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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 26, 2012 8:30pm-10:00pm EDT

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the response would be in the united states you have human rights problem to. that is not a comparable discussion of.
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>> thank you for having me back. i like to be where the audience is a gauge. i am delighted to speak to an audience who want to be here. [laughter] i am flattered you took your evening to come listen to me. my students are interested but i know if they did not have a test or papers or held accountable most seats would be empty. so i buydown flattering.
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i could give you a test at the end. i will tell you about arid her and why i wrote a book about him called "the heartbreak of aaron burr." i cannot tell you the whole story without giving away the ending and i don't want to because not just because i want you to buy the book but the reason i wrote the book in the first place. and in particular quality at a question my mother put to me. it goes to the heart of why
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people write. i t trading to graduate students. those who also completed the come from history and communications, and the english department and the finance. they are apprentice writers carry out that arps is sean rose. stood to rights of a different view i have a novelist paul witt said, playwrights and screenwriters.
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trying to accomplish something else. what it is we all tried to accomplish. and this is why and why some people read. why do you read? hold on to that question. wrote typically the questions come from the audience. a few care to volunteer i would be happy to listen. but i will tell you their reactions i have gotten. including my mother. i was just talking to my mom
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and or again. -- or a god. is that applies initiatives still interested in my riding? all of the above. 50 years ago i was teaching an undergraduate seminar it was fort senior history majors but it turned out the 15 students and the class but have for english majors as well. the students were reading various great works in history but the particular sondra was a great biographies including autobiography is.
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they read inflections of benjamin franklin franklin, confessions of augustine, juliet caesar caesar, one work that caught their attention was the chado fired a fee of benefited go to the need. it is fantastic. it is of supreme egotist them. he is convinced he is the greatest artist god put on the earth. and it comes through on every page. he tells the story in a charming fashion that you are not put off but willing to go with it.
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he becomes very frustrated were he has cast the original now to build the bronze but it is a complicated gold with hercules with the head of medusa. they have to go from the heels through the arm and this makes. he says he is on his deathbed but they don't get it right and the metall is not hottie enough. fifth row with the firewood, a furniture, paneling, his
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fever is raging they get the bold and he collapses and wakes up four days later does not realize is if he is dead or live. there is the brilliant masterpiece nobody could do with but me. [laughter] the students don't know what to to make of it. anytime of work is presented to you as being true. you ask is it something you read comment daily life, political speech, good to you believe them? don't take things at face value. do you believe the story? how would you corroborate a
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story like this? any time you encounter anything you have to ask is it true? especially now getting so much intimation off of the internet. to you believe the book in the library? one of the lessons they learned is after a while they think i am their teacher but they catch on i have written some books. and it is interesting lesson to realize the person who stands in front of them come led by e.m. bet guy who wrote the book and they
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recognize 19 am talking nitride to get inaccurate but ordinary people sometimes get it wrong. they realize it is an ordinary%. some of our bimonthly impress. -- impressed but when i am on tv. [laughter] subsistence agreed it was a fascinating story. but then i asked a question it never occurred to me to ask before because i thought i knew the answer. suppose i did not tell you
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if this was true story or fiction or somebody made it up. you just read the story and set a great story. now i present with one additional piece of and permission. it actually happened. it is true. what would that do to your evaluation? better? if i was flabbergasted by the response. because i did not give the third alternative which did not even occurred to me to ask.
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it makes it a worse story. i did not confront to that degree but you go to a movie based on a true story. the marketing department thinks it is better. of this group how did you think makes it a better story? half rose their hand. then five said the different. but then the three of them said it made it worse.
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how could it be worse? i thought about this. the answer i came up with is related to the question my mother was posing to me all these years. i teach writing. i say to my apprentice writers, above all, writing is inactive communication. if you communicate the effectively you have to know who your readers are. expectations, knowledge of the subjects, unless you have a reader in mind you cannot convey effected believe. every writer has to have of modeled reader.
