Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Amazing David McCullough at the Kalb Report

One of my favorite authors, David McCullough, was the final guest of the Kalb Report this season. It was in the morning and not in the usual room at the National Press Club. It was much smaller and a much more intimate setting. 

Here are a few of things he talked about during the interview:

History is not facts. History is a story. If you say the king died. Then the queen died. Those are facts. If you say the king died. Then the queen died from a broken heart that’s a story.

Always have to remember when writing that the people you write about don’t know how the story ends. He pointed how how different World War II would have been by pointing out the following. If the assassination attempt on Roosevelt in February of 1993 had been successful. Churchill was hit by a taxi in 1932 supposed he'd died from that. The outcome of the war could have been much different.

He's interested in people that have been knocked down by life but then get back up and carry on. Or not being afraid to be themselves no matter what might happen. Truman appointing Marshall as secretary of defense. A member of Truman's staff said people will say Marshall should be president. Truman agreed. But Truman wanted the best man for the job; it didn't matter what people said about him. What was important was getting the job done.

Interested in writing about people that have faced conflict in life. What makes things interesting is the dark or mistakes people have made. McCullough paints and said that if he painted Marvin he would balance out Marvin’s face with a shadow behind it. Because you can’t have the light without the dark. He added with painting you don’t think about other things only about painting. It’s a way to block out the rest of the world.

Churchill asked Eisenhower if he had any sort of hobby. Eisenhower said no. Churchill responded that the burden of command will overwhelm you. So you need to take up a hobby. Eisenhower took up painting. McCullough pointed out that Eisenhower never was as good as Churchill at painting, But Eisenhower painted for the rest of his life.

He was asked his thoughts on Trump comparing himself to Truman. McCullough said he could send several hours talking about that. My impression was he would be refuting that comparison.

People he writes about have had some hard knocks in their lives. But they have compassion and empathy with people. Also he thinks that there should be more about women. He talked about how important Abigail Adams was. Also the sister of the Wright brothers. In McCullough estimation flight would not have happened without her.

I asked him why so little is taught about the Wright brothers. McCullough said because all they are teaching is the facts not the story. The Wright brothers and what they did changed the entire world. That's how important their contribution is to the world we live in today.

Thinks it would be interesting to write a book on John Quincy Adams time in the House and his fight against slavery.

The final story McCullough told us was this. He was on the way to a meeting one morning. He got stuck in traffic by Sheridan Circle. Traffic came to a complete stop. McCullough looked at the statue of Phil Sheridan with, he added, the obligatory pigeon on top of his head. He wondered how many people knew who that even was. Or what he had accomplished. It made McCullough very sad. Then all of a sudden Rhapsody in Blue came on the radio. And he was transported and lifted to another place. It was if he was no longer stuck in traffic. He marveled at how important architecture, painting and music are in our lives. That somehow they don't end up in the history books. He wasn't saying Sheridan should be taken out of the history books. He was saying Gershwin needed to added to them.

It was just an amazing event.

Pictures of the book signing after the talk.

No comments: