tv 2019 National Book Festival CSPAN August 31, 2019 3:59pm-6:00pm EDT
mist parents gave me, was now as a parent, i don't have to be in the situation that they were in. [applause] >> i think reyna is absolutely right when she says that families affected even by just one member of the family migrating. the whole structure of the community is altered, even the best case scenario when one part of that structure goes missing. i lived with my parents well interest the 20s in a very small socialist apartment with my sister until the war and then we broke up and ended up in canada, my sister lives in london, england. what happened is before the migration in our case, before the war, subsequent migration, my parents were refugeed. don't think of myself as a
refugee but my parents were refugees. there's a fracturing of the share experience. me life was different in the united states, the life was different in canada, my sister's life is different in england. did all right relatively speaking but that vastly overlambingers and yep oliving together in the same language and the same cultural context, the same as it were social abilities, we share that experience, unity of time and place and experience that we shared, and then gets fractured and get bren up. even if we had moved to the same place, there would have been a fracture because i spoke english better, was not a professional who lost his job to migrate. had not lost my social contact and so on. so what happen is this fracturing of a shared experience within the family and one of the ways again to agree with reyna is to tell stories or
write to build the bridges, there's something about building a bridge between the new country and old country within this community, within a family, multiple bridges trying to communicate this experience. and trying to unify the experience and to create a shared experience within the act of writing and literature and a book. so, in other words, i live with my family in my becomes but no in the real world. >> so the trump administration is trying to eliminate or reduce family reunification as a criteria for giving people ability to enter the country. even though i'm indian i didn't come here as a skilled immigrant. i came here because of the familiar reunification category. my aunt sponsorrer met mother and siblings and family.
in the conversation as i said about immigrants is about these people who coming here and they lack certain moral value. this is the impression that if you are to listen to fox news you get about immigrants. and if you actually want to see what family means to immigrants, you should do what i do which is good to a place called friendship park on the u.s.--mexico border which it's just south of san diego. there's actually a wall which goes down a section of california and kind of ends right by the ocean, there's a small stretch on land which under the nixon administration the u.s. government decide was the only place along the entire southern border where if your family was on the other side of the border, you could go and meet them face-to-face andite
used to be that you could -- if you didn't have the papers to cross over or if you an had the work authorization and couldn't go back and come back interest the u.s., you could go to this friendship park and have a picnic with your family. more recently, there's been a fence built across this little stretch on land and border patrol which administered friendship park has decided to make it all but impossible for people to meet their family, but still, it used to be until recently you good could go thereon weekends and for ten minute goes up to the fence and put your face up to the fence and see your family. so i spend two weeks there last year. the most heartbreaking reporting of my career. i saw families like reyna's, had been torn because one member of the family decided to come over
the border, almost always to work and to send money back. send back to their families. but the notebook, and i mexican man came up who hadn't seen hint mother far 17 years and goes up to the fence and his mother comps up on the other side, and they put up their faces, and he later told me i could smell her. i could free her breath on my face. he told her how much he loved her. how much he missed her. she told him how much she loved him, misses him. she asks if he is eating right. and in the end, they can't touch because of this thick ugly iron
fence. they can't hug each other. but the hole in the fence are only large numb to put your pinky through so he puts his pinky through and his mom puts her pinky through and the touch pinkies. that at they're allowed. call the pinky kiss. all along the firs, mothers and children, best friends, siblings, touching, just kissing othe pinkize. if you ever had a run door with someone in your family, good down to friendship park and see what happens when there's a stake which keeps you from four family there are laws that are made by bureaucrats and lawyers sit thing different offices which keep you from your family. see how much family means to these migrants. see what they're doing for the migrants. it was the most heartbreaking but also the most hopeful
reports because i saw what family real in means to immigrants. it's the expression of the heart through the touching of the pinkies. [applause] >> aleksander, you rite our history i unsi wake an longing for a home that could never be -- unassuageable longing for a home you could never have. it that an inevitable part of migration, the parallel ryan yours run through in your head, wondering what things would have been lick in different sir, different decisions had been made? >> i think i busy miswith defining what home is in is in become for myself and whoever else care about that. but what happens with migration
and i think there's is a different between immigrants and refugees but it's a difference in agreeing but not in kind of migration is always traumatic and the refugee escaping war, that's much larger, stronger -- different than one who just gets up and walks, not just -- someone kuo gets and up walks across the bore remember. there's a difference. important. someone like me who flew in and decided to stay. nevertheless, it divides a life, migration, the fact of getting from one place to another. divides the life into the before and the after. and reyna also mentioned that. so your life and life of your family, life of your friends might be -- divided between the before and the after, the unity of time is broken, and also the unity of space. the way we lived before the war in sarajevo, in the same pace all the time. we have an entirely different notion of privacy. my father leans over my shoulder when i'm working on the computer
and without any compunction because we all were in the same space. so think that's what makes home fully impossible, is this rupture, this traumatic rupture that dividing of the life into the before and the after, into the here and there. and so the struggle -- this is not necessarily entirely traumatic, but doesn't have to be devastating and entirely destructive, trauma. there are ways i hope to view this productively, one of which is writing, trying to find a new kind of unity to create new homes or to have two homes even. when guy to sarajevo i go home and then come sayreover vote back home to princeton and before chicago. so you can have more homes than one but somehow that unity, that i remember experiencing, that
sold solidity, the feeling of homeless is -- i have no desire to own property and could live out of suitcase. this is how i feel because this might all be gone sooner or later, just like my early home went away and no longer available tomorrow the possibility of the home not being available is forever present to all of us. >> for years i've always been jealous of people who had a home town. the place that to them meant home. we moved around a lot as well, from beirut to california and different parts of thank you united states and i felt they had something i couldn't have. reyna, you touch on this in your book, describe a conversation with you've younger sister and she asks due think things would have been different if the never left, would we all be together
as a family? there's a sort of longing there as well for something that is lost. >> when i was younger, i used to have this conversation a lot with my siblings, how what our life might have been like if we had stayed in mexico, if my parents hadn't immigranted, a hadn't broken up once they got here and think bought the family we used to be as opposed to the family we are now. but now when guy back to mexico, i have a different perspective on that because when i go back, i have a uncles and aunts that stayed there, and i remember my mother, whenever she went back to mexico, she was trying to get her brother to come out here because her brother, like the
rest of the family, was very poor he was living in a one-room shack with seven children and could barely afford to feed hem and my measure say whoa don't you do to the u.s. to make money no support your family. and my uncle would say i would rather be poor but together. and he refused to leave. but when i good to mexico and i look at my cousins who didn't finish elementary school because my uncle pulled them out as soon as they were old enough and they had to start working to help him put food on the table, i think about the consequence of his choice versus my parents' choice of immigrating and trying to find more tends for us. so i don't have these nostalgic memories of my childhood or -- i
don't fantasize about what my life might have been like because i see it. i see it when i go. it's in my face that poverty. it's in my face, and i remember and i know that that's what my life would have been like. and i had this really interesting experience because i was recently published in mexico for the first time. i've been published here in the u.s. for 13 years. but in mexico i just got published there two years ago for the first time. and i went to mexico to do some events. coming back to any native country as a published author and i was doing events with this mexican writer from mexico, and most mexican writers from mexico are from the upper class, and i was sitting there with them, and i was thinking, if i hadn't
immigrate i would be their maid right now instead of sharing the statement with them. and that is when i felt grateful for what my parents did for me and for what we went through. it soothes that pain i still carry with me when i am faced with the reality of where i am now and where i could have ended up if things had been different. >> your book is called a man tess stow and you say -- men fess sew and that -- manifesto and you said it was written in sorrow and rage and hope witch have get absence of the rage and of the sorrow. [laughter] >> where is the hope? how do these three emotions come together in your back? >> hope is the thing with feathers.