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those that you imagine. you know if this is too much and probation or to middle information. years and years i had the good fortune to have the best possible model reader reader, my father. the first couple blocks the road was to get a job and to get tenure. they wanted to know this was cutting edge. but after i accomplish that to the realized i wanted to reach out to a larger audience who is not a specialist in history, those
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who have a general interest to in the world with experience and background but want to know more about their world. my father was self-employed running a business his whole life. if his retirement he was reading more. he read the "wall street journal", "fortune" magazine , i grew up reading by year age. in his retirement from the heel like to to read history and biography. he read every book that i wrote to because he was offered a critique.
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he was pretty candid. he would say i like that. or not your best. i learned this standard for of eating meals my mother would coke. [laughter] traditional relationship. my father died four years ago. my mother would put breakfast and dinner she refused to cook lunch. he was expected to be out working by married your father for better or worse but not for lunch. upon my father's death she announced she would retire from cooking and has not cooked since then.
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[laughter] he showed me how to deal with the meals he was not fond of. he would say that was great or wonderful if he liked it. if she tried something new new, he would not say anything. no comment means don't do would again. he would tell me the first three chapters are okay. he read every book. my mother? she says she finished two of them one was on benjamin franklin the other on the california gold rush. i'm not really sure she finished those that far be
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it from me to cast aspersions. but it is clear getting through a work of nonfiction was a task. she read as it a sense of duty to me. when i write to book she would say it is by her bedside and it would put her to sleep. [laughter] then she would say when will you write a novel? i tried to explain i like it could stories because history is stuff that happened that you could not make up.
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and her reaction may realize that is the point*. the point* of the novel is quite different from the right team of history. -- writing of history. what is it about a novel by like -- that you like? she said i get inside the heads of the characters that i don't when i read history. that is generally true. with the typical standards we do not get to make it up we cannot do motive for idea
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is a must read get them to say it. out of the blue rican not say on the morning of july 4th from 1863, abraham lincoln edible got enough on a mood of less he wrote all letter. wade you right to a level -- novel that is what you do. i say i work around that problem with a biography. it is all about character. i do get inside their head. they write letters, diaries, she said okay. there is something else.
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a romantic interest. we find out about the love lives. that is true. but with certain works nonfiction and biography you get to to the heart of the matter. we are constrained by the characters. and here i asked you write down your deepest thoughts or candid devotions? some of you do. but most of you don't or not to midday formed to survive 100 years so historians can
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have access. but without injecting ourselves into the imagination, i will say i tried to do this with the last biography, a large part of the story is the relationship between the two. a relationship that involves all sorts of things and one that was fascinating but you cannot make it up. this gets to the heart of the difference. category of feature movies.
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will hold idea of a novel is to pull the world together and away and has the story art. bobbles ag of characters. there is the ascending bark novels have a resolution. nearly everybody recognizes that is not exactly the way the world is.
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you can agree or disagree. i would suggest i will get inflammatory. people who preferred novels to history are those who like the stories to come to a conclusion. not a happy ending but at least an end. real life we strive foreclosure but we don't always get it. life goes on. i said how about historical novels?
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she said the best don't have any connection to reality at all. and then to say i get enough reality of the reason i go to movies and read books is to turn off the real world to go someplace that is not connected. this made me realize what the students said it is worse to know that it is true. they wanted the separation from their entertainment and of the world. that is not fair because people justified novels over centuries.
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students read great works of history. they discover novels were not invented until 400 years ago when there was but distinction what really happened and what was made up. the big about this distinction and listening to another i wanted to please my mom at least once i tried. i finished a couple. they are 16 in viator at home. meanwhile to borrow what makes them attractive and
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applied to a real historical tale. "the heartbreak of aaron burr" is the second installment of projected to be a series published by random house called american portrait. the first book called the murder of jim this about the gilded age of love triangle blogger wrong. the second installment is "the heartbreak of aaron burr." it has the appearance of a novel. do table of contents comment index, author preface, notes
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chapter name is. however if you pick this up unsuspecting i would be delighted if you read the first part think the it to was a novel. did you would have been drawn -- pulled into a world you thought i created but it exist. i want to use the techniques of novel by teeing. every dialogue was released spoken or written by the characters. what you need is the raw materials. in this case i was fortunate
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with correspondence letters between aaron burr and his daughter theodosia. they continue wed -- and from when she was a young girl but continue through the end but eventually it was broken off by her death. some of the most candid correspondence i have encountered. it does allow to accomplish the one aspect of get to inside the head and the heart and of the characters. the same reason i wrote to the other book.
