tv The Civil War Jon Meacham on the Civil War CSPAN March 18, 2019 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
>> while congress is on break this week, we are featuring our american history tv programs and print them on c-span three, giving a glimpse at what is available every weekend. from the civil war, to the great migration, and a look into the lives and policies of past political leaders, american history tv, every weekend on c-span three, is 48 hours of historical programs, exploring our nation's past.
on american artifacts travel to historic sites, museums, and archives. lectures and history takes you to college classroom lectures on topics ranging from the american revolution, to 9/11. journey through the 20th century, with archival films on public affairs, on real america. here, from presidents and first ladies, and learn about their politics, policies, and legacies, on the presidency. look at the people and events that shape the civil war, and reconstruction, and listen to eyewitness accounts of key events in our nations history on oral histories. american history tv, each night this week in prime time, while congress is in recess, and on c- span three, every weekend. >> american history tv features author talks on the civil war, the american civil war museum's annual conference took place, at the library of virginia, and was cohosted by the university of virginia, center for civil
war history. next, pulitzer prize winning presidential historian john nietzsche talks about what we can learn from history, and how it can can provide context or current events from his book, the soul of america, the battle for our battle better angels. after that, elizabeth baron, author of armies of deliverance, a new history of the civil war, talks about southern unionists, then cassondra alexander, talks about her book, standing on the precipice of change, virginia's african-american fighters, in the civil war. that is followed by virginia commonwealth university professor catherine shively, on the role of military history, and the modern study of the civil war. >> next pulitzer prize-winning presidential historian john meacham talk about what we can learn from history, and how it can provide context for current events. he discusses his book, the soul of america the battle for our
better angels, which looks at the civil war, and other areas of turmoil in american history, and argues that the nation has survived and improved. this is part of the american civil war museum's interval conference, at the library of virginia, and cohosted by the university of virginia, center for history. >> now, i need to perform a more pleasurable duty, of introducing a special guest. one of america's preeminent public historians, john meacham, many of you know him as the author of several best- selling biographies, which are listed in your program, including the pulitzer prize- winning american lion, andrew jackson in the white house. and, as our public speaker, he is also has recent appearances, at the funeral of george herbert walker bush. the other subject, of one of his many biographies. mr. meacham, is in great demand
as a speaker, and in fact he arrived in richmond very late last night, and will be leaving shortly after his talk with us today, for another special appearance in california. so, i know that some of you brought your books with you, and wanted him to sign, and that sort of thing, and regrettably, he simply cannot do that, but, we are absolutely delighted, that he chose to squeeze us in, to be a part of this experience with us. now, in addition to have as many other public roles, mr. meacham is also a member of the council on foreign relations, and of the society of american historians, and his distinguished historian professor, and vanderbilt university. this morning, these our distinguished professional illicit richmond virginia, and we hope that this whirlwind visit will not be his last, ladies and gentlemen, i would like to introduce mr. john meacham, with keynote address.
>> [ applause ] >> not really all that distinguished, but thank you all very much. somebody wants introduced me as one of america's most prominent public intellectuals, and i thought that is like being the best restaurant in hospital, you know, you want to win, but it is not that hard. thank you chrissy, and thank you, i am going to do all i can, to get through this, and not have to resign. oh, wait. kind of funny. i am, always happy to be here, and one of the things, that want to hear nice words, like the ones chrissy said, i was thinking yeah, you know i think i am all those things, my mind goes back, as god does, to make
us humble, to a moment about 10 years ago on the washington mall, i was at the national book festival, and i was on my way at that point to give my point my talk about andrew jackson, and a woman ran up to me, which does not happen enough. or ever, actually. and, she said oh my god, it is you, and i said, well yes, existentially speaking, that is hard to argue with. and, she said, i just, i love your books, they mean so much to me, will you rate weight right here, i want you to sign this, and i stood there thinking, this is exactly the way the world is supposed to be, women are supposed to run up to, this was to buy your book it was perfect. swear to god, she brought back john grisham's latest novel. so, whenever i think i have the world right where i wanted, i remind myself, that somewhere in america, there is a woman with a forged copy of the runaway jury, right, because you have to sign it. the story goes on, tragically, i was at that point, writing the book about president bush, and went up, was on my way up