if you look around the world this conversation around immigration, it's difficult to be hopeful. the fear of migrants of doing incalculabley more damage to country. exhibit a, brexit. the biggest own gold in british history. but there is -- this is where the hope comes in. so, have no option, they have to move. literally -- drown in at the country. when people move, is the happy ending "story. it's good news story.
greater migration helps everything. it helps the countries that the migrants move to, particularly the rich countries because the rich countries aren't making enough babies. the united states would collapse if people were to stop immigrant immigrating here. the reason that america does well is we have always been good at importing the talent we need, both skilled and unskilled. and if you really want to look at hope, i'm a new yorker, two out of three new yorker are immigrants or their children. and new york has never been more prosperous, more dynamic, safer. immigration works and we can see it in the great cities of the world, london, new york, los angeles, washington, dc. i was walking around d.c. today and yesterday, and everywhere dish mean, never had such a great choice of restaurants to
eat at. i can -- so when people move, it's not just that it's nice choice of food or music. economically it makes sense the social security fund this year will actually give out more in benefits that takes in in revenue. in 15 years, if you retire in 15 years, you'll only get 80-cent odd then dollar what you're entitled to and the only thing that can save the social security fund is immigration. so this countries aren't making enough babies, immigrants are younger, they enter the work force to greater numbers than the native born, the immigrants are coming to our shore is a rescue. and it's also good for the migrants because in the case of
refugees, it's literally a matter of life and death. if four people who my grit for economic reasons greatly improve the standard of living. an american who moves to silicon valley will increase the income by five-fold, and it's also great for the countries they move from because if you really want to help the peaest people in the world, let people from those countries move here. and send money become in remittanceses. remittanceses are the best and the most targeted way of helping the global poor the money orders that migrants sent they good directly to their families to help a brother with an education, mother with a hospital bill, to build a school, to build a home. and it's not siphoned beau by governments. remit tans last year were $700 billion which is four times
more than all the foreign aid given to the poor countries in the world. for immigration is a goodness story and -- a good news store. human migration is a good thing of always moved and will continue moving and we ought to take it as our birthright. [applause] >> the last question i'll ask before we open it up to questions from the audience, with immigration, with the movement of people being such a defining political issue, of this time, certainly in the out but around the world, does that create any special urgency, responsibility, burden, in telling immigrant stories today
for you as writer. >> host: yeah. definitely. i think urgency. but i also like that word, the burden, because that is -- i feel that as an immigrant writer, i feel this big responsibility to speak up for my community and sometimes i feel that why dayton just be a writer? why die always have to be -- why do i always have to be the immigrant writer? and that has created some challenges in me, like the way i see myself as a writer, how do i fit in to american literature? do i fit interest american literature? and then i remind myself that the immigrant story is the american story. so, yes, i do fit into american literature.
and i feel that i have been given a gift, and i need to make sure that i use this gift that i have for language and the opportunity that i have to be published, to use that, to spectrum up for my community. and to raise my voice for those whose voices have again unheard, and i take that responsibility very seriously. i also feel that here in this country, we tend to judge immigrants by what one immigrant does. the whole community gets judged by it. usually in a negative way. right? if one immigrant does something bad, then all the whole immigrant community pays for that, what that one person did. and i would like to reverse that. why can't we judge all the good
things that immigrants do? individually, what we do, what we bring here, our skills and our talents, why can't you look at one immigrant who is doing well and say, wow, our immigrant community is doing this. this is what they bring here. let's celebrate their contributions. so that's what i would like to see more of. if we are going to represent our community we e win we do something bad, it's also represent our community when we do something really wonderful. [applause] >> one of the project is start it working on after 2014-2015 is interviewing bows knowns who -- bosnians who migrant ode various
places and the basic question is, how did you get here, wherever her is,back or st. louis or australia, and one of the person is interviewed she selling high-end real estate in florida but as a teenager she survived the siege of sarajevo and was giving preparations to the trump family after obtaining a business degree and among the trumps what's donald too and after her presentation he came up to her and she is good looking, and so he came up to her and asked -- he said what's your story, start from the end? and to me that is symptomatic of trumpism and the model of how i would pet it, representation or immigrant experience where all that matter is what you are here
now. no history, no story, no past no other place no other time. and so of course trump's case it's the ultimate pathology of everything, including that. and so to me, as a writer, there's everything as reyna says i agree with again because there is this situation which i willy-nilly, i speak for some people who have similar experience, bosnians as least. but i also feel a need to cover the whole range of the experience. not only just where we are at right now, which is very narratively rich as it is, but how we got here. whoever we may be. to me it's also a narrative of opportunity. a lot of books that can come out of that because each journey is a story. each migration is a hold world of stories.
narration is migration squared if you wish and it the wealth. if you take out immigrant writers from american literature you'll be stuck with suburban affairs for the's of your life. [laughter] >> be just sitting by the pool and drinking cocktails. [applause] >> i think there's a battle of story-telling around the world. if you look at all this populists as they're called, trump, boris john join and my gel far ramming he uk, modi in any birthplace, -- putin in russia, the only strong men populists. they're gifted story-tellers of that's what a populist is. a populist can tell a false story well.
and the only way to fight him is by telling a true story better. [applause] >> so, as writer, as a journalist, i like fact-checking. not everyone in washington, dc likes fantastic checking. hire a professional fact checker to go through my book and i have 50 pages of end notes. the thing we need to tell these stories which are back up by numbers, and have a strong argument, and often people who try to tell immigrant stories, particularly in academic ya, they have the have the right number but not the passion. or they equivocate. we on the left like to be knew archessed -- nuanced.
