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tv   Books by David Mc Cullough  CSPAN  May 2, 2020 10:01am-11:31am EDT

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good decisions for the citizens so i think the resiliency, i want to say something. sometimes it takes a while to get going, the private sector gets involved in the way that they are, this is a pretty resilient society because it has so many sources of resiliency and finally when we get through this i think we are going to go back out into the world and help others to be resilient too which is the lesson of the compassion we have in dealing with the aids epidemic in dealing with ebola and i think we will be there to do it again. >> host: thank you for today's discussion. it was really fun. >> guest: thank you. >> now on c-span2's booktv, more television for serious readers. >> we are highlighting programs
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from our archives, with pulitzer prize winning historian david mccullough. he has appeared on booktv more than 50 times. all of the programs you're about to see can be viewed in their entirety by visiting our website,, using the search function at the top of the page. first, in 1992 on the book notes program david mccullough discussed his biography of president harry truman. it was awarded the pulitzer prize for biography and was instrumental in changing attitudes about the truman presidency. here is a portion of that interview. >> the attempted assassination, a number of presidents of been assassinated, why wouldn't the government have protections? >> guest: just wasn't. why would there be a pension? pension for everybody else but opens and for president, he had very little money. he had to borrow some money quite secretly, which dean
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addison cosigned to pay for the move back home. this is not well-known it doesn't mean he didn't have any money, he did have money but needed some cash to cover the expenses of moving out of the white house. when he got home in order to provide himself in income he undertook the writing of his autobiography, his memoirs which no other president ever done except for herbert hoover but hoover's time in office was briefer, truman covered more tomatoes history so to undertake a two volume memoir was a very major ambitious task, then he built his library. there had been a previous presidential library that was established after roosevelt died in office, truman was the first president to officiate
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over the establishment of the presidential library and again he was beginning something new. one of the things i tried to imply or emphasize in the book is truman was at heart a very creative public figure, he was a creative president, his was a creative presidency. he had been a builder all his life, he built roads, he built courthouses. when he got to washington he built the famous truman balcony on back of the white house which caused a flurry of criticism and then of course he is the one who entirely rebuilt the white house, the white house we have today is the house that harry built except for the are shell which was maintained, the original outer shell. the entire interior is a reconstruction of the original house. he took every detail of that reconstruction, he loved
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building, loved creating things and in a larger way, his presidency is marked by such creative and innovative acts as the marshall plan. to be a builder in this last chapter appealed to him tremendously. building the library became his life. except for his travels when he went to your. >> host: did you ever meet him? >> guest: i saw him when i was a youngster. one of my first jobs in new york i was very starry eyed, i was coming home from work, we lived in brooklyn, came out of the subway stop and a big car
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pulled up and the car pulled up and governor harriman, quite excited about, and former president truman, was just astonished. i remember thinking he is in color because we only had black-and-white television and newspapers and i think he radiated good health, made him seem vital, but a person. he certainly didn't seem like a little man. he was 6 foot 8 but i never spoke to him, never met him. wouldn't it be interesting to go back, reach out and touch him on the shoulder.
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>> host: what do you think he would think of this? >> guest: there is some that he wouldn't like. i would hope, i would think i understood him better than other people have. he was a much more complicated, complex, keenly intelligent, thoughtful, considerate man then harry truman portrait. he isn't a kind - just a kind
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of salty, down-home missouri will rogers. all the people i interviewed who knew him and worked with him and were in the white house with him all say please understand that this man was more than met the eye. >> host: how many interviews did you do? >> guest: 126. that was across a broad spectrum. some people hardly knew him at all, siam come and go as neighbors. also some of whom who were so important that i interviewed them many times over during the ten years it took to write the book. >> host: you spend the most time. >> guest: in total, margaret truman, his daughter, george elsie on the white house step, secret service people were with them all the time. >> host: are secret service about to talk after the fact?
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>> guest: apparently so. >> guest: they saw him off stands. the attempted assassination, two of the secret service men in washington. both inside and outside where it took place, spent part of one saturday doing that. i am sure that is never done before, based on material that can be had by reaching - my devotion to harry truman is a very compelling thing to listen to. at all levels i did not find a
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single person who knew him well, worked with him with the backstage temper, what an ungrateful a difficult boss who has to work with and the closer people get to him, in a way, there are people who didn't like him. skeletons to pull out of the closet. >> host: when did you start on it? >> guest: ten years ago, 1982. >> host: what was the reason? >> guest: i was working on a book about pablo picasso. i had to go around the barn with pablo picasso and i quit that book, i found i liked him so.