to maine that day, and so, the next day at lunch, in an absolutely transparent attempt, to get a complement, i told the story to the president, and mrs. bush, mrs. bush looks across the table, and that inimitable way, and says well, how do you think poor john grisham would fill, you know he is a very handsome man. so -- i am hoping this weekend goes better. here to talk about history, which in virginia, is like talking about oxygen, right, i mean, it is what you breathe. i am a native of chattanooga tennessee, i grew up on missionary ridge, the battlefield, of course, you know it. and, about 600 yards from bragg's headquarters. and, one of the things i love about the mechanics of memory of course, is, on missionary rigs we have in ohio
reservation, an illinois reservation, and a sherman reservation, who do you think had the money in 1866, to put up monuments? i can still find the naples yard, into the 70s, 1970s, and so, history to me, as for you, i suspect has always been a tactile thing. it has been something that was entirely, real. and, it is a tried, but true illusion, that william falconer was right, when he wrote for and on, that the past is never dead, it is not even past., we see that again, and again, and again, here, and in the life of the nation. so, i want to talk a little bit, about why i believe history matters, not simply as an intellectual pursuit, but as a cultural one. and also, honestly as a political one, is an active citizenship. because, the reason i talk the way i talk about things, when i am lucky enough to have people
listen, and sometimes i have to walk up to them in the input, just talk to them, it is a little, you know, they get a little upset. is, imagine a turkey hare krishna, you know, that is basically what i am. is, that i think it opens the efforts or, for an actual conversation, that has the capacity to eliminate as opposed to agitate. , let's be honest, almost every political conversation we have, at this point, agitates, and does not illuminate. we are reflexively partisan, this is clear, that it is a perennial force in american life. it started with the federalists, and the republicans, it started with that, with jefferson, and adams, and hamilton. but, the social science is hard to argue with. we are ever more divided. and, just because something has happened before, does not mean
it is not happening now. so, in one of my favorite statistics on this, is, president eisenhower had a 50% approval rating for his eight years among democrats. president obama had something like an 8% approval rating among republicans. and, i think the income is probably below the margin of error among democrats. so, that is a real thing. and, if you are, like you, and like me, you want to say, will you, but fort sumter was put to bed, what about the copperhead? it makes us very, annoying, to most people to do that, but i do believe that, if we do not look back, we cannot look ahead , and that sounds like a coffee mug remark, but, i fundamentally believe it. i talked in historical terms, i try and speak in historical
terms, because, i think, it has the biggest chance, of bringing both sides of this great divide into a conversation. conservatives love tradition, right, they want to talk about original intent, they love the idea that we might wear powdered wigs again. okay, so let's talk about the past. progressives love data. they love science, they are children of the enlightenment, where reason has a capacity to actually change our minds, instead of simply having us follow the dictates, and the whims of passion. so, it's talk about it that way. so, it is not a panacea, it is not necessarily working particularly well, given how we judge our results, but i think it is best chance we have. and so, to me, the work that the museum is doing, the work that the library does, is an essential act of citizenship. because, it actually enables us
to talk about important things, in a way that is not reflexively partisan, and innately sulfurous. which, honestly, is far too often the way all these conversations now go. so, i wrote a book last year called the soul of america, and i chose the title quite deliberately, because i think we all basically agree, on what the idea of the country is, what's the creed is, it is encapsulated, in the words of the great virginian, of a great american, thomas jefferson, who wrote the most important sentence, ever written in english, in the english language, that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. every era of american life that we would want to emulate, or that we tend to commemorate, are areas in which we have more
generously interpreted what jefferson meant. and if you can think of an era that you would like to go back to, that you think, it would be better to live in, i promise you, it is more likely than not, that era was one in which we were busy knocking down walls, and not building them. when we were redefining, and a broader and more generous way, what the mainstream of america could be. we have always grown stronger the more widely we have opened our arms, and this is not a partisan point. i am not a democrat, i'm not a republican, i voted for both, and presidential election, i live in tennessee, it does not matter, but you know, we do try. it is just simply a historical fact. what happened from 1945 to 1965 ? immense prosperity. painful, and overly slow work toward
knocking down jim crow, and the defeat of tyranny abroad, and the resolve, to stand against soviet totalitarianism. remarkable period. and, what characterizes that? an open night opening of our arms, and open idea of what the country should be, and what individuals should be allowed to enjoy the actual implications, of what we say we believe. the central insight, the brilliance of the civil rights movement, in the middle of the 20th century, was not a claim for special treatment, a claim, for equal treatment. you say you believe that, why don't your actions follow your words? it was the most compelling part
of the rhetorical case, that dr. tang and others made. it was basically saying, if you want to be a hypocrite, at least acknowledge that you are being a hypocrite. what was the basis of that argument? it was history. go watch the duration of the august 28 march on washington. he draws on the bible, does not get more historical than that. he draws on my country 'tis of the written by samuel francis smith, the room in andover massachusetts at 1831, he draws on the declaration of independence, and what does he ask, he asks, if we are going to be a sweet land of liberty, we have to live into that creed. it was a historical argument, it was moral, but he
brilliantly framed it as a historical one. i think there is an enormous power in that example. as we try to come out of, at least, ameliorate a moment that feels so reflexively partisan. a couple of thoughts on that, i will suggest parenthetically, a minute ago, i said that jefferson, the jefferson had written the most important sentence in the english language, now i am always careful about that type of hyperbolic clean, largely because, of the story about the texas school board candidate who was running against teaching spanish in the public schools, and said, on the stump, if english was good enough for our lord jesus christ, it is good enough for texas. so, i will tap the brakes on that. my other favorite texas story, as i have a list of stupid things i have said to governors, and one was when the first time i met george w bush,
was when he was governor, about 1998, or so, and he was running that kind of mckinley lake front porch campaign, having people come down, and we were chatting, and he knew i was from tennessee, and he said let me show you the portrait of sam houston, and, i really was not thinking, and i said well yeah, that is red, governor, in order tennessee, you know, you will you all would still be part of spain, and he, that is pretty funny, -- we began a wonderful friendship. the second stupidest thing, which is totally parenthetical, but that is the only way you'll remember it, the second stupid thing i've ever said to a covenant, was chris christie, when i was out talking about jefferson, six, seven years ago, and i was out talking about, and got a call from christie before he became patty hearst, and -- he called, and he said i want to talk to you about jefferson, and i thought, he was great company, fungi,
so, we are talking, and he said you know i'm really more of a hamilton die, will basically that means you are an investment banker, right that is all that -- and i was not thinking, and i said oh that is great,, but you know, at least my guy did not get shot in jersey. and, the thing happen, i cannot get back into the city, all the bridges were closed. no, all little-known part of that story. so, the reason i called it the soul of the country, the soul of america, was we know what the ideal is, we know what we should do, we have a moral sensibility, common sense, scottish moral enlightenment, we know what it is. self-evident. but, we do not do it, and the nature of history, the story of history, the study of history, the application of history, is about the conflict in the soul, which in hebrew, ending greek means breath, or life, when god
breathes life into man in genesis, it can be translated as so, when jesus says there is no -- than to lay down his life for his friends, let can be translated as well, it is the essence of who we are. it is not that the soul is captured by one side, or the other, in my view, my view is that the soul has the capacity, to for the plan to dwell in for the clan to dwell in it, and for dr. king to dwell in, and for every era, and for every moment, is shaped by the battle between those two forces. and, if we get to the better angels, 51% of the time over those worst impulses, that is a pretty good day. that is true of us, don't you think it is true of you, it is true of me. i am already 30%, it is only 9:00. but, republic is only as good as the sum of its parts. it is a human manifestation, it
is not some clinical distance realm. it is in fact, a reflection, of who we are. and, that is the most uncomfortable thing i will say to you this morning. if you are unhappy with american politics, if you are unhappy, with the incumbent president, or if you voted for the incumbent president, you are so unhappy with the last guy, and his potential successor, that you were willing to roll the dice on the single most unconventional major party nominee in 200 years of the present he will tell you that. if you are that unhappy, then, we have only ourselves really, to blame. because, politicians are far more often, mirrors of who we are, rather than molders.
