tv Conversation with Lynne Cheney CSPAN December 25, 2020 3:05pm-3:51pm EST
recommend you visit it and see the evolution. marion scott dupont, or maybe it's marion dupont scott, in any case a wealthy woman, married to randolph scott for a while, bought montpelier, and enlarged it and covered it with pink stucco. the challenge has been to get it back to what it might have looked like, to what it looked like when the madisons were here and the effort has been remarkable. so thank you, montpelier, thank you, gaye, for arranging this and thank all of you for being here. up next on american history tv author lynne cheney sits down for a conversation on the founders hosted by the society
of the four arts in palm beach, florida. ms. cheney has written several books, including a biography of the fourth president titled james madison, a life reconsidered. she discusses her writing process, madison's relationship with the other founders, and previews her upcoming book at the four founding fathers from virginia. this is about 45 minutes. >> thank you. before we begin i just want to, again, acknowledge and thank the former vice president of the united states dick cheney for coming to the program today. and we also again acknowledge gaye and david, molly, donna marie and the entire team of the society for the four arts for hosting this magnificent five part series, thank you. and most importantly i'd like to thank dr. cheney for coming here and sharing her views on president and mrs. madison, thank you.
okay, we'll revisit a couple of issues that you discussed but let's jump right into your writing style. tell us a little bit about how you picked your topics and how you approached the research process. >> well, during the writing of the book "madison" i was entranced with the notion, as gaye pointed out, that for the first 36 years of the republic the virginians were in charge for 32 and i was interested in not only how this came about, and that's a good story, but in the interactions between them. in the personal interactions. and point give away too much, but there are some surprises there. oh, and how i wherite. you know, i was a teacher of freshman english for quite a while, i was getting my ph.d.. i tortured these poor freshman and i made them take note cards, every note card had to have a separate idea on it, and then
you organize the note cards and you wrote. well, i don't do any of that and i feel so bad for all those freshman i misled for all those years. i kind of start writing, and i research while i write. and it's not the most efficient process possible. but i don't know what i want to say until i write. and i go back and look at what i've written and it helps me more to know what i wanted to say then and what i want to say next. so it's not a very orderly process. and as my assistant nicole, who's here, will tell you, it doesn't make for an orderly office. there are papers everywhere, books everywhere. >> you should see my office. one of the things about james madison is as a young man he took copious notes during the constitutional convention, in fact, most historians we know much about the constitution courtesy of madison. so among all the founders he's
one that's easy to study in terms of there's just a volume of information there. as you poured through these documents of this young man sitting with a front row seat to history, did you feel like you got to know him better, or as i read them, i remember feeling like i was almost sitting there. in philadelphia. >> well, it's surely compelling. and i was fascinated with his ailment. and how it was regarded at the time. and how he overcame it. it's hard not to be fascinated with dolly. think of it. i mean, madison was the most reserved of the founders. and he married the most flamboyant woman. i think they truly enjoyed one another. there's this one story that sticks in mind of dolly, it's almost bizarre,&ckígn dolly an
running across the piazza in front of montpelier and then they would run the other way and sometimes dolly would carry him on her back. >> the great little madison, or she sometimes said darling little jemmy. you know, one of the founders once wrote that the quote was that they could defeat madison if only it wasn't for dolly. so she was quite a firecracker. >> that's interesting. there was a senator who wrote home to his wife, senator mitchell, in the leadup to the election of 1808, who pointed out what a great advantage madison had over george clinton because dolly was entertaining everyone. >> sure, sure. was there anything about their marriage? it's truly the odd couple when you look at it, in every single way. was there -- but i think that they had a very strong and productive as you alluded to, marriage. anything about the marriage that you felt was particularly inspiring or interesting? >> well, the way it started.
i mean, it was, i think, in the beginning a marriage of convenience on dolly's part. i mean, he fell head over heels. but i think she saw in him someone who would be a good support for her son. someone that would kind of provide that baseline level of sanity that all of us want in life. and there's a fascinating letter that she wrote to her sister on the day of her marriage. and she says something of the order of, i was married today, alas, alas. but she would not have written that, you know, five years later, three years later, because it did become a love story. >> sure. there was a strain in their relationship, and that was her son. could you talk a little bit about payne turned out to be true to his name sake. >> a pain. payne todd, someone has said he was the serpent in the garden.
he just grew up as a completely irresponsible young man. madison was forever bailing him out of debt. indeed, bailing him out of prison. they tried everything. they sent him to europe with galatan, who was a very orderly and disciplined man. i think hoping that payne todd would learn better. but he never, never became any better. and toward the end of madison's life, and then after he died, payne todd pilfered things from montpelier and sold them to support his various bad habits. it is the reason why, if someone tells you i have a letter of james madison's, you should take them seriously. because the letters most of them have been gathered beautifully but some of the letters are still out there. i have a friend on the eastern shore of maryland who said to me
i have two letters of james madison's, and i looked and by gosh, they're james madison's. so, yes, payne helped put them into debt. it's an interesting thing that all the virginia founders died either in poverty or just not very well off. but madison's debt was in large part owing to payne todd. >> because of payne. but madison tried his best to be patient, provided finances for him, because of his great love for dolly. but it just wasn't meant to be. what surprised you most about madison and dolly, in your research, was it the health, the number of ailments that madison had? inevitably, invariably when you spend five years digging through primary documents, we have a view of madison. but i think our view of him is very simplistic and monolithic. when he was an infinitely more complicated person. so what surprised you as you were going through the madison
papers is this. >> well, his dedication, his hard work. i think, you know, we all know about the constitution in one way or another. but the fight for religious freedom, duma malone once said he couldn't account for jefferson's adhesion to this cause, for his fidelity to this cause. but for madison it's easy to trace. beginning with the prosecution of the baptists in virginia. and as i say madison was a really good politician. and he didn't hesitate to use the loyalty of the baptists in virginia when it came to be time for an election. monroe once ran against him. and monroe was running around saying, you know, that madison needed to be replaced, he was the old school, he, monroe, was the new school. and madison started writing letters to the baptists. and as they should have.
they recognized that he was the one who would be best for office. >> one of the most important relationships to the founding, and you just alluded to it, so i'll pick up on that while we're here, was madison's relationship with jefferson. it was a friendship, but it was a complex relationship. it was a political relationship. and piggy backing on your comment about madison's formidable political skills, when jefferson needed something done in congress, he went to madison, when jefferson was in europe he wrote to madison asking him to do "a," "b" and "c," could you talk about this remarkable relationship between jefferson and madison? >> it is remarkable. i think it's one of the great stories of the history of the early republic of all american history. they first met when madison went to work on the council of state in virginia, he was very young, maybe 22, and then jefferson became governor. and from that time, this wonderful friendship developed, they also lived in the same
boarding house, as i mentioned in connection with kitty. and you can just imagine their conversations in that boarding house. i think that each of them was probably the brightest person that the other had ever known, or would ever know. and each of them loved books. and they bought books even when they couldn't afford them. but they just had this fascination with knowledge. it was an enlightenment fascination with knowledge. so think of it, not only are they really bright, but they're well schooled. and so they have this fund of knowledge on which they can build and converse. they were both reserved but very different otherwise. jefferson had this soaring intellect, and you can see it in his prose, this magical prose that just raises you up. madison was much more matter of fact, and practical.
they balanced each other. there's a historian named merrill peterson who said the account balanced. now, if you were to give credit for who most deserves the audience, or the appreciation, really, for this friendship, it would go to madison. i mean, jefferson was a difficult friend. he -- at one point, when madison is busy at work getting the constitution ratified, and this was no easy thing, jefferson, who was disappointed, really upset that there was no bill of rights on the constitution, started writing letters to people behind madison's back saying here's what we should do, don't ratify the constitution, let four states withhold ratification until there's a bill of rights on it. now, this was a fine thing to say this from paris but madison is in the war, in the conflict
to get the constitution ratified, and there was no way to amend it until it had been ratified. it had been hard enough to get through the constitutional convention where you had all of these people fighting over so many subjects. but if you started letting different states put different amendments on the constitution, you would just end up with a mess. everyone would have different suggestions for what it should be. jefferson didn't understand any of this and he was writing letters to merrill in virginia, opposing the ratification, full ratification of the constitution. madison never said a word. but he did send jefferson a copy of the federalist. but, you know, it was madison's patience that let that happen. during the period of adams' presidency, during the time of the sedition act, this was an act that made it a crime to criticize the government.
