tv Discussion on the Founding Fathers and U.S. Policy CSPAN July 11, 2015 9:00pm-10:01pm EDT
>> coming up next, hosting an open mind, david sehat: talks about the founding fathers and their different ideologies. he discusses how presidents have interpreted ideas and views them to further their own agendas. this is one hour-long. >> it is now time for a wonderful discussion and i'm so pleased to introduce the first time a very special guest moderator, alexander heffner. he is the cohost of the longest-running show on public television, it has been running for almost 60 years, because his grandfather, richard heffner, a
dear friend and a great communicator, scholar of public broadcasting, he just passed away last year. he ran that show. he is one of the great figures of life, a decent man and a great friend. i'm honored to take this moment to mark his memory. he is missed. alexander would be so proud, he has taken up the torch and continues to host the open mind, which will celebrate its next if -- 60th anniversary soon. you can go to the website and see more about it. it is great to welcome him to the stage. he has a distinguished background. he'd fit -- he founded scoop and
has written for the washington journal. he is co-author of a documentary history of the united states and he will be interviewing our great scholar today, david sehat:. a cultural and intellectual historian, he teaches at georgia state university and he writes broadly on cultural life of america. from oxford university press, he has published. we hope to have him back for more in the fall. he will discuss the jefferson role, how the founding fathers became infallible. join me in welcoming alexander heffner and david sehat:. [applause] [applause]
alexander heffner: it is great to meet you today. i want to thank you for the knowledge meant of my grandfather. he has written a wonderful book. in the inquirer, there was an adjective that he recounted that really gets to the heart of what he is trying to eliminate here. it is a narrative, his soccer fee -- history, but before going forward, tell me what the jefferson role is. david sehat: it is the idea that all politics must be tied to the founding fathers. it is a rule that -- pretty much
and all the american history i can get my hands on. it has been referenced an all-american politics and is offered today. you reference this inquirer story, and when the book was coming out i was invited by a group to dallas. and they said they wanted to bring me out and have me address a group of donors. i thought, fantastic. i went to the website and found that they had quoted jefferson and that is great. except in this case, the quotation was entirely fabricated. it was a quotation that you see circulating in various political circles and so i was concerned and the more i read, i realized that this group is ideologically rigid and i am concerned that they do not understand what my book is about. then i decided, all except in a -- except -- accept, and i wrote
from -- and i wrote to them and told them i want you to understand that my book is about and so on. and they never wrote back. there is a problem i have with the rule, it shuts down political debate. what happens when a politician says the founding fathers thought, fill in the blank, that means i'm right and you are wrong and i think we saw that in that instance. alexander heffner: as a very structured historian, you are looking at facts, the essence of the peace is to expound -- consolidating the founding moment and handy to his successors and interpretive stance toward the founding era that would become the norm. he rhetorically turned the founding era into one of the little purity that he himself --
political. he that he himself had challenged. seriously, he was a man of nuance and he was a tortured soul in some respects, so before even reading the last sentence or the second to last sentence of this paragraph, the norm in a departure from the norm, and is different than the country. it is in its purest form, what was the norm? david sehat: that jefferson was appealing to? alexander heffner: what was the president -- has said that -- precedent? in terms of the political aspect of this country, it was jefferson.
