David McCullough: America’s Finest Historian
The only way to teach history, to write history, to bring people into the magic of transforming yourself into other times, is through the vehicle of the story. It isn’t just a chronology. It’s about people. History is human.
Well I admit here that I’m gushing. I’ve got a writer’s crush on the Pulitzer-Prize winning author David McCullough, age 79. At some point in your life if you are any kind of reader, I guarantee you will pick up a McCullough book. That is, if you know what’s good for you. He’s a lover of all things related to American history and culture. I’m not sure if he thinks our best days are ahead. After all, historians tend to look back rather than forward. They are nostalgic, but not to a fault. In McCullough’s case, he just loves good ole stories of bygone days. He’s known to feast on the cuisine of the Founding Fathers and Mothers, such as Martha Washington’s orange cake.
I have not read all of McCullough’s books but I do have a fair number in my personal library. He has penned three presidential biographies (John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman), and has tackled eclectic topics from baseball and the Brooklyn Bridge to the Johnstown Flood and the Panama Canal’s creation. One gets the feeling from his TV interview with Morley Safer that McCullough has many books yet to come.
I love McCullough’s schoolboy passion for life. It’s infectious. My dream goal is to interview David McCullough about his early writing job at the United States Information Agency. He was still in his late 20s, the exact age I was when I worked at the United States Information Agency during the Clinton era. McCullough worked for Edward R. Murrow, Director of USIA under John F. Kennedy. I worked for Joseph Duffey, the president emeritus of American University, from where I earned my Ph.D. in 1992 (School of International Service). That’s enough of a common link to bring us together, don’t you think? That and the fact that I’m publishing the first book-length account on Edward R. Murrow’s tenure at USIA. Murrow and Kennedy inspired many a young person to do public service, McCullough among them. I too served in public service as an avenue to give back to causes greater than my individual self. What’s not better than USIA’s motto, “Telling America’s Story to the World?”