there isn't another side. cannibalism, for instance. and the one hand some people say, eat your fellow man is wrong. on the other hand it's a cheap and readily available source of protein. no. >> the marketplace of ideas in flesh. >> the immigration for you, you have to be told with passion and backed up with facts and with numbers. but this is why people like trump and mohdi and putin or afraid of journalists and write he. authors getting persecuted and shot in prison, all over the world. we're the ones who the truth-tellers and i take my motto, the great -- the czech poet who won a nobel prize he said for anyone else not telling
the truth can be a tactical maneuver. he can just stay silent when there's a moral crisis or an emergency but the writer who is not telling the truth, even if he is just staying silent, is lying. [applause] >> we have two mics here if anyone has a question for any of our authors. >> thank you very much. we have been talking about immigration, the current administration is against immigration. aren't re missing the point? if an immigrant is coming from norway he is most welcome but somebody coming from the s-hole
countries is not. so isn't this really a discussion about racism and not immigration? >> i don't think those are mutually exclusive. we not what anti-immigration is. don't think -- it's kind of killing two flies with one hand. it's controlling, enabling the endurance of white supremacy on the one hand, but also controlling -- really cannot differentiate between the two it is absolutely racist because people of color and people -- poor people migrant. people from norway do not come here because norway has health care. who would come here from norway. so, it's trumpian nonsense, but poor people and people of migrant for more likely than
regions like scanned nava. so those are who thing that are to different names. anti-immigrant and racist is the same thing. >> so basically saying the same thing. but trump -- the american point of view, you -- the 1924 act -- i'm not an expert on that, just speaking generally. the quota system that was here, i think is the heather act of 1924, after the 1920s, was giving a quota to the north european countries, not even the southern european countries were allowed in that system. and then later on took over 30-40 years, in the 1960s, you had a reversal of the quota system and -- when others immigration laws were passed, the 1965 allowed the unification of family and from the third world countries. so, what i'm saying is that is
basically targeting -- kind of racist more than anti-immigration. that was my point. >> yeah. that's a great point. and i think also it's not just racism but also classism because we discriminate poor immigrants, and we have seen that throughout the history of this country how we have discriminated immigrants because of class. and just one quick example. the irish... also religion takes a big part, in which ones we want and which
ones we don't. >> in the 1300s, benjamin franklin started this group of people who were coming into pennsylvania. talking about germans and the president. [laughter] >> good afternoon. thank you for your channel. i brought 11, please stand up. [applause] they came all the way from maryland. we read their book, we would like you to please give them,
they are about to enter middle school. they all have an immigrant story. what advice do you have for these middle schoolers? >> good luck with middle school. [laughter] most importantly, i don't want you to be in survival mode, i want you to learn how to thrive. that goes for the rest of your life. no matter what obstacles come your way, don't just survive but thrive and rise above at all. most of all, don't forget where you come from. where you come from is something to be celebrated so don't ever be ashamed. [applause]
>> they are bilingual and maybe even trilingual, get as many languages as you can. read, read, read. >> i'm not an immigrant but my husband is. some thank you all mentioned and caused me to wonder about your relations with your audience, the concept of home. i grew up on a small home in maryland. it was whatever i thought about home, i thought about that little farm in maryland. my parents had to sell it eventually. i felt like part of my sense of home was gone forever. so that's how i connect in some way with your story so i wonder consider that or when you are
talking to people who are not immigrants. everybody, most people i sometime lose their home or some part of their home. how you can connect your story with people like me who are not immigrants but have lost a certain sense of their home. >> first of all, we need to remember that we are all human beings. we can start from that place, we have so many things in common. it's so important to start that because it's easy to get lost in what makes us different. but let's celebrate instead. what can access. i would like to say that for me, being called, this is an emigrant memoir, if you like
it's just a memoir. this is a story of the human experience. [applause] so that's how we connect. i think ultimately, we are all in this fight together. we are all in this country together. it's all of our responsibility to make sure that nobody feels they don't belong here. [applause] >> we are being told we need to wrap it up. thank you so much for your work and your insights today. [applause]
>> we are watching live coverage on book tv of the national book festival, washington d.c. at the convention center and downtown, about 200,000 people are expected to be here today in the most crowded they've ever seen at the convention center. it's about one hour david will be speaking and that will be live as well. you can find all the programs online booktv.orc. joining us now, author, here is the willful america, 1775 --
1777. you are very well known for your trilogy. with that -- >> i spent 15 years looking at the american role in the ration and when i finished the third volume, i went through north africa and western europe in normandy, thinking about what to do, that campaign in the mediterranean into europe from i just didn't have the heart for it. i've been thinking for a long time about what it is i really wanted to do and as a narrative writer, the boys had a fascination since i was a kid.
so i'm one third of the way in from what i hoped would be another trilogy. this one is a history of the revolution from both the american side and the british side. >> why do you say it's more important now than ever? >> when we look at the resolution, we are trying to figure out who we are, who we come from. we are trying to understand if anybody can themselves. what are they dying for? what is that all about? it seems to me that this day, in a moment when the country is with the most practice in politics that you and i can remember, trying to understand the first to come out of the revolution at the beginning of the republican, it's important to remind us of who we are and
what people are willing to die for. >> from your book, few americans as unruly, ungrateful children in need of a case. >> yeah, there was a very much of an attitude, his ministers turned to colonies, the american colonies into the mother country had ripped apart over 1150 years. it is a common language, common heritage they had really become separated over a century and a half. in ways that wasn't fully appreciated. when the americans began to assert themselves and claimed that their local assemblies and congresses were ever good is important in determining their
lives, the british were really outraged by this. we had come to protect from french, the indians, protected your trade route. we permitted america to become a country of two and half million people. incidentally, the biggest growing country in the world. so when we, the americans began to exercise the political muscle, there was really very little power into that. >> it wasn't popular to take america -- >> yes, it was. it remained popular virtually through eight years of war. the war gaming 1875. it's really only in 1779, 80
that popular support for the king and his government and trying to keep the colonies within the british empire begins to really disintegrate in britain. one of the reasons was because the widespread belief in brittany beginning in 1770, early 70's. if there permitted to slip away from it be the beginning of the unraveling of the new british empire which was created in 63 with the british victory over the french and spanish in the seventh year. the french and indian war. if that slips away canada will go in the sugar islands in india and it will be the british empire. all of the wealth and value of the empire will be solved at the
colonies get away. there was great support for bringing the americans back in. >> if you could reconcile a few things in your book, number one, britain was ascendant at this time. britain was merely bright bankrupt. >> britain had gone deeply into debt as a consequence of the seventh year war. there is great concern that could be on the verge of bankruptcy. it wasn't quite that bad but they had written about the financial status and stability of the mother country and it's one of the reasons they determined to keep the american colonies because of the great wealth. the american colonies also, we
provided them with all sorts of materials for the manufacturers. so there's a financial component to all of this. >> it was symbolic more than anything. a series of taxes on the colonies beginning in 1765. a big uproar here. there's a small tax and that was maintained largely to assert to tax the colonies. it wasn't the revenue but the
principal of parliamentary sovereignty is critical. again, the colonies were having no part of it. it wasn't the fact that there was a tax because the british lays things down even as they were texting it. there was a principal for us in the same way that there is a principal for them. >> boston tea party, december of 73. >> that was february, they found out details of it. they were outraged. it turned into a full-blown, raging anger at the colonies. beginning with the king.
you see the relationships spiraling down into war. >> was king george the third popular one? >> he's an interesting guy. we tend to think of him as this nitwit who goes across the state hamilton every night, he was king for 60 years. he's a man of considerable accomplishment. he was popular in britain. he has a common touch by the 18th century monarch standards. he's interested in everything from the use of manure, the farmers gorge to supporting the arts in a big way. he acknowledges the importance of parliament, the protestant church and everything that i british monarch must do in order to retain his popularity in
britain in the mid- 70s. >> what were his powers as opposed to today? >> he's more powerful than the queen is today. he has to exceed to the power of both the houses of parliament. he also has to be attentive to his minister. this is part of the reforms that are imposed on the monarchy in the late 17th century. it imposes some restrictions, it's not an absolute monarchy. but he's got great authority but morally and politically. he's able to control who the generals are, for example. he controls who the ministers are. who's running the treasury. so he's got great suasion in that regard.
he controls who the prime minister is. he doesn't like being off work minister at all. the king is really driving it during the war. he's the hardest of the hard liners when it comes to the war. >> from your book, in his long life, he never would, not to island, not the continent, not even scotland and certainly not america. >> quite remarkable. he married an obscure german princess. she traveled more than he had because she made the voyage from germany to england, they married six hours after they met. it was loving marriage, he was a good husband. fifteen children. it's a very interesting partnership.