david sehat: when i became concerned about how founding others are used in little debate, i had finished my first book. i had read a lot about the founding fathers. i thought, where is this coming from because indications of the founding fathers did not accord with what i knew about them. i read back, all the way to jefferson and i found that in other debates with the founding fathers, what jefferson had done it he was one of the first to wrap himself in the founding. he talked about the principles of the revolution. he was affirming political orthodoxy, he used phrases like our political creed. he successfully one and came into presidency in 1800 and he took this pattern of wrapping politics in these founding principles intimate that an essential part of american
political debate and from that point forward, what happened is people would fight over jefferson, because it was him who became the single party system. and then once the founders had died off, they referred to a founding father, unified group, and it was really jefferson who had started it all with his election. and we still see today. alexander heffner: to continue hence forth if jefferson had his way, politics would be a sought by going through him to the founders. any innovation of necessity required politicians to show that there are were in line with the principle of the task and would go without saying that a departure from jeffersonians equated with the prince -- principles freedom and liberty. but jefferson himself was nuanced, so from the 1820's
onward, do you think that the nuance was diluted into this nebula of liberty? david sehat: i would say more strongly that jefferson was tortured in contradictory. he was a proponent of all government, a proponent of liberty which was protected by the state as opposed to the federal government. in power, he became a nationalist, he adopted many parts of his opponents'political system, so much so that people tend to talk about a political sphinx when they talk about him. they asked, what are the principles he believed in because there is old -- almost nothing that he did not contradict himself on an one point of time or another. so if you reduce the jefferson role to try to rip that try to
apply to the rules of jefferson, it is impossible, because he changed his mind. there is no set of principles you can get a hold of and say this is what he was defending the true principles of the nation. alexander heffner: therefore, in contemporary times, that is why it is difficult and why you expose, not necessarily hypocrites, but the unreasoned or less reasonable justifications in employing the founders or jefferson specifically. just to backtrack, i'm interested in how you carry forward this from andrew jackson? if we take it step by step, how is jefferson transmitted or transposed into the tenure of jackson? david sehat: jackson, as some of
you may know, came into public life as a general. he ran for presidency in 1824 and he lost, even though he won the popular vote, he lost, because when there is no majority in the electoral college, that vote goes to the house and the house picked john quincy adams and jackson was outraged. he spent the next year's cultivating a personal -- a persona as the air of --h ei heir of jefferson. and then he came in 1928 saying that he would defend the principles of jefferson. but there were parts of jackson's party that were led by calhoun who took jeffersonian is him as -- jeffersonianism as a defense of slavery.
and then fractured and the nation began to go toward war. and it happened most clearly in 1830 where you see both jackson john c calhoun and the nationalists all invoking jefferson to wild in -- ends. jackson said that jefferson is a nationalist. you are betraying him. the nationalists became the wings, -- whigs and they said that you are betraying him. they then entered a time of crisis and it would continue until the civil war. alexander heffner: stepping back, do you attribute his status jefferson's to the authorship of the declaration being poised to almost usurp
intellectually in terms of hominids -- prominence. david sehat: the declaration is important, but i attribute jefferson's promise to the formation of local parties because when he won the election, the opposing party was the federalists, they disappeared. they were utterly of and went into decline and there were no more federalists after 1812. what happened was, that was the end of the first party system. then we had the second party system, where you have the national republicans and the democratic republicans, the party of jackson. both of them looked back to jefferson as the original heir of their party. when the national republicans became the whig thens we got the
present-day republicans, then they too went back to jefferson and said we are the true heirs of jefferson and they invoked the declaration. and that is where they said in a good patient all men are created equal -- in the declaration all men are created equal and they sought to abolish slavery. alexander heffner: and as you write, it became more difficult with lincoln. but i am interested in your attribution to political parties, the formation of the parties, because the one area in which your thesis validates jefferson, and when you read about the way that you write, i learned this in the book, andrew jackson in challenging the second adam'ss employed at some of
the same tactics that jefferson did, to ensure that john did not win. it was really in the pursuit of power that both jefferson and jackson, they used tactics we might deem today as uncivil. david sehat: that is right. when i see, i've read a lot of political debate, when you see the founding fathers come up what you often see is people out of power who are criticizing those in power and they are using the founding fathers as a political weapon. it is a very useful and powerful political weapon, because it suggests that your opponents don't have different priorities but they are fundamentally usurp being the foundational principles -- ursurping the
chief principles of the nation. so in almost every case, and is very clear before the civil war we see politicians talking about the founders, they are not just using it as a political weapon, but a symbol of deep political dysfunction and it is a way of trying to get power so they can install their own vision. alexander heffner: jefferson was not the cure. david sehat: he was in many ways the cause of the political dysfunction. alexander heffner: that is the irony of the situation. i thought maybe we would pause before looking at jefferson through history. we have gone from jefferson to jackson and we might stop and look at lincoln and ultimately roosevelt. i want to get this 1800 pound gorilla out of the way, is there any way in the contemporary
climate, asked you earlier, you are thinking about it, that our politicians can be accountable for greater rigor and understanding our evaluation of jefferson and is there any circumstances under which you would accept attribution without a scholarly paper? are there any politicians now who are doing it right? david sehat: no. [laughter] alexander heffner: so we will stick with the past. david sehat: the reason why, one thing you learn a few read the founding fathers -- if you read the founding fathers, they were in deep disagreement with one
another. it was a very partisan era in political history. so the founding fathers thought fill in the blank, that is in almost every case false. flat out. the ways in which, if you could intellectually say that, the founding fathers thought that women should not be part of the political process, that would be true. but you would never hear anybody say that. so there is almost no scenario in which a sound bite of modern politics that you could ever utter that phrase and has an intellectual credibility. alexander heffner: what about jurists? david sehat: this is the
interesting thing, this is why they have political --, because the constitution remains with us. but the constitution is different than the founding fathers. a central point of disagreement between the founding fathers was over the true meaning and proper mode of interpretation of the constitution. anyway, if we are going to debate the constitution, let's wait the constitution, but the founding fathers are not the place to solve that, because they disagreed about it as well. david sehat: alexander heffner:alexander heffner: we might look at a persuasion, something that was opposed to jefferson. lincoln and roosevelt. obviously the political parties the democratic party was formed by the time that lincoln served. take us to that age. jefferson as political hero, or
to some may be villain, as we move from the antebellum to wartime. david sehat: when the republican party was formed, 1854, after the whig had dissolved under pressures of what would become the war. republican party was the party of anti-slavery and in particular, the party that wanted to limit slavery from the western territories. that party explicitly looked back to thomas jefferson as it foundinits founding father. that was not the jefferson that owned slaves. so that party then was eventually led by abraham lincoln. lincoln was obsessed with the founding fathers, he referred to them as -- he referred to them in his speeches. his founding fathers were
anti-slavery visionaries who wanted to limit slavery, who did not want to necessarily abolish it overnight, because they did not see a way to. but they wanted to limit it and have it go away. going up to the civil war, lincoln pressed the argument over and over again. under the pressures of war what happened was once the war began, he said he wanted the union as it was. and once he issued the emancipation proclamation, suddenly he stopped talking about the union as it was and he started saying things like i want a new birth of liberty. when he was planning the emancipation proclamation, he said the quiet dogmas of the past are in adequate to our stormy present. we must think anew and act a new.
that turned toward self-determination, the ccing of looking to the founding fathers -- the ceasing of looking to the founding fathers. and you will remember that roosevelt came to office during the depression and what he said during his nomination acceptance speech was let us all constitute ourselves as prophets of a new order. that was the book ends of this moment. politicians basically stopped looking to the founding father's, they began to think that this was dangerous and not helping anything and you see a whole different kind of political debate and that would go away after the roosevelt administration after he faced criticism from conservatives and activists and he began to talk
about the founding fathers as well and started a modern fight over the founding fathers ideas. alexander heffner: national renewal. i am glad that you connect to lincoln to roosevelt. there was something in terms of our own salvation and the way in which roosevelt revolutionized in that span of time politics. there was a yearning for certainly solidarity, a leader who is not going to move in the wind like herbert hoover. the absence of the jefferson rule, or the deviation, is it too simplistic to say that there was oppression, a great depression, and that instead of
searching for thomas jefferson we created a new lexicon? david sehat: i would say that in some ways yes, in some ways, no. roosevelt was an heir of progressives. they believed that the nation had changed so dramatically by the beginning of the 20th century that the founding fathers could not have possibly spoken to the condition of the nation in their present. this was america of sky great -- skyscrapers. roosevelt said that progressive impulse, when you're confronted with problems of the great depression, he took it further and said not only is our nation physically different, but the economic structure, our entire
pattern of life, it is not possible to look to the founding fathers for answers. he used the opportunity to then -- alexander heffner: but he never said it to the nation, it is not possible to look at the founding fathers, but he decided to quote , the one that you read here -- david sehat: we are talking about, i was thinking about -- alexander heffner: ok, i wonder how that transformation occurred, because you are saying it began with theodore. david sehat: it began after the civil war and got taken up by theodore. and then it was moved forward in the new deal. alexander heffner: but do you think that there was a palpable, based on what you read and the oratory of roosevelt fdr.
in this time, the sickness of the country, it incited a new formula, which did grow on the legacy of progressivism. but the pendulum that was swinging away from the jefferson role, this is where i find interesting, it was may be toward hamilton, maybe toward adams, was it -- i want to talk about this because in recent years there has been my thanks to david mccullough and tom hanks, there has been a
revitalization of adams. was fdr, the focus on talk radio, they would say it was bolshevik, but was there to the jefferson rule, was there another kind of rule that could be legitimately couched in historical times? david sehat: i don't think so. hamilton and jefferson are often the two founding fathers that are contrasted and in the popular imagination, jefferson is a small government republican and hamilton is the big government, democrat. this was in the 1790's or whatever. but the problem there is that that imperfectly works because it is a vastly different era and if you go back to what hamilton was talking about, in many ways,
it was supporting capitalism. he was at the beginning of this capitalist revolution and the industrial revolution and so in a sense he looks like a republican, and another sense he is not. if you look at jefferson, in many ways he is an agrarian, sometimes very anti-capitalist. i get concerned when people want to bring these two figures into the present and say, fdr was more like hamilton, i don't think so because hamilton is so different, he was so long ago and issues were different. i like to think that the beginning of the new deal, that government was something very new. in a like to take fdr at his word. he considered himself a prophet of a new political order and i think that he created that new political order. alexander heffner: so, remember
he wanted the survival of capitalism and often as you testified to later in the book with the examination of the tea party and the current gop, you would think that if you're wanted to obliterate that, he wanted to eliminate real competition. so, and answering that question i think that you are saying to us it is not fair to say that there was an adams rule or in hamilton role, but you keep this lively hamilton who will be removed from the $10 bill, with that -- would that be justified? but seriously, when policymakers become part of those decisions -- i think that he may share it with a woman, i don't know why a
woman can't have it herself. david sehat: that is on the level of -- in a certain sense i am inclined to dismiss that as not very important, but in another sense it is important because it is symbolically important. we revere the founders, the fact that they appear in standardized form in all of our money can make us believe that they were all basically the same and in agreement. if you ask me as a citizen, what do i think should happen, i support the diversification of our money. but there are only so many bills to go around. alexander heffner: had you explain if borne out of fdr was a radical departure, how do you explain the pendulum turning
back from lbj through reagan, despite the fact that lbj was working for the roosevelt fool -- pool. lbj didn't justify the society there was a new history. ever since he shook roosevelt hand after the dust bowl, he was marching forward. what happened between roosevelt and johnson, who then went toward reagan. david sehat: i think the most important thing was the growth of conservatism that grew in the new deal era. these men, they were many richmond in the nation, the
dupont family, gm, and they formed together the american liberty league. the american liberty league am i read their planning documents, these men forming the league, the concerned about roosevelt turning towards conservatives it is him -- socialism. alexander heffner: were they using jefferson? david sehat: not yet. they said, we don't want to refer to the protection of property, because that would be stupid in a time of great depression, that would turn off the common man. we need a mass movement. so what we can do is make this an issue of the constitution and this is all in these documents. parenthetical, they want to change the constitution and repeal the sixth amendment, but
for our purposes right now, we want to revere the constitution and protect it. and we will use the founding fathers. what you saw when the american liberty league was formed was a constant reference to the founding fathers. they eventually lost and were disbanded by 1940, but the sons of these businessmen continued and they looked around, they continued on a lower level and in the 1850's they found ronald reagan. he was at that point a faded actor, he was a superb communicator, and it was becoming -- and he was becoming more conservative. and toward the end of the goldwater campaign, they found reagan and they said, we want you to give a speech in support of goldwater's candidacy. and he gave a famous speech, called the time of choosing.
this is the beginning of the modern conservative concern for the founding fathers, because if you go back and listen to that speech, it is on youtube. you see a very powerful idea, and which reagan is saying that the founding fathers had certain principles, we have departed from those vegetables and now we are heading toward ruin. goldwater lost, but reagan was a shining star and with the assent of ronald reagan came the assent of the founding fathers. and when he came to office, the conservative up with the founding fathers was more or less complete. alexander heffner: you are telling us that this was a second set of sons of liberty. david sehat: yes. alexander heffner: and they were rebelling against roosevelt. david sehat: exactly. alexander heffner: how have your
peers responded to this is far -- thus far? david sehat: well, they have not responded yet. alexander heffner: i ask because i had tom foster on who also wrote a book that in a sense humanizes the founding fathers. so, do you see your ultimate objective here at enhancing political discourse of the present through a richer adaptation in the way that we are retracing the roots of these men? david sehat: i am the story so i believe in the past, not the political relics, but i'm concerned about the way that i hear history, the pseudo-history
, and american political debate and so what i am trying to do is offer a history that says, look at the long pattern of dispute over the founding fathers, where it's consequences. i think if you look at the pattern of dispute, the confidences are negative. the rhetoric of the fine fathers generate hardened political ideas. it comes with dishonesty and so the end goal, i can't stop politicians from doing what they will do, but so long as this rhetoric works, it will be used. so i want to point out these things. alexander heffner: i don't know if you follow --, you can do a
political act -- politifact, there is no cable basis -- credible basis on it, but it can be considered. so before we take questions, my last one is, so if jefferson himself was the scene and women -- debasing and when we look at the modern idea of the jefferson rule, where you see a most automatically and -- problematically and where do you see to resurrect some real history? david sehat: i think that the jefferson rule reaches its most
disturbing part when you see militia groups in the southwest saying that we are so fundamentally departed from the founding fathers that they create their own flag and are leading secessions. i guess i'm not sure that a trust any modern politician to do history, so i would say, i would love it if they would stop and we can debate policies in the present and keep the debate about policy rather than the past. alexander heffner: so let's take a question. can you discuss the ways in which exciting founders -- citing founders is important the way that they clarify and bind us together rather than
distracting us? david sehat: the founding fathers are like many things, the flies, the constitution, they can be symbols of national unity. i think that if you see how the founders are represented in the political debate, they are not images of national unity. they are political weapons. i suppose i am uncomfortable with the idea of people as symbols, because i do not think that people make symbols. if we are looking for symbols of national unity, i think i would propose that we go with the flag or the constitution, and object rather than people who were often inventing themselves to make them appropriate symbols for what we want. alexander heffner: another viewer. listener.
the founders never thought that they had all answers, so they're a question is what they expected, told future generations to do. so i guess what you were saying is that it is unhelpful, as we as a society seem to do, what would jefferson do? what would adams do? david sehat: are those questions -- those questions are unhelpful . i'm not sure i would know. that is the thing about people. i'm not sure what my wife would do. i don't necessarily know how people, someone who has been dead 200 years, would do. alexander heffner: and to expound on that, i'm sure there was the enlightenment, the magna cartera, but these men saw their
own imperfections and in order to create a more perfect union they innovated. they did their own thing. david sehat: i go back to the constitution. the constitution begins, we the people and the thing about we the people is always changing. it is not we, the founding fathers. in a sense, if you want to think what they would do, i still basically do not think that you can answer that. but if you start with the premise that they created constitution, and the authority of that constitution comes from people, and it is ever renewing, then one answer to that question would be we the people would solve the problems in the present and however distant those problems are from whatever existed in 1787 when the constitution itself was created. i like this idea put forth by
this scholar at yell -- yale. it is called framework original is him -- original is him. they create a structure, the founding fathers. the constitution does not mean anything that we want it to mean. we still have elections for presidents every four years and that structure is basically in play, but that -- or that structure there is a latitude. and the means of the constitution are fleshed out through supreme court decisions and it happens over time. sometimes he called it very things, but i like that idea that the founders established a framework that they then gave to