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i write to american history. those face a daunting challenge 41 regard and it is hard to write about levitt. . . . .
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a history of the united states told through biography, and i was looking for a woman subject for one of these, and in fact i found one but my publisher wouldn't let me do it. can you guess what woman i was looking for and found? eleanor roosevelt. i mean, just the fact that it's a very short list of women who have played a large role in american public life. i can hang a tale of four or five decades of american history. women have had of course the role of a private life but it's in the nature of private life that it usually doesn't survive in historical record. why did people start saving the letters of eleanor roosevelt? because she was important. do your correspondence save your letters that you write to them and then do they deposit them in the local historical society? well, maybe in that they do you will become and i use my words advisedly here, he will become
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literally a mortal. you will become immortal in letters because future historians will find those letters and say, that is what life was like at the beginning of the 21st century. but anyway, so i wanted to write about women. after all women have been half the population and women have spent a large part of what happened, even if it was hard to find them in the public record. so i decided that i could get at the story of women by not looking at the big issues of public life but looking at some of the smaller issues, and so this is when i ran across the subject it of my -- josie mansfield. josie mansfield was a woman who had no particular talent, other than her well, one could say her beauty although i will tell you, josie mansfield clearly was very
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attractive to the man who knew her, and men lost their senses when they got around to josie mansfield, and they did crazy things like one murdering and other for the love of josie mansfield. and so i wrote this book. it's really a book about jessie mansfield and the book is about josie and less about jim fisk. but because it's nominally a history book my publisher wanted to include a photograph of josie mansfield. after all it's a history book and there is a photograph of this femme fatale. let's see it but i didn't want to use the photograph. and i didn't want to use the photograph, because reason one is, if you look at the photograph of josie, it's pretty -- the camera does not capture that essence that drove men crazy. he will look at it and say, really? the other thing is that novels
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don't have photographs. novels don't have illustrations of the main characters. the whole point of writing is to create a word picture. so if i wrote a description of josie and then had a photograph of josie, either the writing would be, it would either be wrong or it would be redundant and either way it would lose its force, but i editor insisted, and so there is a picture of josie. anyhow, josie was one story. theo burr was another and i knew then and of the theo burr story. many of you already know. theodore disappeared at sea when 1812 turned into 1813. she got on a coastal ship from south carolina heading toward new york, where her father was waiting for her. her father had not seen her in
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years. her father was living under an assumed name in new york, aaron burr and theo was coming to see him. the ship disappeared. nothing was ever heard of or found of of the shipboard theo and to this day no one knows what happened. it's assumed that the ship went down in a storm that nobody knows. in fact fairly recently within the last couple of years somebody wrote a novel based on the idea that theo had survived and wound found up on an island. anyhow, so this was my entry into writing about aaron burr but the heart of the story, in fact once again the title of the book was going to be, my proposed title and my thinking the whole time was the disappearance of the ago seau burr. i thought that is kind of intriguing. but my publisher thought that aaron burr had more cachet.