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didn't have a story of what interested me. never really went very far or had any adventure so to speak. he was an immensely important painter, the krakatoa of modern art, but i found his treatment of his family, his attitude toward women, he wasn't somebody i want to spend five years with as a roommate so to speak and my editor at simon & schuster suggested i think about doing franklin roosevelt because at that time there was not a good one volume biography of franklin roosevelt. just on impulse, just in a visible way i said no, if i'm going to do a twentieth century president it would be harry truman and he said why not harry truman? i looked into it and found that
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there was not a good biography of harry truman, there wasn't a complete life and times. this next chapter you are talking about, that part of his life is never been written before. comprising 20 years of his life. beyond that there was this immense collection of letters and diaries which he poured himself out on paper all of his life. he left a written personal revealing record unlike that of any president that i know of. i'm sure we will never have another president that leaves anything like that. we don't keep diaries much anymore. he did both his whole life was long before he ever realized he was going to be a figure in history. in one month to give you an example in 1947 when he was president and when his wife
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beth was back in independence, harry truman, the president of the united states, wrote to her 37 times and these weren't just import how are you, the weather has turned cool or whatever, these were real letters. >> host: did you ever find out? >> guest: actual letters which he had wonderful, clear, straightforward, strong handwriting just like he was but very legible. never a problem reading his handwriting, seldom a problem understanding what he was talking about. >> host: you point out at some point in his life he and his wife called their daughter margaret every night in new york. >> guest: yes. they were very close, the same people were with him as secret service agents or white house staff, the mystic staff in the mansion, by far the closest men they had ever known in the
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white house and though they don't want to be quoted by personnel say truman was their favorite president, the first president ever to walk into the kitchen, the first president in their memory to walk into the kitchen to thank fisher for the cook for the dinner that night. they remembered calvin coolidge coming out once or twice but that was to see if anybody was filtering food. truman new everybody on staff, new about their families. this wasn't a politician's device, this is the way he was. the whole give them hell harry, harry truman on the job at the office in the white house with his people, the lowest level or highest level never gave anyone -- never raised his voice.
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if anything he's a member of being considerate. for small favors and courtesies he would do. >> host: david mccullough has appeared on c-span 75 times including 50 appearances on booktv. up next he discusses his biography, "john adams," the recipient of the pulitzer prize. >> guest: john adams was born in 1735. he lived until 1826, the age of 91. he lived longer than any president in our history. he has been commonly thought of as a rich boston blueblood. he was none of those. he wasn't rich, wasn't a bostonian it wasn't a blueblood. he was a farmer's son who because of his scholarship to harvard discovered books, he said, read forever. john adams most deeply and broadly read american of his bookish time, and let's please
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today remember it was john adams, the second president in nine state to sign the legislation that created the library of congress. to talk about john adams, to remember john adams is altogether particularly appropriate on this occasion. he was a man of genuine brilliance and great heart, great humor, devoted to his country, truthful, devoted to his wife, to his family, hard-working, god-fearing and altogether one of the bravest patriot in our history. he was abrasive, sometimes temperamental, sometimes tactless, sometimes overly concerned with his own position or place in the estimate of his
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friends or posterity and he was also a man, to his credit but also to his disadvantage who as he said never considered popularity his mistress. he never recorded popularity. he was a man of principle, his courage was the courage of his convictions which one of the most vivid and important examples of his principal behavior and conduct in life is he is the only founding father whoever -- never owned a slave as a matter of principle. we know it is important to judge those who didn't own slaves in the context a time. it is correct and fair and historically the sensible, sound thing to do. let's not forget john and abigail adams were also a time and oppose slavery. abigail perhaps even more ardently than her husband, at
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one point she says i wonder if all the travails and suffering we are going through our god's punishment for the sin of slavery. this san andreas fault of slavery, begins well before the revolution just as the revolution is too many seem not to understand began well before the declaration of independence. the declaration of independence as john dickinson who opposed the signing of the declaration of independence, launching into a storm in a skiff made of paper. what made it more than just a piece of paper, the fact that we succeeded in the revolution, in the war, fought for and succeeded in gaining independence. john adams would not have said
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free and independent, he would have said independent and free. you need to have independence and then comes the freedom. new englanders by nature, bicultural tradition were fiercely independent people, independence was a way of life, so was religion. the most important in understanding that time, that age, that moment in history and those protagonists. we believe in strongly the separation of church and state and to a large degree they all did too but the separation of church and state in their time in their minds, lives in spirits did not mean separation of church and statesman. if we want to understand that, we have to understand the part religion played in their life and their outlook on what might happen next. they also had very long
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distance communication the took a lot of time and travail and almost beyond our reckoning to get a letter back between philadelphia and boston or quincy where the adamss lived, took at least two weeks, communication across the ocean in the adams abigail and john were separated cumulatively ten years and that separation was created by the atlantic ocean and to communicate across the atlantic ocean took upwards of 3 to 6 months. and what did that mean? it is very inconvenient. it meant in personal life and in diplomatic life or official life that one had to be more responsible than we understand today for one's own decisions.
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abigail adams at home running the family, running the farm, trying to keep people, good people working with her to make the farm work because that was their only means of subsistence, trying to educate the children, making decisions whether to get smallpox shots for example, had to make those decisions herself. he couldn't pick up the phone and ask what should i do? and that was a part of life. the assumption of responsibility to one's self. when adams was serving in france and in the netherlands and england as a diplomat, again and again he had to make tremendous decisions on his own, decisions that would affect the course of events at the time in the fortune of the united states and his country but also his own career but he made them because it was necessary. nothing communicated any faster than something that could be
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transported. we think of communication and transportation is two different things but at that time it was the same thing, no faster than a sailboat or somebody on a horse. they weren't like we are because they lived in a different time. a very different time. and a very interesting time. i tried to read not only what they wrote, and oh my, did they write. neither john nor abigail adams was capable of writing a dark sentence or a short letter. they wrote just between the two of them over 1000 letters to each other that have survived. all in the massachusetts historical society and all on rag paper and those letters are as good as the day they were written and you can hold in your hand and you're holding that but the same distance from
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your eyes as they did with two hand as they didn't believe me, something tactile, something very important happens when you are working with the real thing. it isn't the same as seen on microfilm or reproduced in the book. the humanity, the mortality, the vulnerability of those people comes through in the bravery. think of that woman alone in her kitchen at 11:00 at night, doing all she did, sitting down and writing those letters and nearly always inserting to her letter some wonderful quote from one of her favorite poets or from shakespeare and nearly always getting a little bit wrong which shows she didn't look it up, she wasn't taking a book off the shelf and copying it out saying this will make me look very erudite. she knew it was part of her but
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there is equally important and equally rewarding experience in reading not just what they wrote but what they read. i do small piece of the washington post this summer about that, going back and reading all those writers that so many of us were required to read in english courses in high school and college, samuel johnson and pope and swift and defoe and samuel richardson, the novels of samuel richardson, and to be reminded about how terrific they were, what wonderful writers. we talk about progress, heaven knows we lived with the benefits progress certainly when we go to the dentist.
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[laughter] >> when i think of for john adams at the end of his life, not a tooth in his head, every one of them had to have been pulled long before novocain. we have a certain vanity and a certain arrogance about progress but when you read what they wrote in the eighteenth century i don't think anybody does it any better today or even as well. i will tell you something else about to make us all sit up and shape up, the literacy rate in massachusetts was higher in their time than it is today. what a disgrace that is and what good work or a lot of work still has to be done about that. the books that they read affected their lives as they do
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our lives in our time. affected the notion of truth, there was him, right, wrong, how you write a letter, john adams for example advised john quincy don't try to write when you write a letter, don't strain for thrills, right the way you talk. it is a letter, right the way you talk so when you read his letters and to a large degree the letters of john quincy are hearing them talk and one of the things i have done in my books, particularly in this book, one of the ways i approach biography is to let them talk as much as possible. most of life is talk if you think about it. how they talk, the words they use, the figures of speech, the expression, the cadences is a reflection of personality.
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abigail was influenced by the writings of samuel richardson particularly the great novel clarissa which was one of the most popular novels of the eighteenth century. she would letter, you ought to write your letters the way they are in that novel, the whole novel as many of you know, people writing letters back and forth to each other and they are written to the moment, what is happening right now and that is the way abigail's letters are written. of others she wrote to her husband's were written because they were separated for so many years and suffering they experienced because of their separation is to our advantage because as a consequence we have the letters but even when she wasn't separated from her husband she would write to somebody else, she would write to her sister. some of the best letters she
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ever wrote in the point is she needed to write, she needed to work her thoughts on paper, her feelings out on paper and this is a very important point for all of us and you all had the experience to sit down and start to write something and find you have an insight or a thought you never would have had if you haven't required or wanted to write, something about writing focuses the brain in a different way. >> we have opened our archives to look at author programs with historian david mccullough. in 2001 he appeared on our monthly call in program "in depth" to discuss his writing process. he gives us a tour of his home and where he writes. >> we got some video of your home and your writing should. >> it is not a shed. that is our home on music street in west to the very,
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massachusetts, a village in the center of the island of martha's vineyard. it is 18th-century, 19th-century, part of it is 20th-century, that is the back porch looking over the acre we have owned where we have gardens and a nice reach bordering to a neighboring farm which has been the same family since the island was first settled. this is my walk to work that measures 12 x eight feet, has windows on all four sides would absolutely love it, has 800 books in there and my faithful typewriter. i have written every book i have ever written on that typewriter and there's nothing wrong with it. it is an example of a beautifully made american machine. probably has 750,000 miles on it and runs perfectly.
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>> host: have you written every word of covid-19 in this room. >> part was written in charlottesville when we lived there for a year for the benefit of the year when doing research at the library of the university of virginia but essentially all of it was written here in that room. .. there's a guy in the end that i identify with. he's the one that he's a little slow. he's not quite -- i look at him
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and he's my example. there he is. that's the one. [laughter] >> he's always a little behind and i -- i worked out there because when the children were young i didn't want them to have to be walking around. i call made to really look at what's in front of me as i work, that's one of the earliest photograph of the capitol. i love that photograph. this is the great line from adams' letter to abigail, but honest and wiseman ever rule which is into the metal piece of the state do i think room at the white house. that's the map of boston which
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is important in the book i'm working on now and important in john adams book. there's a wonderful crayon drawing by john adams, i think it's the most representative of him ever done and i just -- i love drawing, i love painting. i paint and draw myself and -- and since the only way we can see those paintings and drawings, the paintings of the upmost importance and try to reach the human being that one is writing about. those are all the bound letters of george washington which, again, is part of what i'm working on. those are some that are dug up in the property and building where i work. >> how long have you lived in the house there? >> we have lived in the house -- bought initially in 1965 and paid less for it than you pay
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for a car today. it was the sore eye and slowly repaired it. we spent probably in the aggregate of half -- at least in missouri when i was working on truman book. this is the other work area. this is where all of our paraphernalia of the communications are located, the fax machine, the copying machine and the computer, so forth, and that's a little sign that says no cell phones in this room which i clipped from a hotel room. that's a photograph when i spoke in joint session.