subsequent generations and it is the role of those generations to work through the problems however they see fit, which might mean changing the constitution, but continuing the process of developing. alexander heffner: what about changing the constitution? it tends to be controversial and , larry sabado for example there are professors in the squire -- choir, that the dysfunction and what you see just -- in what you suggest. i want to ask what jefferson would do jefferson would probably think -- but had we
embark on that decision-making process when it seems like the rigor of our political discourse is not going to satisfy the basic requirement for having enough knowledge as a citizen to convene a new constitution yet it would be so inspiring, how do you weigh in on this? david sehat: levinsohn is an interesting character, he is a law professor and among one of the foremost proponents for a new constitution. he argues that the old constitution is flawed and a lot of ways. he says that a lot of problems arise out of try to live under a document that is 200 years old. he says that the senate, which is fundamentally undemocratic by design, it is and can never be
changed under the u.s. constitution it was written in at the last minute and cannot even make an amendment that says we want a different representation in the senate you have to have a new cost to ship. -- constitution. i think that he makes interesting points. i mentioned it to some colleagues at an event and i said, you know, he made good arguments. and a colleague said, can you imagine what would come out of a constitution that we would make today, that is insane. it might be, but wouldn't it be an interesting exercise. i don't think anybody would imagine it. alexander heffner: thank you but sandy even has a more
interesting answer than that. not even an exercise. david sehat: he has graduate students that set around and they come up with their own version of the constitution and the thing that he is more optimistic about what would emerge from that. alexander heffner: let's talk about that because one misappropriation, correct me if i am wrong one quotation from jefferson was about a new rebellion. david sehat: it was like -- something like every 20 years we need a revolution. alexander heffner: so how do you assess the monster of the tea party, so if the tea party put it energies to come up with a -- david sehat: a new constitution. alexander heffner: right, i'm
wondering if that quote might be more than any other jefferson quote, has had the most traction in this climate. david sehat: the tea party i will confess as a political movement does not make much sense to me. on the one hand, they do invoke a revolutionary idea that you see from jefferson, many of the leaders of the party conceive of their movement as a movement of his spirit, but at the same time they have this very nostalgic view of the past the nostalgic revolutionaries are something like that. and as an intellectual posture, that does not make sense to me. but i would love it if the tea party, it is there was a convention and they said, what do we want the new constitution to look like. i think it would be a constitution without the amendments, certainly without
the 17th amendment that allows for the direct election of senators many tea party opponents are opposed to that. alexander heffner: so just the bill of rights? it is a conundrum, because your first to jefferson is a farmer -- referred to jefferson as a farmer. did he have a corporate overlord/ no. again, this is a nonpartisan institution, this is not a partisan point. the clinton found patient -- foundation has overlord, as does the tea party. david sehat: it goes to the incoherence of references to the founding fathers. i was working on this book when barack obama was elected and i remember listening to his substance speech -- acceptance
speech and he said something saying it now we can go about achieving the dream of the founding fathers, the idea that it does not matter who you are who you love, in a gesture toward gay rights, but america has a place for you. and i thought, the fine fathers -- founding fathers, they owned slaves. they would not believe barack obama could be president. so there is this really deep level of historical nonprofits is an -- indigo's all -- and it goes always. it is often that these politicians are confused. alexander heffner: both in though clinton's administration and barack obama's, the train galatian -- triangulation how they have brought for the reagan
revolution which maybe we should not call it there -- call it the reagan revolution, but the revolution, while he was furthering the real origin story. my point or question in the context of this last audience question, someone who had arrived late and wanted to know the jefferson rule was, how do you see clinton and obama fitting into the story of my fee you just told us how you see obama, he was a perfect vehicle through which the message could be anything. that is how he was elected. a very abstract concept.