uncomfortable truths. yes, and yes, i understand that her list tent, i know that citizens united, i have heard of social media, just put all that to the said, i understand all those issues, but as you all know, in your presence here suggest, the 1850s were pretty bad. there was no twitter, of the fugitive slave act, but do you think a lot of southern slave owners were subscribing to the liberator, so they could get the other view? i do not think garrison made a lot of money in south carolina. i get very impatient with that. people think that twitter is going to destroy james madison, and i just want to say, jefferson, funneled money out of the public treasury to fund an opposition newspaper to his president.
it sounds like something that would happen with like the brother in law and the sons, and all that with trump, doesn't it? ask michael cohen, he will tell you public, he probably wrote the check. just because it has happened before, does not mean it is not happening now, i am not being dismissive of our current problem, but i do think that the beginning of an informed citizenship, and the beginning of a lowered blood pressure, which enables us to actually think, as opposed to react, begins with a historical understanding. it begins with the great gift of proportion that history offers. and, i want to talk about, just three quick things, that i think are some characteristics that come out of our historical, historical consideration, of what we should, of how we can think. and, i have framed them, in terms of the leaders of the era, but in point of fact, they are, if i am right, there republic
is the sum of all of us, then we need to be able to apply those ourselves. the first, is that any era of both broad, broader public achievement, and happiness, and great leadership has been marked by a sense of curiosity. when your man jefferson, set down to write that sentence, in philadelphia, in late 76, as part of the world's greatest subcommittee, can you imagine, adams, franklin, sherman, and livingston, and jefferson, i would give them anything to do. he was able to write it, not simply because he was a rising young politician of virginia, which he was, he was 33, so was jesus, we when i turned 34, i was very depressed. i had not done anything. he was able to write it,
because he had been part of a transit atlantic conversation. he listened to this conversation, about what had been unfolding in the three or four centuries heading into philadelphia. so, what had been going on? first, and foremost, johan gutenberg, the introduction of movable type, which made literacy, and democracy, and reformation much much more possible. it was, we still live in the world that gutenberg helped create. the world of the process of reformation, the world of the translation, of sacred scripture into the vernacular. the world that rises of the bourgeoisie. the european indictment, the scottish moral enlightenment, and entire reorientation of the world, from being seen as vertical. right? where hopes, and princes, and prelates, and kings, either by an accident of birth, or an incident of election, had
reflexive and automatic authority over all of us. that was the world before the 18th century. philadelphia marks the great political manifestation of the shift from a vertical to a horizontal understanding. of reality, that we were born with the capacity to determine our own choices. as opposed to entrusting the automatically to someone who would had either one an election in rome, or had been going to the right monarch. and, that shift was, i think the most important shift in western life since constantine converted to christianity. we still live, in, what i would argue the sunlight of that shift. it is, there are many many shuttles, it was not complete, it still not complete. but, it was in the words of the preamble, a journey toward a more perfect union.
perfection has never been even the stated goal, this is making it a little more perfect. and so, again, i think history can offer us a sense of proportion. but, without that curiosity, jefferson would not have been part of that broader conversation, unlikely we would have set out on this particular path, with these words guiding us. so, that is the first one, we need to be curious. second, is humility. and, i do not just need met in the franciscan sense of that is important, but the capacity, to admit when we have made a mistake, and learn from that. that may be the hardest thing in our current climate. we would not be here, many of us, or maybe any of us, if john kennedy had not been able to admit that he made a mistake, and learn from it. when he comes into office, in
january 1961, determined to be like james bond, in every way by the way, he wanted to append the -- opened the eyes narrow era of top-down decision- making, he wanted to move quickly, believed in guerrilla action, believed in counter insurgency, very much wanted to run things, with his brother, from out of his back pocket. launch of the invasion of the bay of pigs, in april 1961, total disaster. kennedy says in a parliament jury system i would have to resign, wanders around saying how could i've been so stupid. he then did something quite courageous, he reached out to the one person on earth, before whom he leased wished to appear in need of tutelage, and that was his predecessor, dwight eisenhower. as daniel patrick moynihan wanted quite brilliant, no one wants a predecessor, or a successor, think about that. it is actually really really insightful. but, he knew he needed to learn how to do this, so eisenhower
drew drove over from gettysburg where he and maybe had retired, they would meet at camp david, wonderful little pictures from this, the two men walking up the path to aspen, to the cabin there, and eisenhower walks him through, says did you have a meeting, did everyone involved, were you able to do the pros and cons with everyone there, and kennedy said no, he had run it in a disorganized way, to the stakeholders, were able to spend him without being fact checked and counterbalanced by the other voices in the room, and eisenhower said you cannot do that, cut october 1962, kennedy is found photographic evidence of the deployment of the defense of nuclear weapons into cuba, about 15 minutes, 90 miles away from florida, estimates of a hemispheric exchange, in the fall of 62, arranged between 70 and hundred million americans, my own view is that it would've been very
hard to have a hemispheric exchange, and then not have it escalate immediately into an intercontinental one, and the whole, border of life would be gone. he remembered what i had told him, i know there are many people here, who believed they had been part of the world's longest committee meeting. but in fact, the longest committee meeting that i know of, was the executive committee of the national security council, which lasted for 13 days, in the fall of 1962. we came through the missile crisis, not least because, kennedy was willing to learn on the job, one of the many tragedies of dallas as of ford's theater, is that in lincoln, and in kennedy, we had two presidents, who were clearly learning on the job. and, losing the fruits of that is particularly particularly tragic. but, he was able to do it, because he was able to admit a
mistake, and i do not know about you all, and that is i make mistakes all the time. and, the last thing i want to do is admit it. but, if we are not, if we don't, then we are not being true, to what jefferson was talking about. which is that, we have to use reason, we have to respond to changing circumstances, we have to acknowledge that, when that data is compelling. one of the original insights of the whole american experiment, decides the notion of innate quality, was in fact, that reason could take a reasonable stand, against passion in the arena. it was a remarkable insight, and it was not exclusively american, but we were the fullest political expression of that.
so, when people say there interested an original intent, i wish they would pay more attention to that, then to trying to make the dryer terms of the constitution literal. reason matters enormously, curiosity matters enormously, humidity humility matters enormously. and, the last thing that i think is worth thinking about, as we move forward, is a level of candor, being honest with ourselves, and with each other, about the scope, and scale of great national enterprises. let's not kid ourselves, when there is something clearly unfolding in front of our eyes. and it is incredibly seductive, isn't it, and attempting to do that. a lot of us think that this is a particularly new phenomenon, and because i live a very
exciting life, i was reading walter littman last week, which is, i do not recommend, outsource that to me, but in public opinion, published 1922, he wrote, that he worried that americans define, and then c, as opposed to seeing and then defining. the divine and fancy, as opposed to seeing and then defining. he did not use the phrase fake news, he did not use the phrase tribalism, he did not use the phrase alternative political realities, or red versus lou, but he might as well have. and, it is a totally natural human impulse, right, you want -- in the chaotic, tumult of the president, why wouldn't you
want a worldview, that defined absolutely everything, that took any event that happens out there, and makes it understandable, and manageable, as either part of your side, or the manifestation of the horrors of the other side, very seductive. richard hofstetter called it the paranoid style in american politics. if you have not read that in a while, go back and read it. and, read the second essay in the collection, which is called the pseudo-conservative. and it is one the most, if you do what i do for a living, it is incredibly depressing, because hofstetter in 1953 he wrote everything that we need to know. basically talking about populism, and, the media, and it is just fascinating, but hofstetter saw it. so, of course it is a seductive way of going, why not have a worldview, have a creed, have a your own text, have your own holy days, have your own feeds,
that then enable you to live a life of absolute servitude, as opposed to dealing with what william james called the blooming, buzzing, confusion of reality, why not? well, why not is what jefferson was talking about. why not is, that is not reason. that is tribalism, and a kind of passion. is thinking, with your gut, and not your brain. and, america, when we are actually doing this right, which we do not always do, obviously, is that we give the brain a chance, we at least let them get in the ring and slug it out. that is a very uncomfortable image, i just offer you. candor, we have to be honest about these kinds of things, so