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some grandchildren, that was tom cain's previously picture. one of my water colors there, the house on martha's vineyard. the paintings are sort of here and there around the house. i give them to children, that's one from our hotel room in boston, boston public garden. >> how long does it take you to paint? >> depends, that's water colors which are done pretty quickly. that's a little sketch of it. farm near the house where we live. pen and ink that i did. it's something that i always loved to do and our oldest daughter melissa and first granddaughter caitlin and john john mcdonald, that's the public library across the street where i served as a trustee over the years, so you see there's -- you see our house, you see how far i
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had to go to go to the library. i used to say to my friends, would you like to go to the library for brandy and cigars and we walked across the street and that's the church where some of our children were married and that's right on the corner of we live. >> i have in my laptop photographs and has creases in it. >> that's a picture of my mother probably taken probably taken before i was born. >> mother on the left? >> mother on the left and my aunt marty on the right. i love it because it's such a wonderful period photograph. there's a great-old car. cars always take photographs. i always put a car in the photographs and you know when i take it. i appreciate the picture because my aunt marty in the picture was the one who gave me a copy when i graduated from yale. that started me reading first
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captain which started me reading a lot of other people and i didn't know it at the time but the book really changed my life because i began to do what i wanted to do as a writer. >> david mccullough is the author of a dozen books and two-time winner of pulitzer prize and appeared on book tv more than 50 times. on our programs from our archive continue with talk host by the washington post in 2002. here he reflects on the research he conducted from 1983 book about the brooklyn bridge. >> i had a lunch with several friends in a restaurant in lower east side of washington of new york and the two friends were both engineers and they both started talking about all that the builders that the brooklyn hadn't known when they set out to create this unprecedented
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structure. well, my first book had been about the johnstown flood which is study of human short-sidedness and human irresponsibility. the -- if there's a theme that it's perilous, extremely danger because people are in positions of responsibility they are, therefore irresponsibly. at the cost of 2,000 lives. it wasn't an act of god, it was the fault of human beings. and after the book came out,
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wanted me to do the book about chicago fire and the other about san francisco earthquake and at the age of 35 i was being tight news mccullough and i didn't like that. in fact, what i really wanted to in my outlook on life and the human being condition was some form of affirmation. we know how to sob problems, human beings, and we do have capacity to do things than we know and imperfect people can often achieve noble, creative works and listening to these two men talking about the brooklyn bridge at the lunch, i suddenly
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thought, and i came out of the restaurant andrew: somebody waiting for me back at the office to talk about something rather and i was excited about the idea and motivated i went immediately to 32nd floor. i was propelled by the book that was acquiring structure in my head. all i wanted to know is if somebody had already done it and i pulled out the drawer and there were a hundred cards on the subject of brooklyn bridge but not one according to scriptions on the card, a book that i had in mind to write. i knew nothing about bridge engineers or physics and mathematics and one of the lessons that i learned in the process of writing the book, if you're motivated you can learn anything.
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if you work it out yourself, if you unravel it yourself, if you struggle to understand it on your own, you will -- you will know it in a way that -- that you will never lose it. it will never go away and i'm very interested in how we are learning things and how we teach people today and have traditionally and so much of it just handed to the student and we all know how we can study or have studied for an exam for days and days and we take the examine and we do fairly well or maybe even very well and then two months, 2 years it's gone, and i could go today 30 years later to take a test on the building of the brooklyn bridge on the details of structure of the brooklyn bridge and do extremely well because it's part of me now. it will always be part of me because i had to do it on my own struggling told it myself.
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rosy and i then drove up to our home in white plains. it was a beautiful saturday afternoon in the fall, everything was in glorious color and we got to the campus in new york and almost no one there. it must have been a football weekend or something. we went to the library which was an old church convert intoed a library, very dark victorian church and i went to the desk and i called in advance and i said we are here to look at the collection and the woman said, well, we are so short-handed today and i will give you the key and as you go up to the top of the stairs all the way to the attic and the light switches on the way up the stairs and if you turn left there's a door to a closet right to the left of the top of the stairs. well, we went up the stairs and
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turning on the light switches which were like 40-watt bulbs and the stairs creeked. it was like something out of stephen king and we got to the top of the stairs and turned to the left and took the key, opened the door and there wasn't a closet, it was really a small room with shelves all around from florida to ceiling jammed -- floor to ceiling jammed with books, all kinds of notes of some kind, you couldn't tell what they were tied up with old shoe strings and you could tell that shoes had never been untied, they had never been untied. and there was -- there was a door-knocker, brooklyn heights, everything, it looked just like something like in somebody's
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closet in somebody's attic but it was the volume of it, the amount and i looked at it and i went, oh, my god, she said, oh, my god. [laughter] >> there goes 3 years of our lives. [cheers and applause] >> well, it was -- it was -- it was the proverbial trunk in the attic compounded, i don't know how many times, and it did take 3 years to go through the material and to write the book, and they were in many ways the 3 best years of my writing life. and i was telling, marie, before this event started there i had written a number of books and sometimes you write the book and the subject of the book is sort of done when you're finished. you feel, that's it, i've said
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everything i want to say about this and you -- you really don't want to turn back to it again, but that has never been true for the subject of the brooklyn bridge. it's indefinitely interesting structure and importance and a lesson of so many kinds that i hope in the brief way i can just talk about that. first of all, it is a great urban event. it is a great expression of the ideal of the city, of a community committed to the idea of a city and stands at the very gateway of our nation, of our country and particularly in that day, in the 19th century, the gateway for millions of immigrants coming up to harbor to the new world. there was nothing like it in the
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world. there was nothing like it in the country. those towers on the brooklyn bridge, when they were completed, which don't seem like very much today were the tallest structures in the north american continent, taller than the dome and they were expression of beginning of high-rise or as kenneth clark said heroic new york. first time that appeared that the city wasn't going to grow out, it was going to grow up. now the concept of a vertical city was new and furthermore to impossible and in the the city sky scraper urban america right there because it contains heroic scale and steel. the first use of structural steel in a major way in any structure in new york and each bridge in st. louis which still
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stands major just of structural steel, anywhere, steel is going to transform the country. we talk about revolution, social revolution, economic revolutions. the revolution by steele is one about which too little is written and one of major changes of the country and the direction of the country. the -- the bridge also contains in its design a concept wherein a work of engineering is -- is performing a service to the quality of life in the city. if you've been to brooklyn bridge and walked across the brooklyn bridge you know exactly what i'm talking about. it's the board walk, it's how you walk over the bridge. instead of putting pedestrian sidewalks or walks on the outside of the bridge and the
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perimeter of the bridge, the designer put them inside the bridge, inside the great net of vertical stays and cables so that you -- and above the traffic, the vehicular traffic that when you walk across the brooklyn bridge you feel contained in that network of cables and you're not on the edge to have bridge to all the fears and uneasiness that can go with that are gone furthermore because you're above traffic you can enjoy the view than you can. there had never been a bridge where the pedestrian walkway was so designed and tragically there's never been one since and as you know now the engineers who designed our bridge, bridges i think spent, weeks, months, years studying how to put the railing at exactly the points that when you go across in a car you can't see anything.
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[laughter] [applause] >> engineers wrote in the original perspective that the idea -- if people on a sunday afternoon on a weekend day you can go with your family, your boyfriend, or your children and walk up out of the city, up higher than you had ever been in your life because there weren't many buildings that weren't more than 4, 5 stories. it isn't a river, it's a title strait, that's salt water, big tide, 4 to 6 feet, there were sharks in the river in those says, seagulls ply under the bridge and the bridge was so high because they were the days of the sail and only the very biggest ships of the day had to do that. it was also the beginnings of the steam on the river so you can see all kinds of steam
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boats, sailboats filled the fresh air, enjoy yourself and have the thrill of knowing that you were in new york city, you were in brooklyn, you were in the greatest metropolis and thought to be the greatest country on earth. >> you're watching book tv on c-span2 and taking a look at author programs with award winning historian david mccullough in 2005 he appeared in washington book festival to discuss best seller 1776. >> the revolutionary war era, the 18th century, was more important to who we are and the way we are and what we hold to be our american secular faith than most people realize and unfortunate to a very large degree, it is portrayed so often, almost as though as the
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people who were involved and particularly the protagonists were figures in a costume pageant. the clothing of the time, the renditions of jefferson and washington and others and the paintings by gilbert stewart or charles wilson lend this sort of delete -- theatrical quality to them. we don't see them in photographs. we have no recordings of their voices. we can't -- we can't see film footage of them. and, in fact, in the case of those who fought in the war, we have no on the spot drawings by correspondents who covered the civil war. it's almost impossible to reach them as we would reach people in
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the civil war or the first world war or others except for what they wrote, what they wrote in dairies and letters and sometimes orderly books of one kind or another and memoirs and autobiographies written after the fact. the newspaper coverage was nothing like what we would expect. there were no correspondents covering the war, no report to be published in the paper and -- and by in large we would have to conclude we don't know what they looked like, but we do know what they look like in part because of deserter notices. when men deserted from the rank or they went home or they went over to the other side, notices would be published in the papers
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or store -- country stores and they were very descriptive because they hoped to find these people and what comes through in those descriptions is a realization of how different from all of us they looked, very few who fought with washington marched with washington in 1776 wear uniforms, even the officers rarely had full uniforms. that was part of his role as the leader to look like the general, but the men in the ranks were everything imaginable and they were with replacements that they wore so as the years wore on, the uniforms, tattered, dirty,
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worst than rags and the times themselves, the era in which they lived was so much harder than we understand. life where someone in 18th century even in peacetime was very difficult by our standards, very uncomfortable. filled with danger, threats of disease, filled with the possible accidents and physical destruction that could come from work. people were beat up by life more than we are in our time. there were no orthodonist, cosmetic so someone with a severe childhood injury like nathaniel green would walk with a limp coming from an accident that in our time would be
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relatively corrected. john trembell, whose work hangs in the capitol, most important scenes in the history when washington returned command of the army back to congress, power back to congress nothing no general had done after the revolutionary worry. john trembell had use of one eye because of childhood injury. henry knox had part of one hand blown off in a hunting accident as a young man and on and on. people were missing teeth, they had a cast in their eye or they had a way of holding their head on their shoulder because of something had happened to them. life was dangerous, difficult, and people were resilient, tough and strong to a degree that is something we too seldom forget. we in our time were softies by
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contrast. we -- we -- it's hard for us to imagine what it would be like to have sweeping epidemic, smallpox or typhus or typhoid swift through our town and take lives of hundreds of people all around us but it happened and, of course, when the war came on the suffering and the tragedy and the grief, the sorrow can't be measured with any statistics. abigail adams said future generations who will reap the blessings will have little idea, can little imagine what we have suffered in their behalf and she was right. the war was the longest in our history except for vietnam war. 8 and a half years, it was also very bloody proportionate to the
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population. 25,000 americans were killed and to us to we who have lived with the brutal statistics of the 20th and 21st centuries of war casualties and suffering worldwide, 25,000 doesn't sound like a great deal, but 25,000 was 1% of a population of 2,500,000 and if we were to fight a revolutionary war today with our population, that would mean that it's over 3 million would be killed. so in their time it was a horrible war and it is extremely costly to the people who stayed home and had to make do without that you are husbands to work for the farm or to be the bread-winner for a family. now, i'd like to just read you a little bit from some of the deserter notices. they're very colorful and picturesque. in a way they are describing
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people who are immediately identifiable in a way that we are not used to very much like the characters in dickens say. one george reynolds of rhode island said was 5 feet and a half 9-inches tall, 817 and carried something on his right shoulder thomas williams was an immigrant, old countryman, that means he was follow from the old country. he was from probably ireland or whales or somewhere at that time. he spoke good english but had a film in his left eye. david, fellow, wearing a white coat, jacket and ruffled shirt when last seen. deserted from colonel brewster's regiment, one smith of greenfield, joiner by trade,