and during the time of the sedition act madison and jefferson decided that the best way to combat this was to turn to the states. so they wrote something called the virginia and kentucky resolutions. madison wrote virginia, jeffers jefferson wrote kentucky. now jefferson was far more forward leaning than madison was. jefferson said that a state had the right to nullify a federal law. now, you can all see this leading up to the civil war. >> right. >> but that was jefferson's idea and he even suggested the idea of secession. now, along the way various people held jefferson back, including madison, from making such a bold and damaging statement. but jefferson, you know, just kept going. and when madison's more moderate, more thoughtful statement went forward to the
virginia assembly, jefferson got a hold of it and changed it. and made it more amenable to his way of thinking. you know, madison found out. he got it changed back. and he did say a word, but not a grumpy one to jefferson. he just pointed out to him that these words, like nullification and secession, were not going to be very helpful if you wanted to get a whole bunch of states to come together, and oppose the sedition act. so i think that madison's patience accounted for a great deal. >> good. and i couldn't agree more. of the two, madison was clearly the better politician and i know there's a couple of uva grads here, so with all due respect -- >> well, madison is a virginiian too. >> yes, and i went to school in virginia as well but madison was the far better politician. on the idea of the bill of rights it was charles pinkney
who initially said that we should promote such rights against the quartering of soldiers, the mandatory quartering of soldiers, he talked about liberties of the press. but we were not ready for it at the time and jefferson almost unravelled everything. madison comes to the rescue. interestingly madison is initially opposed to coming up with a list of the bill of rights. he thought it would undermine it but madison comes on board and not only can we call him the father of the constitution but perhaps the father of the bill of rights. could you talk a little bit about his leadership role in putting together what would be known as the bill of rights? >> well, he just knew the importance of talking to everyone. and making his case convincingly. but as you point out he was worried that if you listed a bill of rights, you had ten amendments, say, about the rights of people to do "x" and "y," you were implying that they didn't have rights to do anything else. >> right. >> you were pushing every other right aside. and so one bit of his genius is
rights. he wrote -- well, you know the bill of rights. that the government shall not abridge the right to free speech and to a free allegiance to religion. think about that. the government shall not abridge. now, that left the implication that there were a whole lot of other things that the government shouldn't do as well. so he knew how to pick his words carefully. >> you can see the political skill coming out in the fight that ensued that jefferson draws a firm line but madison's willing to work across the aisle, so to speak. probably no better example than with the federalist papers which you alluded to while jefferson and hamilton both seemed incapable of speaking to one another it's madison who works with hamilton on the federalist papers. could you talk a little bit about his great contribution in terms of the federalist papers
in helping to get this ratified? and i think earlier your point was well taken how he literally travels to visit with congress, he travels and sits down with people, even though he's not -- doesn't have the charisma that washington has he knew the value of that one on one, sitting behind doors and working to get the support. >> no, he and madison -- he and hamilton did cooperate on the federalist papers in an amazing way. you know, writing at this breakneck speed that just seems impossible, i think, to most people today. they made the case for the constitution, and they made it for new yorkers, but madison understood the importance of what they had written and had copies sent to virginia. before it was up to virginia to ratify the constitution. but after a while, i'm not sure that madison was any less partisan than jefferson. >> yeah. >> he and hamilton, jefferson and hamilton, became great foes,
and, oh, gaye i'm so sorry to tell you this, they even became great foes of washington's. washington sided with hamilton on almost everything. >> everything. >> and hamilton's idea was a strong central government. people like madison and jefferson called him a -- someone who wanted a kingly government and tell people what to do and keep the whole thing knitted together. that was the fight. and jefferson and madison didn't want that. they wanted a more power to the states. so that was the fight. and in the course of that fight the first political parties were created. but a great enmity grew up as well. >> right. some of madison's high points and low points occurred at the same time in the war of 1812 as you alluded briefly to. i wonder if you can expand on that. madison was initially opposed to
this and a couple of hawks who came in on the 1810 election, the clays, the calhouns kind of pushed him in that direction. yet in the end the handling of it, even adams would admit, was incredible. could you talk about the war president madison? >> it's interesting. in the adams administration there was half war with france. presidents in those days, whether they were military men or not thought they should dress up and put on a sword and put on a hat with a cocade on it which is a ribbon made to look like a flower. and adams did that. madison did that, and i find that odd, you know, there are many things when you look back that you find odd. his greatest contribution, i think, as a wartime president was not prosecuting people who wildly disagreed with him, and like the new englanders, even
