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tv   Conversation with Lynne Cheney  CSPAN  December 25, 2020 11:05pm-11:51pm EST

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with pink stucco, so the challenge at montpelier has been to get it back to what it might look like when the medicines were here and the efforts have been remarkable. thank you for arranging this, and thank you all for being here. >> [ applause ] >> up next on american history tv, --
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>> 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 this program today. >> [ applause ] >> let me also again acknowledge -- and the entire team at the society for the four arts for hosting this magnificent five-part series, thank you. and most importantly i would like to thank dr. cheney for coming here and sharing her views on president and mrs. madison.
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we will revisit a couple of the issues that you discussed but let's jump right into your writing style, tell us a little bit about how you picked your topic and how you approach the research process. >> during the writing of the book madison i was entranced with the notion that for the first 36 years of the republic, the virginians were in charge for 32, and i was interested not only in how this came about , and that is a good story, but in the interactions between them, and the personal interactions, and i will not give away too much, but there are some surprises there. and how i write, i was a teacher of freshman english for quite a while, i was getting my phd, and i just tortured these poor freshman, i made them take note cards, and every note card had to have a separate idea on it, and you organize the notecards, and you wrote, i do not do any of that, and i feel
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so bad for all those freshman i misled for so many years. i kind of start writing, and i research while i write, and it is not the most efficient process awful possible. but i do not know what i want to say until i write, and i go back and i look at what i have written and it helps me more to know what i wanted to say then and what i want to say next, although it is not a very orderly process, and my assistant who is here will tell you it does not make for an orderly office, there are papers everywhere, books everywhere -- >> you should see my office. [ laughter ] one of the things about james madison is as a young man he took copious notes during the constitutional convention, and most historians we know about the constitution courtesy of madison, so out of all of the founders he is one who is easy to study as there
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is a volume of information there, as you pour through these documents of a young man sitting with a young front row seat to history do you feel like you got to know him better , and as i read i almost felt like i was sitting in philadelphia. >> it was surely compelling, and i was fascinated with his ailment and how it was regarded at the time, and how he overcame it. it is hard not to be fascinated with dolly, think about it, madison was the most reserved of the founders, and he married the most flamboyant woman. i think they truly enjoyed one another, there is one story that sticks in mind, it is almost bizarre, dolly and james running across the piazza in front of montpelier and they would run the other way, and
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sometimes dolly would carry him on her back. >> [ laughter ] >> the great little madison, or as he would she would sometimes say the darling little jimmy. one of the -- she was quite a firecracker. >> there was a senator who wrote home to his wife, senator mitchell, in the lead up to the election of 1808, who pointed out what a great advantage madison had over george clinton because dolly was entertaining everyone. >> was there anything about their marriage, it is truly the odd couple when you look at it in every single way, but i think that they had a very strong and productive marriage, anything about the marriage that you felt was particularly inspiring or interesting? >> the way it started. it was i think in the
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beginning, a marriage of convenience on dolly's part, and 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 is 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 five years later, three years later, it did become a love story. >> there was a strain in their relationship, and that was her son, could you talk a bit about pain, true to his namesake. >> someone said he was the
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serpent in the garden. he grew up as an irresponsible young man. madison was forever bailing him out of debt and out of prison. they tried everything, they sent him to europe with -- who was a very orderly and disciplined man, hoping that he would learn better, but he never became any better, and toward the end of madison's life and after he died, pain todd pilfered things from montpelier and sold them to support his bad habits. it is the reason why if someone tells you, i have a letter of james madison's, to take them seriously, because most of them have been gathered, but some of them are still out there. i have a friend on the eastern shore of maryland who said i have two letters of james madison, and i looked and by
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gosh they are james madison. so he helped put them into debt, and it is an interesting thing that all of the founders died either in poverty or not very well off, but madison's debt was in large part due to pain todd. >> he provided finances him for him for his great love of dolly, but it was not meant to be, but what surprised you most about madison and dolly in your research, is it the number of health ailments madison had, or invariably you spend five years that -- 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. what surprised you when going through his story?