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thin-spared fellow 5 feet 4-inches high had blue coat and black vest, a metal button on his hat, black long hair, black eyes, his voice, like wise smith, a smart fellow, gray-headed, younger look in his face and say i swear, i swear. between his words had green coat and red coat, wearing two coats you see, one is red and one is green. he wears something of a sobber look. like wise, john daby, hump shouldered fellow, shoe maker by trade, draws his words and for comfortable says comfortable. he had on a green coat, thick leather breaches, slim legs and
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lost some of his four teeth. these men who are largely anonymous were the ones who went and did the hard marching and fighting and marching and fighting again and again month after month and who made the words, the noble ideals of the declaration of independence more than declaration, more than just words on paper. when we celebrate fourth of july we celebrate the great openings passages of the declaration of independence. we celebrate that all men are created equal. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. none of that would have been possible without the men who marched with washington through 1776 and beyond and don't picture them as all heros. they weren't. hundreds deserted, thousands
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deserted as time went on. thousands more went home when their enlistments were up. they only enlisted for a year and when the time came to go home, nothing, there was nothing to stop them and many of them just marched away. when washington was in retreat across new jersey and his army was down to rags and many of the men were without shoes and winter was coming on and the british were coming on fast behind him in force beyond anything that washington could even imagine, with soldiers who were well trained, well with good clothes, good equipment. when that was going on at one point in december, the enlistments were 2,000 men came up and 2,000 men marched away, went home with no shame. washington's army was down to 3,000 men. that's all that were left.
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so in effect quite literally we owe what we have and who we are and all that we hold sacred to about 3,000 men who would not quit, and that was because in part they were led by a man who would not quit. george washington was not a great intellectual like everson or adams or hamilton, he wasn't a brilliant speaker like his fellow virginian patrick henry. what george washington was was a leader, he was a man of phenomenal courage and great courage and spot great people and give them a chance and two of his best men he picked after 2 weeks of first meeting them, nathaniel green and henry fox and he picked him despite the
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fact that they were new englanders, he thought they were the best he had and they were the best he had. they were the only general officers that stayed during the entire length of the war who did not leave, who would not quit. >> you are watching book tv on c-span2, and we are showing highlights from historian david mccullough's many appearance, in 2017 mr. mccullough published the american spirit, collection of speeches he's given throughout his career. he spoke at jf kennedy presidential library about how history can inform us today. >> when writing my book about truman i like the way he went out to walk every day, you start
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thinking in a way that you -- you don't if you're not walking and so last summer when the comments being made by the republican candidate by the presidency were to me not only appalling but unimaginably out of place, i thought what could i do to provide some counter point of view to this and i started thinking about some of the speeches that i gave at national occasions such as the 200th anniversary of the congress, the anniversary of the white house, kennedy's memorial service in dallas which i was actually the speaker and -- and commencement speeches and speeches that i had
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given at particular occasions of importance and to the history of other organizations and/or universities and found that there were great many where i was voicing what really matters to me and why i think history is so infinitely fascinating and how essential it is to being alive, why would we limit our -- our lives just little bit of time with our biological clocks offer provide when we can have access to the whole realm of the human story, going back hundreds of thousands of years, and -- and so they look at speeches that might be appropriate and had the help of my daughter dory lawson who arranged all of these
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talks that i gave and who kept the records of what i said. >> well, when i read the book the first time, when i put it down, oh, he's writing in the times, he's picking the speeches because they might be to current time. >> yes. >> and while -- and i've heard you say before, historians basically don't really have a role in talking about current politics, but he's talking about current politics with these speeches. >> but i was talking about before current politics came on the scene. none of the speeches were written -- >> i went back to read them a second time thinking what's the sentence, what's the paragraph, what's the point he's trying to make here that might be taken to heart by people who are in politics right now. so i went back and read it a second time and each time i was looking in the speech, what's the one point he's trying to make here that might be taken to heart by somebody who i don't know might be elected president,
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who knows. >> yeah. >> so let me pick out a few of them. >> wonderful. >> i won't do each one but -- i think 12 out of 15i found pertinent point. example 1, first speech, in the book from 1989, you quote margaret smith of maine who had the guts to rebuke joe mccarthy. she said i don't want to see the republican party and she was a republican, ride political victory on the four horseman, big industry and smear. smear is the interesting word here, and why did you think perhaps that had application for the current time? [laughter] >> generally you would be perfect if you only had a sense of humor. [laughter] >> could you imagine somebody reading that in the current political climate and what they might think? >> wouldn't it be wonderful.