threatened to secede. but his leadership is calm. keep calm and carry on, he did that when the land battles were going south. i think he was, though, elated, you know, at the naval battles, the great naval battles of the war of 1812. >> yeah, i'm so glad you mention that because i've used, i know in my own work, in my own writings, we properly and rightly give a lot of credit to lincoln for his magnanimity. he didn't want to see robert e. lee in chains, we give a lot of credit to george washington for his magnanimity and not being more aggressive with the people opposing his demand but i always put madison up there, new england was close to seceding, fishermen were outraged, there were factions but madison led everyone down calmly. his handling of that helped this country come together at the end
of the war. >> when i think about it the freedom of religion issue, which both madison and jefferson pushed mightily, think how different our society would be if they had let it go the other way, if we had let it go unchallenged that the government can't prevent people from speaking against the government. now washington and people who supported him had this idea that the government was the government and the government does no wrong and if you criticize the government you're trying to divide the people from the government. and, in fact, you're guilty of sedition. they put so many newspaper editors in jail. well, i don't know what, a dozen, but it was a lot in those days. this was the adams administration. and washington supported the adams administration in doing this. this idea that it was okay to
criticize the government was like a hinge between the ages. before that, not so much. after it, well, you know what we have to day, it is okay. >> madison would also be a wartime secretary of state and a wartime president with the barberry pirate conflicts and that remains a contentious issue. he would be going to war again and overseeing this interesting affair. >> you know, madison was very confident in himself. jefferson described it best. he just had confidence and he was not only willing to go to war, he encouraged the congress to declare war in 1812. madison also had this gift of leadership. he knew how to change his mind. you know, and a friend of ours said to me once, you know, of course you don't keep a total
consistency throughout your life. when the situation changes, you change. and i guess the most best example of that is madison and the constitution because when he left the constitutional convention he was very disappointed. he did not think they had done all that they should. but he sort of sat and thought about it, and decided that nothing better could be created. and then went to work on the ratification. he thought that when hamilton proposed a national bank, that was the worst thing he ever heard of. but then he supported a national bank during his own administration. some people, i think gordon wood wrote in his book, one of the chapters is called is there a madison problem, you know, with this back and forth? and i think he would agree with me that, no, you know, you
change your mind. when the circumstances change. and so that's what madison did. >> i've always felt also that one of madison's greatest contributions occurred when he was secretary of state and it's something that jefferson gets all the credit for, jefferson deserves credit but madison was one of the negotiators, and that's the louisiana purchase. which everybody's familiar with from the jeffersonian perspective but it was madison who was secretary of state and played a role in this. could you talk about him as secretary of state and his negotiations with this remarkable event. >> it's a good example of madison, the father of the constitution changing his mind a little bit. when france made the offer to let us have this vast territory, at a really good price, jefferson started worrying this was not constitutional. there was nothing in the constitution that said the government homicide right to acquire territory by land so madison took him aside and said,
it's okay. if he hadn't been there to give jefferson that kind of confidence in the enterprise i don't know if we would have purchased louisiana or not. >> while we're talking about all these virginians, could you tell us a little bit about your next book, on the virginia dynasty, why you selected the topic? we don't want to steal the thunder, we'll buy it when it comes out, but a hint of direction and your focus on this book. >> well, i am interested in the fact that these were not four men sitting around a table agreeing amicably on issues. they fought like cats and dogs. and the newspapers were part of the battle. and you can find things in the newspapers of today, i think they're as bad as what you find in our newspapers today and in the political rhetoric that we use today. so it was such a remarkable time, you know, to think of how different it was, but in how
many ways it's the same. and we do owe them a great deal. >> why this extraordinary collection of talent in that one place in virginia? is that something you'll be looking at? >> you know, many great historians have done this, and, you know, i follow in their footsteps gladly. i stand on the shoulder of giants. but it is interesting, all four of the virginia founders were born within a 60 mile radius. >> extraordinary, yeah. >> at ferry farm, that's the center of the radius. so to speak. and education plays a part for some of them. more for madison and jefferson than for washington and monroe. so that's part of it. they also, jefferson in particular, nurtured upcoming talent. you know, they mentored, and brought people along. jefferson brought monroe along.