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>> his dedication, his hard work, we all know about the constitution in one way or another, but the fight for religious freedom -- once said that he could not account for jeffersons adhesion to this cause, but for medicine it is easy to trace beginning with the persecution of the best discs baptists in virginia. he did not hesitate to use the loyalty of the baptists in virginia when it came to be time for an election. manuel munro once ran against him and he was running around saying that madison needed to be replaced, he was the old school and munro was the new school, and madison started writing letters to the baptists, and as they should have, they recognized that he
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would be the one who was best for office. >> one of the most important relationships to the founding was madison's relationship to jefferson, it was a friendship but it was a complex relationship and a political relationship and piggybacking on -- when jefferson needed something done in congress, he went to madison. when jefferson was in europe he wrote to madison and asked him to do things. >> i think it is one of the great stories of the history of the early republic in all american history. they first met when madison went to work on the council of state in virginia. he was very young, 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
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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 could not afford them, and they just had this vaccination with knowledge. not only are they really bright, but they are well schooled and so they had a fund of knowledge on which they could build and converse, they were both reserved, but very different otherwise. jefferson had this soaring intellect and you could see it in his prose, his magical prose, that just raises you up. madison was much more matter-of- fact, they balance each other, there is a historian named meryl peters who said the
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accounts balanced. if you were to give credit for who most deserved the audience or the appreciation for this friendship, it would go to madison. jefferson was a difficult friend. he at one point when madison was 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 is what we should do, do not ratify the constitution, let four states withhold ratification until there is a bill of rights on it. this is a fine thing, but madison is in the war, in the conflict to get the
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constitution ratified, and there was no way to amend it until it had been ratified, it had been hard enough to get to the constitutional convention where you have 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 did not understand any of this, and he was writing letters, opposing the ratification, the full ratification of the constitution. madison never said a word, but he did send jefferson a copy of the federalist. but with madison's patients, it let that happen. during the adams presidency, during the time of the sedition act, this is an act that made it a crime to criticize the government, and during the time of the sedition act, madison
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and jefferson decided that the best way to combat this is to turn to the states, and so they wrote something called the virginia and kentucky resolution. madison road virginia and jefferson wrote kentucky. jefferson was far more forward leaning then madison was. -- that was jefferson's idea, and he even suggested the idea of secession, along the way, various people held jefferson back including madison, from making such a bold and damaging statement, but jefferson just kept going, and when madison's more moderate, more thoughtful statements went to the virginia assembly, jefferson got a hold of this and changed it and made
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it more amenable to his way of thinking. 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 patients accounted for a great deal. >> i cannot agree more, of the two, batterson madison was clearly the better politician. -- madison is a far better politician on the idea of the bill of rights as charles pinckney who said that we should promote such rights against the mandatory
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quartering of soldiers, he talked about liberties of the press, but we were not ready for it at the time and jefferson almost unraveled everything, madison comes to the rescue, initially, he was opposed to -- could you talk a little bit about his leadership role in putting together what would be known as the bill of rights question mark >> he just knew the importance of talking to everyone and making his case convincingly, but as you pointed out, he was worried that if you listed a bill of rights, and you had 10 amendments, for the right of people to do x and y, you are implying that you did not have rights to do anything else. you are pushing every other right aside, and so one bit of his genius was the way he phrased the bill of rights, he
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wrote, you know the bill of rights, that the government shall not abridge the rights to free speech and to free allegiance to religion. think about that, the government shall not abridge, that left the implication that there were a whole lot of other things that the government should not do as well. so he knew how to pick his words carefully. >> you can see the political skill come out in the fight that ensued -- probably no better example than with the federalist papers which you alluded to while jefferson and hamilton seemed incapable of speaking to one another, it is madison who works with hamilton on the federalist papers, can you talk a little bit about his great contribution in terms of