the great architect of this philosophy, of this insight is winston churchill. and, churchill, we all think of churchill, of course, is the great figure, of may 1940,, i felt as if our walk with destiny, and our life had been in preparation for this hour, this trial, i wish her i should not fail, is what you say on 10 may, 1940 when he left the palace, after finally, at the age of 65, after being in the house, since 1900, he finally reaches the pinnacle. churchill was a mixed bag, as roosevelt once said, when winston is right, but when he is wrong, my god. the other story, which is, the only thing you're going to remember from this morning, is, it has no relevance, but churchill is standing in the men's room at the house of commons one day, at the trough,
and clement -- and the prima minister,, and churchill steps away, and natalie looks at him, and says are you feeling standoffish today winston? and churchill said no it is just that every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it. so anyways -- so really, no significance to that at all. but, in the conversation about socialism, which apparently is coming at us suddenly, keep that in mind, what churchill saw, was that if, the common in modern democracy, in many ways, was about being a straightforward as possible, in a fallen world, about what was unfolding. so, we think of them as the heroic figure, 1942, early 42, he is facing a vote of
confidence in house of commons over his conduct of the war, singapore's phone, pearl harbor has happened, we have no capital ships in the pacific. hitler is on the move, it is not a good moment, and so churchill write a 10,000 word defense of his policy. and, churchill was always a war reporter, that is where he started, so he wrote it -- and he later said, talking about how honest he could be, about how hard the rest of the war was going to turn out. he said, the british people, or the american people, conveys any misfortune with fortitude, as long as they are convinced that those who are in charge of their affairs are not deceiving them. or, i not themselves dwelling in a fool's paradise. an interesting test, it is two- pronged, we want to be sure you're not lying to us, and that you are not lying to yourself. and if we can check those two boxes, then we are in.
that is true, looking up the power structure, but it is also true looking around. let's be honest, sometimes the person with whom you cannot stand, the person you cannot stand, might have a point. sometimes, the people humidor, i really wrong. an old buddy of mine, an old boss of mine, and buddy, charlie peters, of charleston west virginia, founder of the washington monthly, defined intellectual honesty this way, and i've never heard it better definition. intellectual honesty, is being willing to say something bad about the good guys, and good about the bad guys. if that is what experience -- we do not do that enough.
but i would argue, that history, the enterprise, that is an unfolding here, always, particularly with the museum, if we do not engage honestly, forthrightly, and rigorously, with the history of who we are, and how we got there, then the enterprise of becoming a more perfect union is foreclosed. because, we are not like miranda -- this is not a brave new world, that has such people in it, if you knew what her father says, is new to the, we never want to be miranda, right, i am a white male seven a, episcopalian, some of that is redundant. i am fully aware, that is easy
for my cultural vantage point, to be more optimistic, more clinical, about the country, it's past, and its future, i get that. but, i also believe, that a, i am right, at least this is my opinion, you can take it or leave it. that is what america is about, right? and secondly, if people, who look like me, do not argue from history, about what has made the country truly great, then, the argument becomes even more divided, and even more divisive.
if we are not curious, if we are not humble, and if we are not candid, the enterprise phrase falls apart. i will leave you with this: i was lucky to be meet be george w. bush's hw bush's biographer, and i will say this, anything about it, the movement from george hw bush, to where we are now, in terms of the presidency, in many ways disproves darwin. i stole that line from henry adams, if you're going to still, still from henry adams. that is a basic rule. and, george bush was not perfect, by far, timing, he you know, he did a lot of things, to amass power, but, to me what
always redeems them, was that once he had it, he used it against self interest, so he opposed the 1964 civil rights act, but a 1968, when he was actually in the congress, he voted for fair housing. much to the fury of his constituents in houston. he ran a ferocious campaign against michael the caucus in 1988, but instantly try to govern in an atmosphere of collegiality, and compromise. he pledged never to raise taxes, he pleaded the good of the country required a, so he did it, and he knew then, he said to his diary that night, in a wonderfully lincoln-esque phrase, i am going to be dead meat. the key to doing his ways by the way, is mr. rogers, trying to be john wayne. that was dana carvey's great insight. i think, that there is a unique
document in presidential history, it is a letter that president bush wrote to his mother, in the late 1950s. the bushes lost a daughter to leukemia in 1953, he did not talk about it very much. george w had been born and 46, robin in 49, jeb was born in early 53, and when they brought jeb home from the hospital, robin was bruising, and tiring easily, the first time the bushes ever heard the word leukemia, was in the pediatricians office, in midland. she died six months later. they had two more boys, and then, dora, their daughter was born, in 59. about 1957, 58, president bush wrote a letter to his own mother, dorothy walker bush, about robin, and i want to share a part of it, with you, partly because, i firmly believe, that if we can apply many of the lessons we have talked about, we will have a character that will, i think be