the fact that they were together so much. you know, i think that wisdom comes from the clash of ideas and maybe not even clashing, but, you know these long discussions about constitutions and laws. oh, jefferson and madison were fascinated with explorers, they were fascinated by explorers, and if you look at their book lists, you know, they were flighted to learn about the first guide to go into -- the people who sailed around the world. so they had -- and that's a purely enlightenment thing. >> they not only had the vast knowledge that each of them had studied they had this whole environment in which it was thought important to explore and to explore ideas as well as countries. there's one last thing, and i haven't quite got this together yet. but one of your lectures, was it gordon wood?
talked about how modest a mansion in the united states was compared to -- palace, for example, and no relationship. i mean, the one is tiny and the other is huge. they were -- they were on the periphery of civilization. they weren't at the center. they weren't at london. they were on the edges. and i think that made them more creative. you know, you don't have this vast layer of tradition over the top of you that you have to fight through. you have a new country. you can have new ideas. and you can bring them to the surface. so i'm just playing with all of this. but that's the idea. >> good, can't wait to see it. another set of your books, it's very appropriate that you're here as a part of our series as gaye mentioned in her introduction. one of the initial conversations gay, david, molly and everyone had was that we all feel that maybe we're not doing a good enough job as a nation teaching
our children about history. a lot of kids are ahistorical. i've been a historian for 27 years and although i'm always thrilled when i work the history daik day contest to see what kids are doing. but your series of books, education history books for kids, what inspired you to write that? what was that moment when you said, wow, our children really aren't -- was it being in the classroom? >> well, that, that's also -- you know, very inspiring. when i was chairman of the national endowment for the humanities we did survey after survey that showed how youngsters growing up didn't know anything. >> right. >> about history. they -- it's interesting. they don't know about history but they do know about something very important that the older generation tends not to know about, something really important, they know about technology. how often have i heard people
say, i'll get my granddaughter to fix this. when your iphone goes down. they didn't know about history. that was perhaps a primary purpose. the second purpose was that dick was elected vice president and i wanted to stay out of trouble. so, you know, if you write a book that's deep history about adults, i mean, somebody's going to be mad. but who could be mad about these books. they're just -- they're wonderful, i love these books. >> tell us a little bit about america, patriotic primer, what's your main argument in that? which is, by the way, i recommend these books for your grandchildren, and i'll tell you about one of the books i bought of yours for my kids in a moment. but tell us about "america patriotic primer". >> well, i worked with a wonderful illustrator. her name is robin glazer. and she is -- she was by profession a ballet dancer. but she became a book illustrator, and her drawings are funny and moving and they are so great. the idea was to go through the
alphabet, you know "a" is for america, the land that we love. to go clear through the alphabet doing that. "x" was a little hard. we got through. and we were working on this right after 9/11. and robin drew this wonderful picture. and we used a line from "america the beautiful." it was "thinalabaster city's shine undimmed by human tears" and robin drew this wonderful picture of the world trade center towers. it was a book that was inspired with a lot of emotion. >> good. >> one of the other books i strongly recommend is "a" is for abigail, and as someone who's a fan of dolly madison, martha washington and abigail adams and i've written on them, talk a little bit about -- i was pleased to hear you end your talk with some of the other