but he's a guy with blinders on in a significant way. how can you be king of england and never even been to scotland or if you are looking for 60 years? he lived in a very circumscribed world of the courts, if his various talents. it blinds him to the world changing. >> i'd never known about king george, did you have access to the new records? >> i did. in 2016, made available papers and scholars and so of the 350,000 pages, most of the rain of george the third, i was one of the first scholars allowed into look at them. suggesting the round towers and
castle, every morning i would show my dad again climbed 102 stone steps. that's where the papers are. it was fascinating. you take the copies themselves, he was a great list maker. he write the formulas. you really have a sense of being expressed. he was a caring father. you learn that he is driving the train when it comes to the work. not only the dates correspondence and the other administers, 11:22 p.m., is not
only punctual that way, he's very compulsive that way. >> before we get any further in the revolutionary war, with got followers already lined up. we will put the numbers up on the screen. if you'd like to participate in the action, let's begin this. richard and arizona. thank you for calling. >> i wanted to ask about the first trilogy about the second world war. what i liked about that was the approach of telling the story, looking at the soldiers on the battlefield and how it affects them. my question is, did you approach going to be different than the first trilogy?
>> i use basically the same formula. it's a military guide from strategic, the king and congress and so on, the major field has been done to the tactical level. there's a lot about the life of the everyday soldiers on both sides. as well as the lives of those who are caught up in these events. what it's like being a wife left to be taking care of the farm when you're husband goes off to war for years at a time. he tried to take care of this us in massachusetts and north carolina. i tried to use that same narrative approach that i used for the liberation trilogy on world war ii. >> the second book was focused
on italy. next call is thomas. >> i'd like to know if is a correlation or parallel between sleepy hollow and the rise of the headless horse in pennsylvania and the battle of germantown. >> thomas, i don't think so. it's a tale written by washington irving. he was one of the early fees, it happened on the night of april 1775. part of the radical inner circle and he sent out into the countryside to other people and concord and elsewhere that british are coming. he didn't yell the british are coming, that wouldn't have made
sense to people at that time. the regulars are coming out. the regular british army coming out of boston. i used the phrase as a metaphor because that's really what the first couple of years was about. they are coming with a substantial portion of their very large army. 30,000 mercenaries, most half of the greatest parts the world has ever seen. there coming to kill your men and rape your women. in some cases, burnt your time. it doesn't really have any relationship to the sleepy hollow. the british had maybe about 300 chips. >> do we have that in the u.s. navy today? >> probably not. remember back to the reagan years, navy was a big deal. 300 warships, that's a very
powerful navy. the world had never seen anything like it. >> that was not told that verse. >> he's been the messenger for the boston articles for some time. he had written to philadelphia and new hampshire, is a very expert at doing this, of carrying news quickly. he was trusted, reliable. so he had written into the countryside with false alarms before he did the real thing on april 18. >> who were the radicals? >> radicals in boston, they are in every colony. by radicals, we mean people were
looking for substantial break with the way things are done now. they're looking either for autonomy, meaning they're not going to tell us what to do or tax us, we will control our lives are resolved, -- they're not thinking independence yet. but in boston, there are people like samuel adams, distant cousin john adams, the lawyer. john hancock, probably the wealthiest merchant in boston and they are united by the british have troops and occupation force, the boston massacre, the shooting in 1770 occurred. friction between the occupying force. they don't like any of it.
they are very well organized. they are extremely good at propaganda. they have organized their correspondence with the other colonies. the got the other colonies watching very carefully what's happening in massachusetts they convince the other colonies, if it can happen to us boston, it can happen to you in williamsburg or charleston or philadelphia and becomes what unifies the radicals and even the moderates. even those who are straddling the fence as to what we should do. >> the radicals, there must be moderates. who with the moderates? >> there were a number of moderates john dickinson of pennsylvania, brilliant lawyer, they are looking for a motive
with another country. they are looking for a way out, benjamin franklin is a moderate. he's in england for more than 16 years, representing several other colonies. the king has no greater supporter and benjamin franklin early in his rate. he's increasingly radicalized by what is happening leading up to the outbreak of war. franklin becomes a radical but he, like many others is a moderate who feels like he's driven to it over time. >> jim from minnesota. >> thank you for the opportuni opportunity, great fan. the liberation trilogy is one of the best pieces of work i've ever read. if he pursues the same mechani
mechanism, the strategy and tactics, so thank you again. after finishing the book, i was left on the last couple of pages with difficulty the british had about being in new york, still unable to get to washington, it was only a few thousand miles away from them. i was struck by that. >> the british, when the book ends in january 1777, they've been driven across new jersey after being out of new york. i think the game is pretty near up and then he does the whole thing of crossing the delaware and 76, tax tension and crosses the river again and attacks again at trenton.
they end up driving the british out of new jersey completely so they really have a very small hole given the length of the american colonies. they have new york and a part of rhode island. one of the problems the british have from the beginning and that they have underestimated, the difficulty of waging expeditionary war, 3000 miles of ocean so when general from new york in the summer of 1776, 964 from england and ireland so they took our case on so they could pull the supply flag and go somewhere. horses shipped from britain, more than 400 of them died in the voyage. several hundred others were ruined beyond use when they
arrived in new york. it's that kind of difficult challenge that the british were from the beginning. washington is not very far away with a relatively small army that has been kicked around sorely but the british army, including this large portion from journey cannot get at them partly because they cannot transport themselves and for supplies they need to really chase washington, wherever they need to chase them. ... ...
it is something you don't usually see. i know mr. eugene webber who is a former history professor in california. his tv show said that the french gave four years worth of income to their government, towards the american revolution. and i'd like to know a lot more about what was entailed besides just gunpowder, muskets and blue uniforms that washington requested. >> yeah, thanks for the question. well, in this book, which ends in 1777, i write a fair amount about the beginnings of that french help. benjamin franklin shows up in paris, in december of 1776 and he's going to be the main man trying to persuade the absolute monarchy of louie the 16th to align themselves with radical republicans in america.
that's quite a feat. it is one of the greatest diplomatic feats in diplomatic history, not just american history. the french begin surreptitiously providing gunpowder, muskets. they do it through a very unusual unlikely source, a play wright that wrote the marriage of figeroa among other things. he sets up a phony company, munitions provided from french armories give them plausible deniability because they don't want the british to get too mad at them yet. all the french care about really is getting even with the british for the defeat that they had suffered in the seven years war but they want to do it on their timetable. those munitions are really important. the battle of saratoga, for example, some of that gunpowder and those muskets are important at the british defeat in the
fall of 1777. the french provide millions in libras, the french currency. you mentioned uniforms. they provide everything that you need really to sustain an army. french assistance and of course it becomes assistance with a navy and an army behind it in 1778, is the critical component in the success of the rebellion. had it not been for the french, the americans are unlikely to have are succeeded in eventually over eight years winning their independence. the french are absolutely critical to it. it does bankrupt the french monarchy. you mentioned four years of income. one of the issues that is going to lead to the french revolution is the instability that obtains
in france as a consequence of their involvement in the war on behalf of the americans. >> we're going to squeeze in one more call. this is herb in new york. >> caller: yes, got a question about the revolutionary war, and i read accounts where it's not necessarily a gentleman's war. i read accounts that if a colonist were captured by the british or the british capturing colonist, they didn't simply march them off the camps. they were -- [inaudible]. that was the general treatment -- i've read accounts -- out in the field when groups of prisoners were captured by either side. what's the truth there, rick? >> thanks for the question, herb. it was a really brutal war. it's a civil war, first of all,
between american revolutionaries and those who remain loyal to the crown. so particularly in the south, in the later years of the war, it's extremely brutal. british treatment of american prisoners is awful. we would dub them war crimes today. there were thousands of american prisoners who died in british jails, particularly on british prison ships that were anchored in the east river, for example, off of new york. there were prisoners who were executed on both sides. there's no question about that. there were executions. men were hanged, sort of extrajudicially. it is wrong to say that most prisoners were bayonetted or executed, but the treatment could be quite rough, and of course it becomes a self-fulfilling thing. washington wrote many letters to the british high command complaining about the treatment of american prisoners, demanding that they be treated better.
