hoover did. how ever you vote you then see a two minute video telling you the other side. that's one concrete example of balance. but the other thing in a broader sense, people go to presidential libraries overwhelmingly not to learn about the finer points of the caribbean based initiative. but to have an encounter with ronald and nancy reagan. and again, you know, 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 a good exhibit or any good story does, then the fact is the ultimate test, the question that i would ask of any museum, what is the measure of success and that is very simply when you
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walk out the door, you walk out wanting to know more. >> i hope we have done that today too. you're up next. >> hello. first of all, this session has been absolutely incredible. i could not be -- i just -- you mentioned earlier about your feelings when you were at hyde park. that's how i feel now. because i have always had such a love of history. like all of you. because of you, ann compton, nancy dickerson, barbara walters all through the '60s have helped me develop the interest that i have to this day in government, in the news, in journalism, getting stories right, attention to detail. so i thank you for that. >> well, thank you. thank you for citing my age. [ laughter ]
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>> and i'm not even sure if i said my name. did i? >> no. >> i'm ann marie, and my husband and i are here visiting from valley forge. we're very near to the park. quite possible, although not proven that george washington may have slept on our property. but my question is for cokie. earlier you alluded to the fact that when you're interviewing someone you have the answer. you have done the research. you know, you have an idea of what to expect. in all your interviews that you have 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? >> oh, sure, all the time. but you still need to know the topic, you know, to be able -- i mean, it's kind of like saying to your uncle, tell me the one about. and then you'll get the best from somebody because you know
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that he tells a good story about the one about. but often while you're on that train of questioning, you learn -- i mean, you don't go in knowing everything. you wouldn't be interviewing because their voice is on tape, because you learn a tremendous amount in those interviews. yes, you're often surprised and sometimes unpleasantly so. >> you're up, sir. welcome. >> hello. i'm the director of the george w. bush childhood home in mid land, texas. our primary goal is to talk about the bush family during their ten years or so in west texas. and my question is primarily for jeffrey engel because you brought it up in your discussion, but anyone else that would like to chime in. as a small organization that's not owned, operated, funded by any branch of government, in other words, we're try to be self-sufficient, we have a need to reach out obviously through social media, get more interest and get more visitors from around the world. although we have seen them for
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pretty much every -- from every country in the world in the 13 years we have been open. but you mentioned that tours such as that we give, we want people to interact with us, our docents as we take them through the historic homes. stay away from social media during that period of time. how do you recommend us joining the need or 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'll fail the course. that is a really difficult question. let me give you a factual suggestion that leaps to mind which is make your exhibits not have wi-fi. if you can seal them off in some way, i don't know if that's even
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legal these days. but i think the real key is again to get people to try to focus and you mentioned the docents and the docents i think are really the key there. if they're going to have the opportunity to continually remind people why they're there, they're there to reinforce their decision for having to come. that's why it's so important that you're here. i think it's a good line. >> we are -- we have two minutes so i'm going to presume it's okay to run over a little bit for the last three questioners. >> hello, i'm visiting from long island, and the presidential -- i have been a presidential history buff since i can remember, my entire life. and me question is primarily for the lyndon johnson foundation. because at the time when johnson was in politics he was hard core
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democrat. probably if you can compare his presidency the most progressive president until barack obama. and, you know, when he retired he -- he was in a solid blue democratic state but now republican and conservative as can be. so my question is, how difficult is it to promote someone's legacy in a political climate that has changed profoundly in the time they had existed? >> thank you. >> you're one of the reasons that texas is now a red 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 lbj, one of my favorites. he's talking to richard russell.
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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 a friend to lbj and helped him to extend the ranks in the senate and lbj knew that when he was endeavoring to pass the civil rights act of 1964 which would get rid of jim crow laws and their false promise, but equal facilities that he'd have to run over richard russell to do it. his old friend and mentor. out of respect for him, he calls him into the office and he says, you know, dick, i have to run over you. this time we'll take it all. we'll pass civil rights legislation that means something to this country. but i warn you if we do, just be prepared. and russell says, mr. president, you can do that. i believe you can do that.
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but if you do, you will lose the southern states to the republicans and you will risk losing the presidency in your own rights in the election later this year and he hears him out. and he says, 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 that story also illustrates why we're relevant today. the inherent drama, you get swept up in the story and the times. we continue to tell that story. if we continue to show the lasting legacy of lyndon johnson that's easy to do, we'll continue to be relevant, engaging institution. >> a bunch of yankees turned it because i did a story on texas in 1980 which is the year it turned forever. and it was a bunch of people
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from new jersey and ohio and they basically never heard of the texas democratic party. and they were for ronald reagan. >> yeah. >> last two questions. you're up, please. >> hi, i'm kate morgan, i'm one of the 15 student scholars. i'm from the university here in d.c. so i was wondering if we can pivot back to the topic of technology. this is in regards to twitter and tweets. so just kind of going more into the conversation about how should we preserve these? i know this is directed at lbj foundation, you kind of mentioned the shift in the paradigm. but i like the term that was used not specifically for tweets but something else. like selective memory. so if we choose to only preserve certain tweets, that almost plays into the same idea of the selective memory and whose voices and whose speech are still heard centuries from now.