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wouldn't it be wonderful. a republican that stands up and a woman and one of the rare cases where woman in the senate at that point in our history and most people had no idea who margaret was, one of the bravest, most admirable political figures we've ever and he said and you quote him in the book. i include candor and you added words to the wise that perhaps in our own day more than ever.
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>> indeed, benjamin rush is one of my favorite characters in the past. polymath, someone who is interested in almost everything. he was an accomplished physician, he was one of the first people to encourage the fair and humane treatment of people with mental illness and not to just put them away in a cell as if they were animals. he was extremely courageous in his ability to go into places where the plague -- it was ramped. particularly yellow fever and he was one of the signers of the declaration of independence and when he signed the declaration of independence he was all but 30 year's old. we forget how young those people
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were. jefferson when he wrote the declaration of independence was 33, imagine, washington when he took command of the continental army was 44 year's old. we see them later on with their white hair and wigs and elderly statures and so forth. they weren't that way then, they were very, very young and i think that that's the encouraging fact that of that part of our story. i don't think we can ever know enough about the american revolution and by the way the new museum of the american revolution has just opened in philadelphia is a must for all of us. it is marvelous and particularly as a place to take your children, your grandchildren to get them hooked on history and
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it's brilliantly organized as spectacular building by robert -- what? robert, excuse me, it's only a few steps down the street from independence hall, but we lived in the boston area to sort of take the reality of the miracle of the era as part of our -- our environment, part of our world and that's good, that's great, but i love kennedy's profiles of courage. i read that when i was still young and not really aware yet of what i wanted to do with my life. i love his regard for john
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quincy adams, for example. >> quotes in the begins. >> yeah. what i like in the quote and i'm not here to comment on anything but what i like so much in the quote is the word civility which is a lost art in the public discourse of america today and the sense of comity in the people who share a common goal and know that there needs to be a common end, it's gone, it's gone, and you write that we -- that we have in many instances had deep divisions in the country but we have come out of them. what's going to bring us out of this one in the two sides seem opposed. when politics trumps policy, when the sense of a national -- national goals is gone and party goals matter more than national goals, what brings us out of this?
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>> leadership. leadership of the best kind. leadership who have the courage to stand up for their convictions, who have the backbone to do what's right irrespective of what it means to their political future or their chance of being reelected, and it has to come mainly from the people. we talk about the 3 segments of government that legislative, judicial and executive but there's a fourth factor, the people, all of us and when we stand up and say, no more of this, we don't want to take this anymore, when we stand up and say, there's a person right there who is saying the right thing and doing the right thing and we will get behind him or her or him and make sure that that attitude becomes potent and maybe even decisive.
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someone like margaret -- someone reads about margaret chase smith and says, that's what i'm going to do, somebody in the government right now, it will happen, it will happen out of of the necessity to survive. we are going to expect that. >> david, we are -- and i believe, you're actually right that we are a centrist nation. we are basically a country where 30, 40, 50% of the people are in the middle and want government to get something done. >> yeah, absolutely. >> we ain't doing it. >> well, that doesn't mean we won't. we had come through very hard times, very baffling times, very pessimistic times and -- and inappropriate behavior times to the part of leadership and we've come through them all and very
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often when we do come through them these difficult times, these are clouded sky times. when we go come through we are better off, better for having done it. people talk about that was a simpler time back then, no it wasn't. there never wasn't a simpler time or that things have never been so fast so dark, so fore boating, yes they have, if you don't understand that, you don't understand the reality of our story. i like to point out that the influenza epidemic which my parents, your parents probably went through, 1918-19, 500,000 americans died of that disease, a disease that they didn't know where it came from, they didn't know if it would ever go away or cure it. that were to happen
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today given the size of population, a million 500,000 would die in less than a year. now, imagine if that were on the nightly news every night and we are all led to be more terrified with who would be next in our family to die and just as the the depression and the civil war, horrible, horrible times but we came through them because among other things we had the faith that we would and could and because we understood that nothing of much consequence is ever accomplished alone. it has to be a joint effort. >> our look at historian david mccullough's program from our archives concludes with recount of pioneers who settled the northwest territory. this event is from 2019 at the
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ohio state house in columbus. >> the big change, the big sudden revelation was something really, was when i eventually, after i finished the wright brothers book, i got down to marietta because i heard there was a collection of wonderful archival material, and my assistant mike hill, probably the greatest researcher in america today and i saw this this collection. i knew we had open king tut's tomb, it was really thrilling. let me try to describe why it was thrilling. it's not that there was so much of it, there are literally thousands, thousands of letters, dairies, memoirs unpublished,
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journals, maps, data of all kinds, drawings and magnificent oil paintings, but it's the quality of it all, the quality of the writing, the quality of the thinking, the quality of the -- of the honesty in expressing what they were broken hearted about, what they were fearful of, how they were suffering and, oh, the work they had to do and the onset of epidemic disease and the natural fiascoes of storms and earthquakes and all of it happening one after another. one year they almost starved to
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death, compared to them, we are all a bunch of softies. [laughter] >> truly. now i can go on for hours about the lessons of history and why history is so beneficial, so important, so in -- enlarging of life but two of the most important lessons to be learned, passed onto our children and grandchildren, first is empathy, be able to put yourself in the other person's place, to imagine what life might have been life then and what they went through is the same for people in our own time, you to understand why other people feel as they do about things, put yourself in their place, empathy and secondly, gratitude. gratitude for all that other
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people do for our benefit our have done or did long ago and we should never take that for granted, we should never say, that's the way it is and one of the things that we unfortunately sometimes do take for granted is the public school system. another thing is that all men are created equal, not just on paper but in fact, and those two parts of our life our national life began here. first publish school system anywhere in the country here in ohio, why did it happen, because of one man primarily. the charter, the northwest ordinance 1887, 1787, states very clearly, there will be public education.