women in madison's lives. tell us a little bit about "a" is for abigail and who were some of the other women that you chose to put in that book, and why? >> well, sojourner truth is in there. we wanted to make the book inclusive. the sufficient a jets are in there. the women who have achieved in technology are in there, sally ride is in there. so we tried to make the book be about -- a group of women that was as inclusive as possible because you want little girls and little boys to read this and understand that the girls growing up are full of potential just as the boys are. >> sure. one other one that you wrote is "our 50 states" and it's kind of a family guide to traveling around the united states. so on that note, do you have a favorite national park or scenic
natural area, other than wyoming? >> see, you stole my line. >> the vice president was looking at me as i started that question. any -- do you have a favorite or favorites national parks and states to visit? >> well, i mean, how can i not say grand teton and how can i not say yellow stone national park, they've just been such a part of our lives? but i have never been to glacier, and dick tells me that's something i should do. when i see the advertisement for arizona on tv, i want to go to arches national park. >> it's beautiful. >> there are many things left to do. >> and what about a favorite historic site? because that's also included. is there a battlefield, a home, an historic site, of course some of the folks from montpelier are here. which is a lovely site. you've obviously visited that. and mount vernon. are there favorite historic sites that you have? >> you know, this thing that's going on right now with monroe's home is very interesting.
if you go to i'm nmontpelier, au go to monroe's house, you think, wow, this is modest. it was almost unbelievable how modest it was. through archaeological digs the theory now is that what we looked at and thought was monroe's house was a little guest house. and that he had something much bigger there, that he and his wife and family lived in. and that it burned. and the record of that is a little hazy, and it makes sense, this whole theory, and the house burned and they excavated a large part of the foundation for it. that just tells you, you know, the past is not totally understood. there's always more to learn. >> and each one of these homes, they're wonderful for bringing children to them. >> absolutely. >> they have so many child
oriented and child family programs. my kids have suffered through me dragging them to all these places. when we were in the green room earlier, the vice president and i were talking and i always knew he was a great military history buff and a civil war buff, do you share his enthusiasm for visiting the revolutionary and civil war and various battlefield sites in the country and is that something that's discussed in your book? >> no. brew dick has made the lives of our children richer. when we first moved to virginia, many years ago, they were little and dick loved the idea of being in the middle of all these battlefields and he would get them up every saturday morning until one day they said no more battlefields. so, you know, partly, i don't have much geographical sense, and to visit a battlefield and
understand what happened, you really do need to know north from south. >> sure, sure. >> of all the books you've written and gaye mentioned them earlier and we've talked about several, was there one that was the most difficult, most challenging for you? >> sure, madison. >> madison was? >> nothing else took me five years. >> because of the sheer scope of trying to capture? >> you know, i like the donny walberg example. >> i've never heard the example. >> he isn't 5'4", i don't think he's more than 5'7", which is about the size of hamilton and burr, most difficult. that's the point is we don't have a whole series of photographs to look at. you've got gilbert stuart, you've got rembrandt peel. and every president tried to get his portrait taken, or done,
because people didn't know what they looked like. and so these portraits would be made and then copied and copied so people would know. but i look at gilbert stuart's thomas jefferson, i don't think it's right. you know, i think it makes him -- he was a handsome man, but i think it makes him and handsomer than he was. i like the portrait of james madison and washington, what an example. i mean, do you want to look at -- i was so stunned the first time i went to mount vernon and saw the young washington that you put in, wasn't the first time i went to mount vernon, but the first time i saw it because we all know about the guy who has no teeth and it's -- can you imagine? he had one tooth when he became president, one. and he lost that in his second term. i think it was john adams who left the white house with just one tooth. now, first of all, the trial that that was. but secondly, the paintings.