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the name was the main -- name the people knew so it became the heartbreak of aaron burr and it's the story of aaron burr who is considered generally to be one of the great scoundrel villains of american history. and i always thought that the villain, the scoundrels were far more interesting than the heroes. i also thought that anybody who was despised by alexander hamilton, john adams, thomas jefferson, james madison, had to be somebody we had to be going for. so i thought i'd would try to tell the story but i would tell the story through the relationship between aaron burr and his daughter because the story of aaron burris fairly well-known. i wasn't going to include any revelations on what exactly was burr up to when he traveled out to the west. was he engaged in what thomas
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jefferson announced to the world, even before the team came down, was treason. was he trying to score the united states? well, i am going to tell you that you will not find find a definitive answer to that question in my book because like so many important questions, it has no definitive answer. i am pretty sure that aaron burr himself didn't know exactly what was intended. now here i am going to, i am going to cite a distinction. remember several years ago when donald rumsfeld was often lampooned, certainly criticize, for drawing a distinction when he was talking about been known knowns in the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns in all this and jon stewart and the late-night jay leno, they got a
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mileage and i thought this was great fun because this was obfuscation in the extreme. in fact i thought this was one of those censuses when rumsfeld had it exactly right because those people who are in the intelligence business, and i have this from authorities in the intelligence system, william kagan used to distinguish between secret -- secrets and mysteries and in the intelligence business both of these are of interest if they involve something that your enemy or somebody else is going to do but there's a fundamental difference between secrets and mysteries. secrets have a concrete existence. a secret is how many missile launchers to the soviet union have a 1985? the cia spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to figure out what the answer to that question was that but it had an answer. but then a mystery is, will israel bomb iran next week?
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well that doesn't have an answer. not at this point it doesn't because it hasn't happened. and likewise, what was ehrenberg going to do in the west? that is the category of the ministry. i'm quite sure that he himself didn't know, but what took them out to the west? briefly i will tell you the story of how he got there. aaron burr was a soldier and an officer in the continental army. he was capable enough officer and he was also a very gifted lawyer. he was a man who, against the expectations of his friends, fell in love with a woman named theodosia, who was the widow of a british officer. now the officer had died in the west indies years ago, and he fell in love with theodosia and married her. now, there was an odd aspect to
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this and oddness lay in the fact that theo, you know, theodosia, was 10 years older than aaron hurd and i should mention that he was quite a dashing relatively young man, handsome, charming. theodosia was 10 years older than he was. she was neither beautiful nor rich, but he fell in love with her and they married. now, one asks across the centuries, what did he see in theodosia? plenty of people married rich widows. this was the way one's fortune was often made. but he didn't. he married her quite clearly out of love but love for what? well, love for her mind, of love for her character and they had a child, a daughter, whom they named, he insisted that it be named after his wife, theodosia.
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aaron burr was centuries ahead of his time in believing that women were fully the intellectual equal of men and that it was only their lack of education that prevented them from attaining the intellectual accomplishments of men so he decided his daughter, theo, was going to have the best education that his money could buy. the education was conducted by him in letters when he was home. he would quiz the oand they would talk about subjects of public affairs, history, of literature, of classic civil things. and theo became his closest friends. became something of his educational project. became his protége and to read the letters is to see a father
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spending a great deal of time and effort on the education of his child. and watching her mature, watching her grow, watching her at chief the intellectual accomplishments that he was sure she could achieve. theodosia, the mother, contracted cancer and died after a painful illness, when young theo was 11 years old and she became the first lady of the house. burr had a mansion in manhattan, and she, even when burr was not around she would host elaborate dinner parties for diplomats, for the business community of new york or distinguished visitors or indian chiefs who happen to be in town and everyone was quite amazed. and wonderfully impressed by the maturity of this 14-year-old
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girl. anyway, burr meanwhile begins his career in politics and he delivers new york state for the republican party. this is the jeffersonian republican party in the election of 1800. and he is on the ticket and jefferson is on the ticket and you know the story of a well contested yes election. it was contested by actions because burr and jefferson high. this was under the original constitution where each of the electors got two votes and it was at this point that some of the innuendos began to swirl around burr and it was almost certainly due to the federalist. realizing it lost the presidency but they thought maybe somehow they could weekend there political foes. i would remind you all that this was in an age when political parties per se were still considered illegitimate. the founder wanted no part of
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the political party. the founders thought that in a republic, as opposed to a monarch, any republic, loyal patriotic citizens would always win the interest of the country ahead of the interest interests of the party. and they thought that the parties would be the downfall of the republic. but parties emerged despite the best efforts. no, despite the dissatisfaction of george washington who never had any party affiliation but alexander hamilton and jefferson formed parties very quickly. anyway, jefferson did win the election of 1800 with a burr as his vice president. the jefferson, jefferson, a wonderful individual who could say the most philosophically high-minded things and then do the most pragmatically low minded things, jefferson was as dismissive of legitimacy of