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so kind of what are your ideas on how we should preserve those voices? >> thank you. >> i think barbara -- >> i think you said something about the shift in paradigm. >> sure. in terms of the presidential libraries and models, if you don't mind, barbara? >> i thought a great question. i thought a lot about this for this president's tweets and i view it in several ways. so if you walk into the miller center library, we have all of the presidential papers. we have volumes and volumes of presidential papers, these would include speeches and proclamations and statements in the rose garden, that sort of thing. so i view them in that way when i'm putting on my objective scholarly hat in terms of a president -- starting with president obama. my next thought is looking at paradigm shifts, the statement that we're using about how new
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technology affected how presidents relate to the public. so with fdr and radio particularly and fireside chats, president kennedy and the televised news conference with the rise of television. and in both of those instances, the president seized the moments and 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 that we're living in now a tweetocracy because when you take the expansion of voting rights to universal suffrage to everyone aged 18 and older can technically vote and then you layer upon that social media and layer facebook and twitter aside from potential russian meddling, you have a very different quality from what madison envisioned even when he talked about the extend and proper structure of the government. because you have presidents directly relating to the people and so that the term social media in a way is a misnomer.
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medium indicates something between the people and the government and that has been removed. so to your point, i think you must be asking as well, what about all of the other tweets? what about the people responding to this president or the other night when i heard that john mccain had died, i tweeted out under my account a clip from a statement that i heard senator mccain make at the smithsonian in april a year ago at a john f. kennedy exhibit in which he talked about being on the uss enterprise in the midst of the cuban missile crisis as a brand-new minted fighter pilot thinking he's going into combat for first time. there was no combat but he remembered listening to kennedy, as mccain was on that ship, going towards cuba and not knowing what. and he said, i remember hearing that voice and i remember thinking this was the man for
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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, they were navy combat veterans who almost lost their lives in the service of the country. i hope some day someone comes upon that tweet that i sent out, but to your point i don't know the answer to how do we save all of them? do we save all of them, are we selective, if we're selective in what way. >> i think the library of congress started and gave up on this. >> we have one last question. thank you so much. >> thank you so much for having me. i'm elizabeth, i'm from the hoover presidential library. and we're usually forgotten so thank you for talking about it so much. my question -- >> you're remembered in the wrong way. >> today -- my question is for cokie. i actually worked on a first
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lady exhibit not too long ago and i used your books for children and for adults and it was wonderful. i was discouraged when we started to work when it comes to first ladies there's two things -- 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 into the trap and we displayed first lady dresses and it was well, you know, received and people showed up. but my question is how can we as historians and journalists and people who are preserving the story interweave the narrative of first ladies that we move away from what they're wearing and judge them by who they were and what they were. >> well, susan has done a great deal of work on this subject, wonderful work. it's fine to show the dresses so interesting, i like to see the dresses. but the problem is when the dresses are the story.
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and it is fascinating. particularly because they're really little. but i mean, i'm very disappointed with what they did at the american history museum here. they had a better exhibit at the old museum -- you know, in the old structure. which was about their policies. and from martha washington on, first ladies have had policies. and i think the thing to do is to make it very clear of what -- what was her name? mrs. hoover. >> ruth. >> she was phenomenal. and everything she did, you know, from the girl scouts on, i mean, it 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
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very significant. that's true of all of them. >> cokie, i just reviewed a brand-new book by the university of kansas which has a entire new series on the first ladies all done from the scholarly perspective. it gives you more than the fashions and the foods. i reviewed a new one and it's called first ladies and american women and it traces for modern first ladies starting with mrs. hoover the relationship between first ladies and american history and particularly feminist history. so i think that's the way to do it as well. >> thank you for your attention and for your great questions. please thank our panel. [ applause ] our nine week series, 1968 america in turmoil, is available as a podcast.
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you can find it on our website this is american history tv. only on c-span 3. join us tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span for a profile of brett kavanaugh. just before the start of the senate confirmation hearings, we look back to his previous confirmation hearings and we talk with people who know the judge. >> i do think that some of the worst moments in the supreme court's history have been moments of judicial activists like the dred scott case, the lochner case where the court went outside the proper bounds in my judgment in interpreting clauses of the constitution to impose its own policy views and to supplant the proper role of the legislative branch. >> i spent several weeks actually before that really looking at other people, all the people on president trump's so-called short list. i came to the conclusion that i
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thought no disrespect to the others that brett kavanaugh was the best. >> our rights hang in the balance in this nomination. and brett kavanaugh's resume alone isn't enough to merit >> watch our in-depth profile of brett kavanaugh tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span, or listen with the free c-span radio app. next, former white house executive pastry chef roland mesnier. he spoke at a white house historical convention and decease ent transcende dedescendants from james monroe to gerald ford. >> good afternoon. hi, everybody.


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