you know, you see washington as this aged person whose mouth is sunken in, and swollen. washington complained that one of the portraits made him look swollen. so you don't -- you know, you know them -- we know washington too well as an old man, and the portraits don't often show him enough in his prime. >> sure and he was often times in pain because those dentures were so ill fitting. and he complained about them chronically. there's paintings of washington where he's bigger than horses and cannons and battlefields. he was a big fellow, if you were to extrapolate he would be about 14 feet tall from some of the paintings. >> my favorite is the apotheosis of george washington, i think it was joe ellis in your series said it was important that we be worshipful of our great men in the early days of the republic. it helped knit us together.
and there's no better example of that than washington. is this in the capitol? i can't remember where the apotheosis of washington is, but it shows washington being taken into heaven. and, you know, it's a religious kind of symbol. or washington and roman toga, that's a sculpture. who did that? >> the washington in marble, looking like a caesar. >> whith his toga. the worshipful attitude of people in those early days was remarkable. but i think it's also important, you really understand washington better, what happened was he lost that tooth, in his second term and he no longer had anything to tie his false teeth to so they were very uncomfortable, made his face swollen. while it gives us a wrong image of him at his peak it helps us to understand him as a human being. >> sure it does. madison being the most challenging of all your books,
was there one that you found particularly -- it's never easy to write a book, is there one that was easiest of all the books? >> probably my auto biographical, blue skies, no fences, it was a treat to write about growing up in wyoming and having an excuse to get back in touch with linda lad, you know, someone i'd known in fifth grade and to find out what linda was up to. that was the most fun. >> what's the difficulty in writing about yourself? i mean, as someone who's lived in the public eye for decades. >> you've got to figure out what you don't want to say. >> could i ask that -- we're almost out of time. we'll start to bring it to a close. a long year as a scholar, a teacher, a political spouse, a public figure and author, what have been some of the great rewards of this distinguished public life and what have been some of the challenges of this public life? >> well, when you reach higher levels the channel is you don't
have any privacy and you don't have the ability to be spontaneous. you know, if you want to go to the drugstore, you have to call the secret service agents. so that's a disadvantage. though on the other hand, we were always surrounded by people so nice. i can't say enough good things about the secret service. they not only did a great job, they were good people. so that's a kind of disadvantage. the advantage is, you know, you get to meet remarkable people. before he died i -- dick as well, we got to visit with pope john paul. and he was truly -- i mean, you just felt holiness. he was just amazing. the other person that i remember just being stunned by is the empress of japan. just this total zen and beauty
and calm. but pope john paul was just the most amazing. >> who were your heroes growing up and today, any heroes? >> wonder woman. >> wonder woman. understandably so. >> yes. >> and one last question. what do you point to, what really sparked in you this passion, lifelong passion for history, what was it from your early life that helped to forge that? >> well, you know, i got my ph.d. in english literature, which isn't history. but i kind of thought it was at first. >> sure. >> and so i kept going with it and kept going with it until i'd finished my dissertation and then i realized it wasn't history. and i don't know, being able to delve into life stories, and being able to delve into the history of this amazing country. i mean, how did we come to be? that's such a mystery in some ways. but such a tribute to the people who founded this country.
>> absolutely. before we break, let me just remind everybody that, again, next year gaye and david and the team and molly are all hard at work, we're putting together another program. like this next year. and again, let me thank the society for hosting this wonderful five-part series, and c-span for covering this. and not only airing it but we've put together curriculum to correspond with this. >> good. >> they're putting it out, making it available to schools through c-span's classroom to students can watch this and learn from it. i'd like to thank the vice president and dr. cheney for coming here today. >> it's been a great pleasure for us. thank you, thank you very much. >> and there are signed copies of the vice -- of dr. cheney's books in the lobby. thank you, everyone, thank you. >> thank you. this is american history tv
on c-span3 where each weekend we feature 48 hours of programs exploring our nation's past. american history tv is on social media. follow us at c-span history. merry christmas from the white house. nancy and i wish we could thank the thousands of you who sent us holiday cards, greetings and messages, each one is moving and tells a story of its own. a story of love, hope, prayer and patriotism. and each one has helped to brighten our christmas. some of the most moving have