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parties of anyone that he was almost the first and almost the political boss in american history. he decided burr had to be pushed aside, that the presidency the next time around after jefferson left office would go to another virginian, james madison so burr got pushed aside. meanwhile alexander hamilton got pushed to the side because he had fallen out with a federalist. both of these men were in a position where their prospects were not quite living up to their ambitions. and so they got a afoul of each other because hamilton had some some very nasty things about burr in one of the political campaigns. and burr asked him to retract or at least he did to acknowledge and to corroborate or to retract it and hamilton said no, no, you have no business asking me the sort of thing and one thing led to another and into that fatal
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dual in new jersey in 1804. hamilton was killed and burr was not disgraced by the dual per se. it was really the machinations of thomas jefferson that made very clear that burr had no political future. so burr decided what is he going to do? he? he was an ambitious man and what generations and generations of ambitious young men have been doing and that was he went to the west. what was he going to do in the west? well, it almost certainly included either in citing or exploiting a war between the united states and spain. spain was then in control of florida and then in control of mexico and spain was bottling up the united states from territorial expansion, which burr, like most everybody else
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in the united states including thomas jefferson, believed was inevitable and a good thing. i live in texas. i wasn't born in texas. i grew up on the west coast but i've been living in texas since 1980 and i can tell you that what burr was accused of doing was what one of the founding fathers of texas, sam houston, actually did 30 years later. namely, go off into mexican territory and by then it was mexican rather than spanish territory and fall meant a war and seize part of this territory bordering the united states. this is what made andrew jackson famous in the wake of the war of 1812. he without authorization road into spanish florida and drove the spanish away. he lived long enough to appreciate the it off -- irony of this. burr did not get accolades.
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burr got an indictment for treason and the treason trial formed a large portion of my book. why do i spend time on the treason trial? in? in part because it allows me to bootleg some of the big stories of history into this little story, and also because in writing this book, after writing that book about the murder of jim fisk for the love of josie mansfield at the heart of which are three murder trials, i realized what was discovered years ago. he is the inventor of the franchise of law and order or whoever created the original perry mason show. trials are naturals for telling stories. whether it's a novel or fiction or in movie form or in non-fiction. why our novels -- why our trial such an attractive form for the reader?
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i will tell you why they are attractive for the author. because in the first place, trials have dialogue and this is something that you don't find a lot of in fiction. people talk to each other back and forth. it's rare that you find a work of nonfiction where you get much in the way of dialogue and less hits in a trial because of the trial you get dialogue and furthermore unlike the conversation of you and me, where you wander around the topic and do this and that and start over and all this, in trials for conversation and the dialogue always has a point, and there is a built-in conflict. there is a protagonist and antagonist, and there is a resolution. there is either a conviction or an acquittal. so, the large part of my story is the treason trial and i get to weave in not only aaron burr
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but thomas jefferson who took up the role of prosecutor and he put the full weight of the federal government into the prosecution of aaron burr, but he was frustrated by burr who demented himself. he had very distinguished help. he was also a distant by the judge in the trial and the judge happened to be that other friend of thomas jefferson, john marshall, sort of the last of the federalists in the days when the supreme court justices and circuit court judges. marshall sat on the circuit court in richmond and the treason that burr was alleged to have committed occurred in kentucky, excuse me, when kentucky was -- no, i'm sorry when west virginia was still part of virginia and so it was john marshall who presided over the trial. and who was not going to let
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thomas jefferson get away with any sloppy prosecution for treason. and in fact, the burr trial became very important in american jurisprudence because under the constitution treason is very narrowly defined. it consists of waging war against the united states for abetting those countries at war and it has to be witnessed by two eyewitnesses. well, the prosecution couldn't get the eyewitnesses, because the stuff that burr was said to have been done actually happen when burr was far away and secondly there was no war and marshall ruled on this end they have -- instructed the jury, you have to acquit him. anyway the rest of the story is, cantelli the start because i want you to read the book. in fact i'm going to stop here and if you have questions and if
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you have any answers to questions i would be happy to listen to those. if you have a question, and since we have the c-span audience i would be happy to repeat the questions. yes, sir? okay, the question is how about the -- [inaudible] here is a basic rob him. i write books for the purposes of expanded knowledge of history and i will tell you quite candidly i write books that i hope people will buy. and you could name susan be anthony, elizabeth cady stanton and i could tell you i have run names like that by my publisher and i get a yawn. because, compared to, i don't know, let's say abraham lincoln, there's a huge margin for all things lincoln.