more in line with this one, and if i could ever be 10% of what this letter represents, i will be way ahead of the game. he wrote, in this letter, there is about our house, the need. the running, pulsating restlessness of the boys needs a counterpart. we need some soft blonde curls, to go with all our crew cuts. we need some soft blonde hair to stand with our forts and records, and thousand baseball cards. we need a legitimate christmas angel, one who does not have cuffs beneath the dress, we need someone who is afraid of frogs, we need someone to get mad, to get, to cry when i get mad, not argue. we need a little one we can kiss, without leaving egg, or jam, or gum, we need a girl, we had one wants:
she would fight, and cry, play, and to make her way, just like all the rest. but, there was about her a certain softness, her hugs were just a little less wiggly, silently, and comfortable, she would stand beside our bed, and though i felt her there, she would crawl in, and somehow, she would fit. my daddy had a caress, the certain ownership, which touched a slightly different spot than the hi dad, i love so much. but, she is still with us, we need her, and yet we have her, we hope she will stay in our house for a long long time. in the course of writing about the president, i asked him to read that letter out loud to me, and he, long before he finished, he broke down in an extraordinary amount of physical crying, so much so that his chief of staff came in, and we were in his office
in houston, and she saw what we were doing, and she asked me why did you want president bush to read that? and i said well, if you want to know someone's heart, and before i could finish, the president jumped in, and said, you have to know what breaks it. that is who we should be as a country, thanks very much. >> thanks very much. >> [ applause ] >> we have about 10 minutes, where you can ask your questions, of john meacham. and, i'm going to say, i am going to just steal this moment for just a second, because -- >> your helicopter. >> [ laughter ] what i would like to know, and we talked about the importance of history, and the people that are with us today, these people obviously appreciate, and understand the nature of history, what do we do, in an age of self curated content, where people are finding their
own little snippets, and then creating their own histories around it, how do we fight back against something like that? >> i, i know you do not mean this, so i'm just going to tweak it, and hit me in the head, if i am wrong, i do not think we want to fight back, i think we want to be additive, right. and, now, the invention of history, you know, you know this phrase, deep sake, has that reached you yet, it is truly interesting, it is, it is the technology that enables hackers, or whomever, propagandists, to just create a video, of say barack obama giving a speech he never gave. right, or whatever, and it is just, it is so good, bob corker, tennessee senator, who just left
the senate, chairman of the foreign relations committee, he said that one of the scariest moment of his entire 12 years in the senate, which included afghanistan, iraq, and syria, north korea, was being shown this presentation, because, he realized that there were going to be propagandists who are now going to be able to truly invent, manufacture history, let me put it that way. so, that is a huge, that is a huge issue. i think that the tribal impulse, to create myths, to create your own stories, in the sense of driving political action, that is not about taking into consideration, the good of the whole, but only being about, the good of the few, is a perennial and. and, i think that, the enterprise, that the museum is about, is, has to be insisting on, at least this, and that is a common set of facts.
there is an objective reality, which we all must assent. we can then disagree, and in fact, the country was set up, to then disagree, campaign. there was a battle of chatman. we can argue about why that happen although we don't think it should because alexander stevenson took care of it in the corner stone speech. we can argue about the
implications. the reality is do we slip into a totality mind set that might just erase that history or take the facts and twist them, change them to what we want them to be. the interpretation can be what you want it to be. but the underlying reality has to be acknowledged i do think there has to be a pronicious campaign. if you don't like something you simply say it's fake. even if it's self-evidently true. that's a dangerous thing. mr.mitchum i brought along my book today with the hopes it could be signed. >> bring the book. >> but i do want to ask you a question about it. i would like to know what the next chapter of the book would
be since it appears to me that your theme of hope and fear as illustrated through the events of your book does not involve the president in the creation of the fear. and so i'm wondering, what is the role of the president concerning hope and fear in the age that we're in right now. >> go back two sentences, sir. did the president's not. >> the protagonist of fear in most of your illustrations in the book. >> oh in the book. that's true. yes. okay. thank you. yeah, bring me the book. you didn't actually care about the answer. what's your name, sir.