david sehat: and hope. alexander heffner: and hope. certainly he has been more progressive when executing policy, but it was claimed that said -- clinton who said that they government was over. so if that was not paying all my -- homage to jefferson, i don't know what would be. david sehat: they approach the founding fathers in different ways, you see this with obama and the tea party. some people approach the founding fathers with a kind of fundamentalist literalism that is come i don't mean that negatively, but they really establish the fundamentals to the nation and those fundamentals are unchanging and we need as much is possible to maintain those fundamentals or
the nation goes into decline. ndc liberals -- and you see liberals, you see them approaching it in a different way. that the founding fathers established principles, of liberty for example, and those principles change and grow over time. and they divorced themselves from the founding fathers. they approach the founding fathers in a different way. you see conservatives using the founding fathers to say that we have departed from these sensible and we need to go back. ndc liberals looking at the founding fathers who established ideals that we need to live up to. in both cases, what you see is the founding fathers agree with whoever it is who is invoking them. so they use different interpretive roots, they wind up in a basically the same place
which is the founding fathers agree with me. alexander heffner: for the audience, this is a terrific book. i think you would enjoy it even if you are not liking history books, because it is an exciting narrative. finally, we said before that jefferson's quote " live free or die," but in the process of writing this book, was very founder whose -- david sehat: that i like? alexander heffner: sure, but was very founder -- was there a founder who was setting a rule that would breed flexibility? david sehat: i was joking of
course, i like all the founders. but is there a founder that you can gravitate to, i usually say benjamin franklin and i say that not because we are in philadelphia, but because he is almost an apolitical founder it is impossible to use him in a political way. which, if you think about franklin, it is what we should think about with all the founders, his unique individuality and his idiosyncrasies. help me out. in his own time. if you read very deeply into the papers of the founding fathers and is read very deeply, is they are all poorly unique --
thoroughly unique people. when you wrestle with their uniqueness, when you recognize the degree to which they lived in a particular moment and that moment is now gone, like all people of the past we would have loved to know them, but do not want to see them any political debate. alexander heffner: i encourage you all to pick up this book. thank you for being here. [applause] [applause] >> with live coverage on c-span here on c-span three we complement coverage by showing you hearings and events.
then on the weekends, we are home and to american history tv, the program that tells the story of the nation, including the civil wars anniversary. touring museums and historic sites to discover what artifacts reveal about the past. history bookshelf, the best-known writers. the presidency, looking at policies of the commander and chief. and a new series, railamerica featuring government and educational films from the 1930's through the 1970's. c-span3 created by the cable industry. watch us in hd, like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. >> each week, american history tv brings you archival films
that tell the story of the 20th century. >> the white house, washington dc, usa. the day, july 2, 1964. the location, -- the occasion signing into law, the civil rights act. >> tonight i urge every political official, every religious leader every business and professional man, every workingman and every housewife i urge every american to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all of our people and to bring peace to our land. [applause] >> a year has passed since we had the civil rights though enacted -- bill enacted into
law. some of those same people are here today. we are taking a look back at this when you're -- at this one year, and to look ahead at what went income -- what may come. >> we've talked about employment education, but of course the democracy is most important. you read about 99% of the country -- of this country voting, of this country voting but yet we know in selma, the reason we had selma, because in the state of alabama, one half of the county had less than 60% of -- 16% of their -- to vote. so this new voting bill just going into effect will remedy
these hard-core long-established deprivations. i look for great progress on at the local level toward correcting some of the problems that now must engage national organizations or the federal government. i look for it, as soon as we get voting, i look for problems with judges and local elected officials, to decline, because they will not have those. >> as i recall, in your speech in washington, on the steps of the lincoln memorial in 1963 when you said that as a many congressmen who sat in front of you, that we want to get the civil rights act passed because we will help free some southern congressmen, because he knew that their hearts are right and they want to vote right, but
politically it would be suicidal. and ii spoke to someone recently added a asked what will happen when the negroes get the right to vote? i said i suspect we will have some of the greatest liberals. i suspect that they would like to vote. the voting rights section cannot be over emphasized. it is the guts of the democracy. >> coming up next, an overview of the civil war in 1865 by the editor of "the civil war: the final year told."