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there is quite a small margin for suffrage. i'm going to tell you a story about a historical colleague of mine who had written, he was trying to come up with a subject for his third book. he was a faculty member at one of the colleges in the philadelphia philadelphia area and he wanted to write for a broader audience. he was trying to come up with some general that he could write about and his area was world war ii so he presented, joseph silverman and the editor he was talking with, not that many people, i don't think it's much of that and he mentioned a couple of other sort of second -ranked generals. and then at a loss and his field was in particular the pacific year of the war, and so he could dig up anything else and he threw up his hands and said in a tone, a throwaway line, he said well i guess i could write another biography of douglas macarthur. but there have been a dozen
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biographies of douglas macarthur. theauther -- the editor said yeah that is because people are interested in douglas macarthur. it i suppose if i were sufficiently imaginative and ahead efficient sources maybe i could elevate a relatively obscure woman, to a level that would grab people's attention and make that person famous. may be. it's a tough sell especially here. other questions? yes, maam, in the middle. [inaudible] >> he a very good question. how was that the letters were saved? before i answer that question i am going to give you sort of the broader reflection and this actually gets that the question asked, how about the suffrage or how about people that aren't so
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famous? it is almost a truism of history that it is possible to write about extraordinary people or extraordinary minds. you can write about extraordinary people in ordinary times. so, you can write a biography of george washington because george washington was an extraordinary individual and by extraordinary i mean famous to the extent people saved his letters and people remembered what they felt when they heard when they encountered washington. if somebody is famous, binding the record of famous people is not a problem. i wrote about benjamin franklin that i have to say the first 30 years of benjamin franklin's life go by like this in my book. why? because there are no sources on the. though one source is franklin's own autobiography. in fact you can measure this in a wonderful public collection of the franklin letters that is
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about 30 volumes published by yale university press. took them 30 years to publish it. now if all you want, all you want goes from franklin burr to the age of 30, it's about that thick. volume 38, that is the last one, is equally thick and it covers three months, not three decades but three months of franklin's life. why? because then the world famous people saved everything. you can write about extraordinary people in ordinary times. you can write about ordinary people in extraordinary times. for example you can write the ordinary person's history of the civil war. why? because it was sufficiently extraordinary that people wrote down what they were thinking and feeling. soldiers went off to war and they had never been away from home before. they wanted to share that experience with the folks at home or else they kept a
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journal. i would have book about the california gold rush. there is no lack of information about ordinary people who went off to california? why? they knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. in those days before cameras, before cell phones and cameras how did people record the adventures that they encountered, the things that they saw in a new place? people are not saving their photos i guess from their cell phones and everything else. that is a different matter when you talk about e-mails and what that means for future historians. but anyway, so for some reason, a great many of the letters between aaron burr and his daughter theo were saved. clearly not all of them, because there are gaps in the correspondent and it's really hard to reconstruct why some of the letters were saved and some were not.