most of those demands went unheeded. it's a nasty part of the american revolution. >> so april 1775, we didn't get very far in our conversation, but what was the political support in the colonies for an uprising? >> mixed. the british believed, strategic miscalculation that most americans, 2 1/2 million americans, 500,000 of them are black slaves, that most white americans are really loyal and all they need is a little encouragement. that's not true as they will find out. they would adhere to that error for years. i think you have to say that probably a third maybe of americans are true believers. a third are sitting on the
fence. probably 20% are loyalists. and then there are others who move back and forth between those camps. >> here's the first in hopefully the trilogy about the american revolution. the british are coming to warn america, lexington to princeton 1775-1777, rick atkinson is the author. thanks for spending a few minutes on book tv. >> thank you, peter. coming up in about a half hour, 20 minutes or so, we're going to be hearing from david mccullough, that will be live here at the national book festival. coming up next on our program, though, is mit's thomas malone whose newest book is called "super minds". this is chance for you to talk with professor malone. as we switch the guests out, though, we want to show you a little bit of a program that's going to air tonight. every week on -- every weekend on book tv, we host an
afterwords program, and this is where we invite a guest interviewer to come in and talk with a best-selling author. tonight's program is with ben hough who writes about evangelicals and politics. here's a portion of that program. >> you hear this all the time. i've heard this all the time; right? lesser of two evils. i can't vote for hillary. and then the big thing is, right, if you vote for neither, you're throwing your vote away; right? i mean, what -- how do you answer that? especially when evangelicals bring it to you; right? >> a lot of times it is very important i am talking to somebody of some sort of faith. if there was no greater moral truth in our universe, if truth was just something we all agreed on, as opposed to something that really fuels life, which i believe it is, pragmatically,
sure, why wouldn't you do that? the entire idea of faith is you're answering to something higher than that. >> right. >> so once i establish that with the person, is there something higher to answer to? it starts to begin a question of like how much do you really trust god if you think that god is limited to the two-party system? you know, that's a small god you're describing. he can't fulfill his will on earth unless you vote for the republican? i think the lesser evil argument is tempting but dangerous. i think it contributes to keeping a system in place that takes accountability out of the system. and i think it also is an easy way to bring in something like evangelicalism or any other faith and then use that as a way to get votes, which seems like about the worst possible way to use faith. >> so rather than being captive, and i mean this in a good way here, rather than being captive
to sort of evangelical theology, a big god who cares for his people, right, who you trust and you, you know, who has your back, so to speak, is it fair to say that many evangelicals then have instead replaced that kind of theology with a world view kind of defined by american politics, two party system -- >> and fear. >> and fear which i have written a lot about that and fear that, you know, we need a strong man, you know, some kind of person like trump to help us and save us while we have so much bigger than trump, you know, a god who cares and loves us. >> and that's the thing is you could have -- and i even say this in the book at one point, you could have gone into that voting booth and had a completely conscience and you did not believe any of the accusations that have ever been made about trump and you believe he's a redemptive figure. if you believe all of that, i
may think you are ignorant of some information. >> right. >> i may want to discuss it with you, but i don't think as poorly of your decision. you have made a decision that you think is in line in your relationship with god, and i can live with that. >> yeah. >> that's not what i'm hearing, though. >> right. >> when i talk to people about it, especially when i talked to them about it in 2016, the line was i'm holding my nose for these reasons. >> yeah. >> they actually had a lot of respect for my position at that time. >> right. >> over the years, what has become apparent to me is that they were never holding their nose. they like this. they like how aggressive he is with the press. they like how he fights. they like up until yesterday or two days ago they like how he curses in a speech. they like that he's real, you know. >> yeah. >> and i get perfectly why all that is very tempting. politics is a blood sport. >> right. >> and if you have felt like your side has constantly been getting bashed in the head while holding on to a higher set of values that your opponent doesn't have to hold themselves to, revenge probably feels pretty sweet. >> yeah.
>> but if you wanted to design a test for christians, i can't think of a better one than putting you in a position to get revenge and not take it, but they decided to take it. >> and that was ben howe, author of "the immoral majority" our afterwords guest this weekend. watch the full program tonight starting at 10:00 eastern. we are back live at the national book festival. we're pleased to have join us now on our book tv set professor thomas malone of mit. here's his most recent book. it is called "super minds", the surprising power of people and computers, thinking together. before we get into the topic of the book, professor, what is it that you do at mit? >> i'm a professor in the sloan school of management and director of the mit center for collective intelligence. pleasure to be a here.
