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?”


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About socalnancysnow

I'm Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, what we sometimes refer to as "Disney U" given its proximity to the famous mouse kingdom. I specialize in political and persuasive communication (e.g., media and politics, rhetoric, propaganda studies, image management), which explains my social media handles: Twitter (drpersuasion) and Skype (drpropaganda). My best known books are "Propaganda, Inc." and "Information War," though I have also edited several books on the post-9/11 era, including the "Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy" and "War, Media and Propaganda." I have published nine books altogether. My latest are "Truth is the Best Propaganda" and "Propaganda and American Democracy."

2 responses to “David McCullough: America’s Finest Historian”

  1. Helena Reed says :

    I really enjoyed the 60 Minutes interview of McCullough. I must say though I didn’t know who he was beforehand. His passion, the way the interview was conducted, the way McCullough so vividly took us back to a time that was so pivotal in our country’s history, and his knowledge were all together so intriguing. He didn’t just tell us about it, but he made us a part of it. From the way he described each founding father’s/ president’s personality from John Adams, to Benjamin Franklin, all the way to a soft spoken yet powerful Thomas Jefferson, to the things they ate, the places they hung out, and all the way to what they wore and how the weather most likely felt the day of July 2nd (a cardinal day in history). McCullough’s excitement and appreciation for our country’s past and the men who helped build it almost rubs off on you. “The founding fathers dreamed big in a little room,” McCullough stated. This was one of the most inspiring quotes. I really enjoyed this entire report.

    • socalnancysnow says :

      Helena, I always enjoy your comments with your close attention to details. You are a fine observer of human events. I’m so glad that you got a lot out of McCullough’s interview. I felt thrilled to see that he was the subject of a two-part interview on 60 Minutes, with the second one airing this Sunday, November 11th. I hope you will tune in as he and Morley Safer “live history” in Paris.

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