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the federalist papers and helping to get this ratified and i think earlier your point was well taken on how he literally traveled to -- >> he and hamilton did cooperate on the federalist papers in an amazing way, writing at this breakneck speed that seems impossible 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 am not sure that madison was any less partisan than jefferson. he and hamilton, jefferson and hamilton, became great foes, and i am sorry to tell you this, they even became great
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foes of washington. washington sided with hamilton almost on everything. and hamilton's idea was a strong central government. people like madison and jefferson would call him -- and so that was the fight and jefferson and madison did not want that, they wanted more power to the states, and 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. >> one of madison's high points, some of his high points and some of his low point all occurred at the same time and that was the war of 1812, as you alluded briefly to, i am wondering if you can expand on that, madison was initially opposed to this, and a couple
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of hawks who came in on the 1810 election, pushed him in that direction, yet in the end in analysis his handling of it was incredible, could you talk a little bit about the war president madison? >> it is interesting, adams, in the adams administration, there was a half war with france, and presidents in that time thought that they should dress up and put on a sword and a hat with a okayed on it which is a ribbon that is meant to look like a flower, and they did that, and i find that odd, there are many things that you look back and find odd. his greatest contribution i think as a wartime president was not prosecuting people who while we wildly disagreed with them, and even the new englanders threatened to succeed
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succeed -- keep calm and carry on, he did that when the land battle for going south, i think he was so elated that -- >> -- we give a lot of credit to george washington for his magnanimity in not being more aggressive with the people opposing his command but i always put madison up there as well and new england was close to succeeding. i think his handling of that helped this country to come together more than anything else. >> the freedom of religion issue
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, which they both pushed mightily, think how differently our society would be if they had let it go the other way, if they had let it go unchallenged that the government cannot prevent people from speaking against the government, washington and the 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 are trying to divide the people from the government and you are guilty of sedition. they put so many newspaper editors in jail. this is the adams administration, and washington supported the adams administration in doing this. it was this idea that it was okay to criticize the government , it was like a hinge between
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the ages. before that, not so much, after that, you know what we have today, and it is okay. >> madison would also be a wartime secretary of state and wartime president with the barbary conflicts, and that remains a contentious issue, but could you talk about he would be going to war again and overseeing this interesting affair? >> madison was very confident in himself. i think 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. a friend of ours said to me once , of course you do not see total consistency throughout
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your life, when the situation changes, you change, and i guess the 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 he went to work on 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. and some people -- one of the chapters it is called, is there a madison problem? with this back-and-forth, and i think that he would agree with me that, no, you change your mind when the circumstances
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change, and that is what madison did. >> one of madison's greatest contributions occurred when he was secretary of state and that is something that jefferson gets all the credit for, jefferson deserves credit but madison was one of the negotiators but that is the louisiana purchase. it was madison who was secretary of state and played a role in this -- >> it is a good example of madison, the father of the constitution, losing his mind a little bit, because when france made the offer to have this vast territory at a very good price, he started worrying that this was not constitutional. there was nothing in the constitution that said the government had the right to
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acquire land. if he was not there to give jefferson that kind of confidence, i do not know if we would have had the louisiana purchase. >> could you tell us a little bit about the next book on the virginia dynasty? >> i am interested in the fact that these were not for men agreeing chemically 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 the day, i think they are as bad as what you would find in our newspapers today and in the political rhetoric that we use today. and so it was such a remarkable time, to think of how different it was and in how many ways it is the same.
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and we do owe them a great deal. >> why is this extraordinary talent in one place in virginia? >> many great historians have done this and i follow in their footsteps gladly, i stand on the shoulders of giants, but it is interesting, all four of the virginia founders were born in a 60-mile radius. education plays a part for some of them, more for venison madison and jefferson than for monroe, but they also, jefferson in particular, nursed upcoming talents. jefferson brought monroe along. the fact that they were together so much, i think that
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wisdom comes with a clash of ideas and maybe not even clashing, but long discussions about constitutions and, jefferson and madison were fascinated by explorers, and when you look at their booklist, they were decided delighted to learn about the people who sailed around the world. and that is 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 about important to explore ideas as well as the country, and there is one last thing and i have not quite got this together yet, but one of your lectures talked about how modest a mansion in the united states was compared to -- for example,
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and no relationship, the one is tiny and the other is huge, they were on the periphery of civilization, they were not at the center, they were not at london, they were on the edges, and i think that made them more creative. you do not 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. i am just playing with all of this, but that is the idea. >> cannot wait to see it. another set of your books, it as part of &c%our series, one of the initial conversations they had was that we all feel that maybe we are not doing a good enough job as a nation teaching our children about history, a lot of our
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children are ahistorical. i am always thrilled to see -- but your series of books on history education books, what inspired you to write that? what is your moment that you said -- >> when i was chairwoman of the national endowment of the humanities, we did survey after survey showing that young students did not know much about history. they do not know about history, but they do know about something very important that the older generations tend not to know about, something really important, they know about technology. how often have i heard that someone says i will get my granddaughter to fix this, but they did not know about history, so that was perhaps a
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primary for this, but the second purpose was that dick cheney was elected vice president, and i wanted to stay out of trouble. who could be mad about these books? they are wonderful, i love these books. >> tell us about america, a patriotic primer. by the way i recommend these books for your grandchildren and i will tell you about one of the books i bought for my kids in a moment but tell us about america a patriotic primer. >> i work with a wonderful illustrator, and 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.
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to go clear through the alphabet, x was a little hard, but 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 thine alabaster cities shine -- robin drew this wonderful picture of the world trade center towers. it was a book that was inspired with a lot of emotion. >> one of the other books i strongly recommend is a is for abigail. as someone who is a fan of -- and i was pleased to hear you and talk with some of the other women in medicine's life. tell us a little bit about the book and who are some of the
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other women you chose to put in the book and why? >> sojourner truth is in there, we wanted to make the book inclusive. the suffragettes are in there. sally ride is in there. 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. >> one other one that you wrote is our 50 states, and it is a family guide to traveling around the united states, so do you have a favorite national park or scenic area, other than wyoming?
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do you have a favorite or favorites of the national parks and states? >> how could i not say grand teton and how could i not say yellowstone national park? they have been such a major part of our lives. but i have never been to glacier, and he tells me that is something i should do. when i see the advertisement for arizona on tv, i want to go to archers national park. >> what about a favorite historic site? is there a battlefield, a home, a historic site, some of the folks from montpelier here, you have obviously visited that and mount vernon, are there other famous historic sites that you have? >> this thing that is going on with monroe's home is interesting. if you go to montpelier and monticello and you visit
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monroe's house, you think this is modest, and i thought it was almost unbelievable how modest it was. through archaeological digs, the theory is now that what we look at and thought was monroe's house was a guesthouse, and he had something much bigger there that he and his wife and family lived in, and it ended up burned, and it is the record of that that is a little hazy, but it makes sense, this whole theory that the house burned, and they excavated a large part of the foundation for it, so that just tells you, the past is not totally understood, there is always more to learn. >> each one of these homes, they are wonderful for bringing children to, they have so many child oriented and child friendly programs. my kids have suffered through me
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dragging them to all of these places. the vice president and i were talking and i always knew he was a great military history buff, do you share his enthusiasm for visiting the various battlefield sites in the country, and is that something that is discussed in your book? >> no. >> [ laughter ] >> but it made the lives of our kids richer. when we moved to virginia, they were little, and he loved the idea of being in the middle of all of these battlefield, and he would get them up every saturday morning and take them to a battlefield until -- to visit a battlefield and understand what happens, you really need to know north from south.