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there will be complete freedom of religion, there will be attitude toward the native americans that is fundamentally respectful and decent and -- and -- and there will be no slavery. now remember there was slaves in every one of the original 13 colonies still, so it was just all men are created equal, yes, but we have 150 slaves living over here in the slave corridors. no, it's not going to be that way in ohio and that was due primarily if not to say entirely to cutler who wrote the basic tenants of the northwest ordinance and through his son ethan. cutler who was they called 18th century polymath, somebody who
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knew about everything, was interested in everything. cutler was a doctor of law, doctor of medicine and a doctor of humanity, all three and practiced all three. he was probably, i would say almost certainly the leading american astronomer, he was interested in everything and he believed in the importance, the essential necessity in the good life to learning and had a love of learning like very few americans or anybody i've ever come to know or read about. he never lived here. he came out to see how everything was going but he had too much going on back home in hamilton massachusetts which is just north of boston and his church are still there in very
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superb condition, the place where the first wagon left to come to ohio is still there, and his son came out here with his wife and four children and they're young and they're hopeful and they've known how to dress themselves to hard work but nothing, even the most difficult daily task of a foreign -- being a farm near the rocky ground of new england was not going to be anything comparable to what they face here. they came out and on their way just coming down the ohio river, two of their children died of disease. they had to be buried on the banks to have river where there were no settlements or anything.
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imagine, they arrived here and mrs. cutler had stepped off the boat, barge at one point and tore ankle badly and he was suffering from disease himself when he arrived here, they knew no one. and so they had to begin like everybody else had to do it, by hard work. oh, we have no idea how hard those people worked, night and day, every day and all the children worked, men and women and all the children worked, began working right away. now cutler had not had the education his father had because he had been raised by his grandparents who were farmers in connecticut. this is a -- is very important to keep in mind because of what he did. ethram cutler, i was asked in an
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interview just the other day here in ohio what -- of all the themes in my book, which do i wish i could have been there to have watched first person and i knew right away. there was a big movement that came after the election of thomas jefferson, the jeffersonians would call up because they didn't really have a party name yet. they sometimes known oddly as republicans but the jeffersonians had decided they were going to get rid of this rule that there be no slavery and introduce slavery into ohio and two people in those legislator were leading the fight, leading the charge to stop that, the keep it from turning into a slave state. one of them was general putnam who was effect the leader to have group who came out to
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settle here along with ethram cutler and the other one was ethan cutler himself who was young at this point and he's absolutely devoted to stopping this change and he gets quite ill. he -- he could hardly get out of bed and there was some question whether he would survive, live and the day that the vote was going to take place, putnam came into the boarding house nearby and putnam was old enough to have been his father. he came in and said, cutler, you must get well, be in your place
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or you will lose your favorite measure. according to one account, putnam and other man carried to the convention on a stretcher, but there's no reliable evidence of this, cutler himself, cutler himself wrote only i went to the convention and moved to strike out the obnoxious matter and made my objections as forcibly as i was able. it was an act of fortitude and the result was never, ever to be forgotten here. it cost me every effort i was capable of making, he wrote, and it passed by a majority of one vote only. because he got up from his suffering and gone in there and voted, it was stopped and there would be no slavery, not just no
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slavery in ohio but all of the northwest territory which included indiana, illinois, michigan and wisconsin. now imagine if the slaves had been admitted, imagine what would have happened. there would have been no underground railroad, there would have been no harriet stow, uncle tom's cabin, most influential, powerful influential novel ever written by any american. if this had been a slave -- probably would have been no abraham lincoln or ulysess grant. he's been in effect totally forgotten, so imagine the excitement that we felt that
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here were all his letters, all his private correspondence with his wife and others and the putnam election alone was well over a thousand pieces. >> if you missed any of the author programs with historian david mccullough or want to watch them in their entirety you can visit our website, access our archives by using the search box at the top of the page and search david mccullough and book. >> here are some of the current best-selling nonfiction books, topping the list is the splendid and the vile, prime minister winston churchill during the london blitz. after that is robert hidden valley road, a profile of the galvin family which consisted of 12 children half of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia.
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former secretary of state held destinations and wrapping up at our look look, growing up in the idaho mountains and introduction to formal education at the age of 17. her book educated has been on best-seller list for more than 2 years. some of these authors have appeared on book tv and you can watch them online at >> and you're watching book tv on c-span2. here are programs to watch out for this weekend. the chronical life of french race car driver who was prohibited from joining top german race teams in 1930's due to jewish heritage. former trump administration national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster and republican rand paul of kentucky takes a look at
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socialism and ruth wilson gilmore offer their thoughts on ening mass incarceration in the u.s. >> good afternoon, welcome to white house history live. my name is stuart mcclaren and i'm the president of the white house historical association. today we will have a conversation and historians on brand-new book. ordinarily we would do this at decatur house but as we are all working from home an we are joining you in your home, we are trying out this new mode of communications but it's


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