>> what kind of management training do you give at mit? >> i teach two main courses, one is an mba course on strategic organizational design, about how to organize companies in different situations including innovative new things, like w i wikipedia for instance and the other is a leadership workshop help students learn about different capabilities for leadership. >> what is the collective intelligence center? >> we study the kinds of things that i wrote about in my book. collective intelligence i define in a very general way as groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. so by that definition, you could say every hierarchal company or nonprofit is a kind of collective intelligence, so are markets, so are communities, so are democracies. those are all examples of
collective intelligence. and to foreshadow just a little bit what you may be about to ask me, i talked for a long time about these things as collectively intelligence systems, and i eventually realized that a good short way of saying that was superminds, so that's the name i chose for my most recent book. >> how has our hyperconnectivity in the year 2019 change how you view this? >> well, from my point of view, hyperconnectivity is a very important part of the kinds of superminds that technology makes possible. i think many people are probably overestimating how important artificial intelligence will be. i think it will be very important, but i think people are underestimating how important hyperconnectivity will be. by hyperconnectivity, i just mean connecting people to other people and often to computers at
huge new scales and in rich new ways that were never possible before. so the internet is the prime enabler for the hyperconnectivity that's happening all around us all the time, and i think we're just scratching the surface of what that's going to make possible. >> what do you see as being possible? >> well, wikipedia i think is an interesting example. it's now happened already so we can understand it, but if you think about how an encyclopedia would have been written 30 years ago, you know, you would have had people sending letters or maybe some e-mails back and forth. you would have had editors. you would have had some world experts who wrote the things and reviewed the things. but because of the essentially free communication all over the world, now thousands of people have been -- people have been able to create an encyclopedia far larger than anything we have
ever had before, in many ways, probably far better, and by the way, almost for free. that's a way that hyperconnectivity made it possible to organize the work of writing a very big document much more easily in a quite different way. >> you also say that we're overestimating the use or the ability of artificial intelligence which is a huge buzz term right now. >> absolutely. i use the buzz term a lot. i teach on-line executive education courses, which i guess i should have mentioned earlier, about artificial intelligence. the one -- the first one we did is called artificial intelligence implications for business strategy. so lots of people are interested in this. i think there are huge potential for how artificial intelligence can be used in business and other parts of our society. but i think many people imagine that artificial intelligence
will soon be kind of like people, doing the same things that people do, sitting in the driver's seat of a car, sitting in the boss's desk. i think that's a really misleading way of thinking about what artificial intelligence will enable to us do. -- us to do. >> today what are the most common uses of ai in our world? >> so it depends of course on how you define ai. i would say google is a kind of artificial intelligence in a sense to search algorithms there. i would say that many companies are now using chat box and things like that that use some kinds of ai to communicate with people in something like natural language. there are more and more things like that. i think what will happen is that more and more of the small parts of what needs to be done in work will be done by artificial
intelligence. but these ai programs today and for the foreseeable future are only capable of what i call specialized intelligence, doing particular tasks. they don't have the same kind of general intelligence that we humans do, the ability to talk about lots of different subjects, to use common sense, etc. i think that's quite a long ways away probably. >> you say we're just scratching the surface on these areas; correct? >> yes -- both actually but i especially meant the surface of the possibilities for hyperconnectivity. >> let's go back to the overestimating of ai, though, in 10 years, 20 years, what is in your head? what do you see us doing or using this? >> let me tell you what people have estimated in the past as part of a way of answering that question. first, actually, i think the reason it's so easy to overestimate the potential of ai is because our science fiction
is full of computers that are as intelligent as humans, but it is much easier to imagine such computers than it is to actually create them. if you ask people today how long it will take till we have human level artificial intelligence, an average answer would probably be about 20 years from now. that's what many people would estimate. but what a lot of people don't know is that people have been asking that same question ever since the beginning of the field of artificial intelligence, in the 1950s, and people have estimated that human level ai has been about 20 years away for the last 60 years. so i think it is unlikely that we'll do that, that we will have that in the next couple of decades. >> we have a few more minutes with our guest thomas malone, we will put the numbers up in case
you would like to participate in a conversation with the author of this book "superminds". go ahead and dial in. we'll begin taking those calls in just a minute. i think a lot -- i don't think a lot -- i think about ibm's watson. do you have any idea how much has been invested in that program? have you had a role in it? and what is its function? >> so i haven't had any personal involvement with ibm watson. i do use it as an example, however. the original ibm watson program played the game show "jeopardy" and did it better than any human players of the game. i do know the person who led the development of that original watson program, and i confirmed with him what i suspected, which
is that the original watson program, that was so good at playing jeopardy couldn't even play tic tac toe, much less chess. it was very specialized for that particular task. now ibm has used the term watson to describe other software they have done since then. but i think in some ways that may make it harder to understand that many of those other programs are really just other programs that are called the same thing. and i think that we're still a long way from a general purpose ai program that can do all kinds of different things >> so you also teach an mba class. would you advise your students to invest and/or participate in the watson program? >> i don't have any particular recommendations about any company's products for or against. i think that the enterprise that ibm and many other companies
that are engaged in, of bringing artificial intelligence techniques to bear on more and more problems in business and in medicine and so forth, i think that's a very worthwhile enterprise, one i would absolutely engage my students to engage in at ibm and many other places. >> back to hyperconnectivity, is it in a sense crowd sourcing? >> that's one example of what you can do with hyperconnectivity. by crowd sourcing, people often mean letting anyone who wants to participate and that's one thing you can do very easily with hyperconnectivity, and there's been quite amazing things that have been done that way, getting good ideas from anyone, anywhere in the world about how to do these things. i think that's one, but not the only way of using hyperconnectivity. >> jean's calling in from maryland. hi, jean, you are on with thomas malo malone. >> good afternoon, dr. malone. i totally agree that having done 35 years of computer program, starting from 1958, i totally
agree with your assessment of artificial intelligence which first popped up with very bright people trying to make things happen about 40 years ago. the results so far are interesting, but not really major, major -- [inaudible]. as far as people using computers, i must give an example. john hopkins did -- created the first global satellite navigation system for the navy, with a team of four people doing the program, four on the navigation program. the point was in all the problems we had of every kind, from the science to the computers, the atmosphere at the lab was that everybody that had any idea when we hit -- we would have group meetings. anybody that could solve a problem, be our guest. that system ran operationally
successful 19 years before gps. i thought you might be interested in an example. the way i translate what you are saying is a perfect example of the major factors you're talking about. thank you for your time. >> thank you, gene. >> great example, i think you described the team of people who work together on creating that computer program, it sounds like your team of people was a kind of supermind itself, and then what they produced was a software program that could do a lot of other cool things. and i think you said artificial intelligence hasn't amounted to much yet. i think we are seeing more and more very useful things that artificial intelligence is doing. credit risk evaluation, for instance, with credit card charges and things like that. that's an example of something that happen so frequently we almost take it for granted, but that's a fairly early example of many of the benefits of artificial intelligence. >> next call for thomas malone comes from kathy in new york.
hi, kathy. >> caller: hi, how are you? i watch your show all the time. >> thanks for watching. we appreciate it. what's your question? >> i wanted to ask dr. malone if hyperconnectivity could be related to emergent behavior in groups of lower order life forms. in other words, like how colonies, like birds and ants and schools of fish, would he consider that a form of hyperconductivity? >> thank you, ma'am. so i think the example you bring up is a very interesting one. i would absolutely consider collections of animals as in many cases examples of collective intelligence or i'd call them superminds, birds
flocking together, ant colonies, beehiv beehives, etc., those are all examples of what i think are interesting cases of collective intelligence. i wouldn't p usually -- in most cases i would not consider them examples of hyperconnectivity, because they still communicate with each other only at a fairly local level. so one ant can communicate with another ant that's right next to it physically. one bird can sense the other bird flying near it. but they don't have as far as i know the kind of long-distance communication across now the entire planet that we humans have. and it's that kind of hyperconnectivity that i think will lead to some even more interesting kinds of collective intelligence and superminds. >> what's the down side to hyperconnectivity? >> well, it's a good question, and one we need to keep in mind. it is possible for people to know too much. i was just talking a few days ago with one of my colleagues at
mit, who is a nobel prize winner in economics, and he was espousing the view that many things that we want to be able to do, for instance, in government, if we have too much connectivity, too much transparency, may make it harder to actually do what needs to be done. if the people making decisions have to always worry about what anyone in the world would think about every comment they might make about what should be done, they are playing a game that's not just making the best decision. they're playing the game of how can i say things that people will be glad they heard me say? that doesn't necessarily lead to good decisions in the long run. >> one of the terms you use and talk about in your book "superminds" liquid democracy, which is what? >> liquid democracy is an interesting possibility that i think we don't yet know for sure that it will work on a large scale, but i think it is a very
interesting possibility that we should be experimenting with much more seriously. the idea of liquid democracy is that you can have a kind of combination of direct democracy and representative democracy. in a direct democracy, each voter votes directly on every question. in a representative democracy, like we have in the u.s. and other countries today, you elect representatives who in turn vote on your behalf. in a liquid democracy, you can do both. as an individual voter, you can always vote directly on any question, if you want to. but most of us don't begin to have the time or even the interest in doing that. so we can also in a liquid democracy delegate our right to vote, our proxy to anyone else we want to. i might give you for instance my proxy for voting on military issues. i would give my wife a proxy for voting on environmental issues. each of you in turn could delegate my proxy even further
for instance for people who knew more about specific questions that needed to be voted on. if at any time i didn't like how my proxy was being voted, i could always take it back and either vote directly myself or give my proxy to someone else. see the potential advantage of that is it lets you create democracy that are i think often much more response i have to the actual -- responsive to the actual desire of voters, better able to take advantage of specialized knowledge of particular questions, and the key point here is that this kind of democracy wouldn't even be feasible without computers. >> thomas malone is the author. he's at mit. his most recent book "superminds". previously the author of "the future of work" which came out in 2004. thanks for spending a few minutes on book tv.