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>> of all the books that you have written, and we have talked about several, was there one that was the most difficult, most challenging for you? >> madison. nothing else took me five years. >> just from the sheer scope of trying to capture -- >> -- >> i have never heard that analogy before. >> donnie wahlberg is not 5'4", i do not think he is more than 5-foot eight, which is about the size of hamilton and burr, most difficult, that is the point, we do not have a whole series of photographs to look at, we have got gilbert stuart, we have rembrandt peel, and every president tried to get his portrait done because people did not know what they look like.
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so these portraits would be made and then copied and copied and copied so that people would know, but i look at gilbert stewart's thomas jefferson and i do not think it is right. he was a handsome man but i think it makes him handsome or than he was. i like a portrait of james madison, and washington, what an example. i was so stunned the first time i went to mount vernon and saw the one young washington. we all know about the guy who has no teeth. -- first of all, the trial that was, but secondly, the painting, you see washington's aged person
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whose mouth has sunken in and is swollen, so we know washington too well as an old man, and the portraits do not often show him enough in his prime. >> he was oftentimes in pain because his dentures were so ill fitting, he complained about them chronically. i show my students sometimes, there are paintings of washington where he is bigger than horses and cannons and battlefields, but if you were to extrapolate he would be about 14 feet tall from some of the paintings. >> my favorite painting is the apotheosis of george washington. -- 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 is no better example of that than washington.
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i do not remember where it is, but it shows washington being taken into heaven, and it is a religious kind of symbol, or washington in a roman toga, who did that? >> washington in marble like this, looking like a caesar with his toga. >> the worshipful attitude of those people in those days was remarkable. you really understand washington better, what happened is he lost that to his second term, and he no longer had anything to tie his false teeth too, so they were very uncomfortable, made his face swollen, and while it gives us a wrong image of him at his peak, it also helps us understand the human being. >> madison being the most challenging of all your books, was there one you found to be
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-- it is never easy to write a book, is there one that was the easiest to write? >> probably my autobiographical one, it was just a tree to grow treat to write about growing up in wyoming. -- someone i had known in fifth grade and knowing what linda was up to, that was the most fun. >> what is the difficulty about writing about yourself? >> you have to figure out what you do not want to say. >> we are almost out of time, we will start to bring it to a close, but as -- what have been some of the great rewards of this distinguished public life, and what harv have been some of the challenges of this
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distinguished public life? >> you do not have any privacy, and you do not have the ability to be spontaneous at all. if you want to go to the drugstore, you have to call a secret service agent. on the other hand, we were always surrounded by people so nice, i cannot say enough good things about the secret service. they not only did a great job and they were good people, but that is a kind of disadvantage, the advantage is, you get to meet remarkable people. before he died, we got to visit with pope john paul, and he was truly, you just felt holiness. he was amazing. the other person that i remember just being stunned by is the empress of japan. this total zen and beauty and calm, but pope john paul was
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just the most amazing. >> who are your heroes growing up and today? any heroes? >> wonder woman. >> [ laughter ] >> understandably so. one last question, what really sparking you this lifelong passion for history? what was it from your early life that helped forge that? >> i got my phd in english literature which is not history, but i kind of thought it was at first, so i kept going with it until i finished my dissertation and then i realized it was not history, and being able to delve into life stories, and being able to delve into the history of this amazing country, how do we come to be, that is such a mystery in some ways, but such a tribute to the people, the founders of this country. >> before we break, let me remind everybody that next year
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-- are all hard at work at putting together another program , and i will think the society for hosting this wonderful five- part series and c-span for covering this and not only airing it but we have put together curriculum to correspond with this and making it available to schools and c- span's classrooms so that students can learn from it. i want to thank the vice president and dr. cheney for coming here today. >> [ applause ] >> thank you very much. >> there are signed copies of dr. cheney's books in the lobby , thank you everyone. >> thank you. >> this is american history tv on c-span 3, where we explore
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air programming exploring our nation's past. >> ♪


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