>> randy rawlings. >> randy rawlings. all right randy. what was the question. no i'm just kidding. that's right. i just wrote to randy rawlings. great question. there you go. so here we go. i think the most analagist home to where we are right now is probably reconstruction. probably 1866, 67. you have a president who does not have a natural political base who's risen to the pinnacle, conspiracy minded. he's governing for a particular base of people. and he is out of sync i believe with the fundamental current of a tradition of american fair play and generosity. that's just what i think. take it or leave it.
i think johnson was like that. i think that we lived in this country from apamatics to selma with partial apart apartide. we still have the vessages. it puts a stress test for citizenship on the rest of us. i think there are four or five institutions that actually are factors in republican progress lower case r. there's the president. the presidency, the congress, the courts, the press and the people. all right. so as long as two or three of those are pulling in the right direction. and i think, i think we get through this. the constitution was written for moments like this.
you all know this. you're a man from mount pellier totally understood that we were driven by appetite and ambition. we were sinful far more often we would get things wrong than we would get them right. we have proven james madison right again and again and again. but that's what the document was written for. it wasn't written for sunny days it was written for cloudy ones. randy, use your book. >> i just, can i just say quickly i know i'm in richmond because there's a guy with a bow tie and pocket square on saturday morning. okay. >> mitch, i would like to thank you for your writings and your words because i have found that personally they have given me hope. >> thank you. >> if there's one structural change you could implement in
the american political system of restore some of the concept of common good what would that be. >> that is a great question, thank you for your kind words. i never thought i would get this geeky which i know is surprising to you. i honestly believe now that if you could go into each state and draw congressional districts that were driven and not politically driven. you all can take this word for it. the one thing that gary is known for is garimandering. and we call it gerrymandering.
the poor son of. i asked president obama if we could start calling it garymandering. were mirrors more than molders. if you can get a diverse population that a lawmaker is accountable to. then you enhance the incentives for deliberate compromise and the spirit of what the founders meant. i'm not a brookings institution guy on this. i'm not saying that the middle way is always the right way. it doesn't the middle way wasn't the right way on slavery. it wasn't the right way on women's suffrage and women's
rights. it wasn't the right way on jim crow. it wasn't the right way in the cold war it wasn't the right way against hitler. there are moments in life where one way is the right thing to do but nine times out of 10 you can go 60-40 or 50-50. what happened because of a number of structural factors it's very hard to get to that 50-50 point. i'm basing after talking to people in the arena. they credit what you say. it must have been a lot harder 20 years ago to get things done. i say newt gingrich and they say yeah but. i think if you have a house of representatives that was accountable to a diverse ideological group of voters you
would have better governing results because they would have a less of a reason to be afraid of my favorite verb, being primaried. khr i , which i heard for the first time about 10 years ago that they don't want to invite a primary challenge. the first thing i want to do is if you can postage stamp the districts. it's not very sexy but i think it would have a real effect. >> thank you. >> ladies and gentlemen, john
mitchum. giving you a glimpse of what's available every weekend from the civil war to the great migration. and a look into the lives and policies of past political leaders. american history tv every weekend on cspan3 is 48 hours of historical programs exploring our nation's past. on american artifacts travel to historic sites and museums. class lectures from revolution to 911. journey through the 20th century with archival films on public affairs on real america. hear from presidents and first ladies and learn about their politics, policies and legacies on the presidency. look at the people and events that shape the civil war and reconstruction. and listen to eyewitness accounts of key events in our
nation's history on oral histories. american history tv, each night this week in prime time while congress is in recess. and on cspan3 every weekend. on february 24, 1959 the u.s. supreme court decided in tecum versus des moines that students do not lose their rights on campus. the state historical society of iowa marked the 60th anniversary of the decision features remarks by mary beth tinker and her brother john. they were copetitioners in the case. on cspan3. next elizabeth veran a new history of the civil war