>> thank you. >> our live coverage of the book festival now in washington, in its 19th year continues. up next pulitzer prize winning author and historian david mccullough will be speaking. after that you will hear about race in america with henry lewis gates and a couple of other authors. this is live coverage of the national book festival. [applause]
to the david mccullough hour. i'm so proud that this library of congress puts on this fabulous festival for you, free, open to the public. [applause] >> what a gift. what a gift. and an even better gift is to have spectacular authors, like historian david mccullough sitting on this stage, right here with all of us. >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you. [applause] >> he is -- i don't have to say this because you said it with your applause, the most celebrated living historian in the united states of america, of the american experience, which is even greater. [applause] >> he's been called the dean of americana, and there's a reason why. he has taken us through the jonestown, the building of the panama canal, the building of
the brooklyn bridge, truman, john adams, the americans in paris, the wright brothers and sister, and this fabulous new book that we're going to talk about a little bit later, "the pioneers". so he's won the pulitzer prize twice, the national book award twice, and he's been given the presidential medal of honor -- or freedom, excuse me, freedom, even better than honor. and you've been writing, david, about america -- i mean the trajectory than 150 years, since let's say the revolution and beyond. is there a theme here? >> yes. i now see it as i have not --
some things you gain from time going by. i see now that almost all of my books are about americans who set out to accomplish something worthy that they knew would be difficult and was going to be more difficult even than they expected and who did not give up and who learned from their mistakes and who eventually achieved what their purpose had been in the first place. and always the characters that i've chosen to focus on, always to our benefit. i think that one of the reasons that we ought to read history and know history is to increase our capacity for gratitude for those who went before us, of what they did for us, what they achieved for us and for us to take it for granted is rude in
the extreme. and we -- i think that two of the qualities that history provides in how we -- what we read and what we teach are gratitude and empathy. to put ourselves in the place of those who went before us, what they put up with, in working for the last several years in trying to understand what these pioneers who settled in ohio had to contend with and what they accomplished against such adversities, i can't help but feel we're a bunch of softies. [laughter] >> and how much we learn from them and how much we come to know about them that we can't even know with people that we are close to in real life because for one thing, in real life, you don't get to read other people's diaries and mail.
and when you sit down, the papers of john adams or abigail adams, you really get to know them because they are pouring out all of their innermost ambitions and worries and fears and suffering. that word suffering isn't just that they got hurt or that they worried excessively about their -- excuse me -- safety for their children. they were suffering. there's so much that they didn't have that we have now that we take for granted. they had no sedatives. they had no band aids. they had no chainsaws. they had no -- well, a lot. and we should never just say oh, yeah, that's the way it is. we're lucky people. and i've come to feel very
strongly. we're a good people. we're a good nation. and yes, we make mistakes. and yes, there's evil. and yes, there are people who cheat and lie and people who have nothing but selfish ambition. but they are the minority. they are the exception, not the rule. and it has been that way right along. >> well, i don't think there's anybody who has taught us more, and i mean in a really engaged way. david, you have had a career in which you have made history exciting, engaging. you have made it popular. you have brought it to a different level. i know academic historians, i'm thinking of my friend gordon wood, who has great admiration for you because you have made his subject a subject of great
interest, and in what you just said about your theme being this tremendous force of history that brought us to where we are, that made us who we are, and that the sacrifices and the suffering as you say, but no one has really engaged a public in the way that you have, and here's a person who has been in the last 50 years of book writing, not one book, these are books that have sold millions and been translated in many languages not one book has gone out of print in the course of 50 years. that's pretty amazing. [applause] >> i would like to make another point. this is all confessional at this stage in life i have reached,
but i have never undertaken a subject -- subject that i knew anything much about. honestly. if i knew all about it, i wouldn't want to write the book. to me the book -- the writing of the book is the adventure. and often an adventure with consequences that i never expected, and i've got -- it's as if i'm going to a continent that i have never set foot on. when i started off to write the brooklyn bridge, let me just say, how that happened. let me say first of all, my ambition to write began in the library of congress. [applause] >> i was up there -- i had quit my job in new york where i
worked at time and life because president kennedy called on us -- i was still in my 20s to do something for our country. and i came down to washington. i knew nobody in the kennedy crowd. i knew nobody in the government. but i thought somewhere there is some organization that could use what i've had -- my education and my working experience. and i wound up being the editor of a magazine published by the u.s. information agency. and it was a picture magazine, very much like the old "life" magazine and i had to spend a lot of time doing picture research at the library of congress. and one day i was -- went in, the print photographs section, and there spread out on a big table were photographs taken by a photographer who had somehow managed to get himself over the mountains and down into
jonestown right after the catastrophic flood. i looked at those pictures and i thought what happened? terrible destruction. i grew up in pittsburgh which isn't very far from there. as boys my brothers and i used to make a lake of gravy, a lake of gravy in the mashed potatoes and then we would take our forks and break through the potatoes as the gravy flowed down among the peas, we'd say the johnstown flood. [laughter] having no idea whatsoever what that was. [laughter] >> so i saw those photographs and i thought i have got to read more about what the hell happened. i just got -- curiosity, that's the great thing to stimulate in learning and teaching, but in any event, i worked for three
years. the book was published and right away, two other publishers from my own publisher, came to me and wanted me to do the chicago fire. the other wanted me to do the san francisco earthquake. so i was still in my 30s, and i was being typecast as bad news mccullough. [laughter] >> and i didn't like that. and i was determined, i'm going to do something where human beings did something right, something noble, something admirable -- admirable, something we're still quite aware of. one day i was having lunch -- lunch with some friends down in the lower east side of new york. one was a science writer. the other was an engineer and professor of engineering. they got going about all the people who built the brooklyn bridge didn't know that they were in for when they started on the project. and my wife rosie and i had
lived in brooklyn when we were first married. i felt connected. and i also thought there is a hugely admirable composition, accomplishment that we americans all know and will always know. it's emblematic of what we stand for in so many ways, and i went out of that lunch knowing that's my next subject. i knew nothing about physics. i was terrible at physics in school. i wasn't a very good mathematician. but i thought if i can find somebody who can explain this to me in the english language, we will be fine. and then we heard that there was a wonderful collection of letters and diaries and all the rest of the family up at rpi in troy new york. so one cool beautiful fall day, rosie and i drove up to troy to
go see this collection. the library then was in an old church building, an old gothic church, not a very good building for a library, and because there was an away football team by the troy team -- an away football game by the troy team, the campus was empty. so we went in. there was one woman behind the desk, and she said yes, the collection is up stairs, on the 4th floor. i can't take you up there because i'm the only one on duty. here's the key. we climbed the creeky stairs. the lightbulbs got dimmer as we got higher. probably 40 watts by the time we got on the top floor. she said on the left.
i expected the room to be a library room, a table, maybe a work table and chairs. we opened the door and it was nothing but a closet and with shelves on three sides from floor to ceiling, big closet, packed with papers, diaries, tied up with old shoestrings that clearly had not been untied in 50 years or more and statues, and i looked at it and i said oh my god, and rosie was behind me and said oh my god. [laughter] >> you know, there goes three more years, you know. [laughter] >> but oh what an adventure, what a story. i would like to point something out about that. it was 150 years ago this year that work began on building the brooklyn bridge. that accomplishment would not
have happened if it hadn't been for immigrants. the immigrants -- [applause] >> including the genius who designed it, john roebling was an immigrant from germany. all immigrants and so were the people who built the transcontinental railroad 150 years ago this year. 20,000 chinese worked to make that successful. and they did the toughest part of the whole job, which was out west. kennedy said we will go to the moon, and we did, 50 years ago. and let us not forget that if it
weren't for highly-skilled brilliant technicians who also were immigrants, it wouldn't have happened. we are all in need of immigrants. and we are immigrants, most all of us. [applause] >> david, thank you for that. i was going to ask you -- my next question was what is your secret sauce? but i think you just gave it away. >> i would like to add one more quick story. [laughter] >> when i wrote my first book, my ed author was a wonderful guy -- my editor was a wonderful guy. he was famous for titles. he did the longest day for the book about the invasion at d-day. black board jungle. and he was very proud of it, rightly so. when i finished the book, i hadn't talked to him since we
agreed on the contract. and i couldn't come up with a title. i searched through the bible. i searched through shakespeare. i couldn't find anything. but i couldn't delay it any longer. i called him up and said, wondering if he remembered who i was, i said this is david mccullough. he said oh, yeah, how are you? he had a sort of way of talking. i said i'm fine. i finished my book. i know how brilliant you are at titles and how important titles are to you, but i can't come up with a title for this book. he said no secret to a title for that book. call it the johnstown flood. [laughter] >> he said what were you thinking of calling it? one wet wednesday? [laughter] >> so then i finally finished the brooklyn bridge book. and i called him up and said,
i'm finishing the brooklyn bridge book. it is done. i'm very happy about it. i've sent it on to you. did you receive it? and he said yes. then he said how do you spell niagara? i said niarga. he said wrong. it's niagara. i need to go through and fix all that. i said what do you think of the book? he said oh terrific. we can never underestimate the importance of so many people who make a book possible and particularly the kinds of books that i write and others. editors particularly of course, but librarians and archivists, and i just thank goodness for the wonderful people that i've had the good fortune to work
with at the library of congress, innumerable other libraries both here and in europe and the wonderful editors i have had who it's a joint effort. and almost nothing is ever accomplished alone. there's no such thing as a self-made man or woman. that's nonsense. we're all the result of so many people who have helped and taught us and sometimes been rivals and thank goodness for it. i think one of the most important lessons of history is learn from your mistakes. don't be the kind of person that when you're knocked down, don't lie there and wimper and moan and feel sorry for yourself. get up, figure out what you did wrong, why it didn't work and get back to work. >> is that the american character? >> i think so. and i think it needs to be cultivated and encouraged in our young people. >> well, you have a passion for
the american character, and you have a passion for -- and i have heard you say this because we have been friends for a while, a long while, and i have heard you get so excited about seeing the early that you haven't seen before and saying oh my god this is extraordinary. and the process of getting the details and all of that is very passionate process for you. but also you've written a lot about people who have been written about a lot, like john adams and truman, and -- but you do it a different way. what is that different way, do you think? >> well, truman and adams have the in common in they were both up staged by the president who preceded them and the president who followed them, men who were taller, better looking, more famous, so forth. and i felt in both cases -- both adams and truman deserved far more attention than they've been given. i remember the night of the 48
election, i was in high school, and my father -- very republican family, and my father was listening all night to see who won. i tried to stay awake. i couldn't. i went to bed. the next morning, my dad was in shaving, and i went in and said dad, dad, who won? he said truman, like it was the end of the world. and i don't know, 30 years later, i was back home. we sat down to have a chat after dinner. and he started telling me about how the world was going to hell and the country was going to hell, and then he paused and he said too bad old harry isn't still in the white house. [laughter] >> and that's what happens. the dust settles, and you see them differently. you judge them differently and he himself said that you have to wait 50 years. but with this book, i was writing about people you never heard of and nobody's ever heard of, including historians.
and i had dreamed of doing that some day. why would i need to have a celebrity in the past saying help me get everybody in the tent? let's just do it on the story that's there to be told. i was hugely influenced when i was in college. i loved "our town". >> this is at yale. >> at yale. "our town" is a classic american masterpie masterpiece. could i ever find a situation, a story where there was sufficient the early to tell the story in their language from their point of view of a group of people you've never heard of? well, it was one of the most thrilling strokes of luck in my working, writing life, that i found this incredible collection, in of all places, a
small college library in ohio, marietta college in marietta, ohio. and it was all the papers, all the letters and diaries of these first pioneers, numbering in the thousands, the letters and diaries and done primarily by five different characters. and they pour out what they're worried about, what they are striving to achieve, what they stand for, as do their wives and some of their children. and there it was. it wasn't in somebody's attic or some grim place. it was all superbly collected and a marvelous librarian, one of the best people i have ever worked with, linda showalter who knows the collection up and down and realizes how vastly important it is. these people who went out to
ohio in the last part of the 18th century had passed what was known as the northwest ordinance, meaning north and west of the ohio river. >> you say it's as important as the declaration of independence or the magna carta. >> it was because they said -- one of the most important bills ever passed by congress. they said it is not enough to say all men are created equal and then have all your slaves out in the lawn fixing up how everything looked, they said if all men are created equal, we will not have slavery. they said there will be no slavery in this territory which was to make up five new states which in geographic area was as large as all the original 13 colonies so that it doubled the size of the country and said in this half of the country, there will be no slavery. and that was -- that was the
work of principally one man who had never lobbied legislation in his life. they didn't have the word lobbied yet. he was a classic 18th century lawyer and doctor and a divinity -- doctor of divinity, all in one person. he was also the leading naturalist botanist of his time, american botanist. he was -- he was interested in everything. and he said we will treat these native americans with respect and fairness, and he said there will be complete freedom of religion and there will be public education, education for everybody, and there was no public education in massachusetts or connecticut or anywhere at that point. so those three hugely important advances were promoted and got passed by congress by one man,
and we don't even know him or didn't until we started to write about it. then when after jefferson was elected and the political party with jefferson decided they were going to -- in the ohio legislature, they were going to change the rule on slavery and admit slaves. this was in 18 -- [inaudible]. meantime, vanessa cutler's son ephraim cutler had gone out as one of the pioneers. he was still a young man and he was elected to the legislature, and he was working with one of washington's generals who was one of the original pioneers to go out, named rufus putnam and they were battling to stop this move to disband the rule and allow slavery. and the day of the vote ephraim