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there was a moment and i cite a letter that aaron burr's thought might be his last letter to theo. it was written on the night before his duel with alexander hamilton and he knew perfectly well he might not survive the next day so he wrote a letter to theo explaining what she should do with his letters and papers and this is one of the reasons for the negative opinions that developed over time regarding -- burn all the letters especially the ones bound up in this red ribbon. and he survived, but the letters didn't and whether theo did away with them or whether they were lost at sea with theo, i don't know. but there is one interesting aspect about all this, and that is that relationships like burr's with theo are a rich source for history, but only when the individual in the relationship are far apart.
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i will bet that many of you in this room read david mccullough's biography of john adams and you will know that mccullough's secret weapon in a book was abigail adams. in fact, i was at a conference or meeting or something where someone asked david mccullough, now you have written about john adams and are you going to write about abigail adams? he said i did it. the book is called, it's really a dual biography of the two but one of the interesting and curious things about that particular book is that the best parts of the book, the part that reveals a relationship, wonderful relationship and provocative relationship with john and abigail adams, they occur when they are far apart. it's a wonderful love story and a wonderful story of a marriage but it only works because they were apart for a very large part
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of the marriage. when they were together and what they said to each other over the dinner table at night no one knows. so that is the case where it is true with my book. i don't make a big deal in the book. i happens to pass over the sections where they are not writing to each other. but i can't offer a good explanation of why some letter survived and others didn't. yes? >> thank you. your description of the story as a part of a way to present the facts in a trial is the theme of the american presidency. franklin roosevelt for example's fireside chat is an effective tool to tell the story of what was happening in the united states. and the current president obama has been accused of being too
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legalistic for not telling a story. so where does this fit into your book? >> the question is, how does the nature of stories and how stories are told and how i translated to american politics and in particular how american presidents have cast their time as part of the ongoing american story, how does that fit in with my story? it's a wonderful question and you gave me an opportunity to tip my hand about a project that i have been working on for years and it's based on the title of this book. it's going to be a book one day. i can't tell you which day at the title of the book is going to be the best story wins. and the whole point of the book is that we as humans, well i guess i will say, we are for stories or at least there is
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something in the wiring of our brain. maybe it's hardwired and babies software dan but we respond to the story. what are stories? i will put it this way, stories are simplifications of complicated reality that give us some kind of purchase, some kind of grip on the world. and these stories can be creation myth for example to say how the world came into being and also may explain at the heart of every religion is a story. a very powerful story that tells us why we are here and perhaps where we are going. politics is all about stories. frank roosevelt, you mentioned the fireside chats, roosevelt would tell the story that would group the american people and make them believe that their government was taking action and taking their side in the midst of this great crisis of american history. and although roosevelt hardly
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uses the great depression, he lifted a great deal out of the despair that had settled in on the country and it seemed to be on to spell a bullet as long as herbert hoover was in the white house. every successful candidate tells a story, and barack obama was one of the greatest -- and by the way when i say stories, i'm not weighing in on whether the stories are true or not because there are certainly true stories of when i say barack obama spun a great story in a campaign of 2008, i don't mean to say he was making this stuff up. but what he did was to convince voters, nearly 53% of them, that a vote for barack obama was a vote for a better vision of america, and i have never seen in my observation of political candidates that goes back to
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john kennedy and my study goes back to george washington, i have never seen a better political candidate than barack obama. in large part because he was a little bit like aaron burr, that he was able to allow ordinary americans to project on him their hopes through what this country could be like. and so, the message is hope. is if the slogan is, yes we can, that is very attractive, especially given the context of 2008. and it's also a reminder that being a candidate is different than being president and it's one of the reasons that many of obama's liberal supporters have been quite disappointed, because he didn't live up to, well, the projections that they put on him. and a lot of it has to do with the fundamentalist distinction between being a candidate and
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being an officeholder. when you are candidate, yes we can, boy that is a powerful and appropriate phrase but when you are president, the more operative phrase is no you can't because presidents have to decide per candidates don't have to decide. they can promise the world but once you get into office you have to say one thing or another. anyway. >> i wanted to ask a question. >> please do. >> i get into the story like it's a novel and i have been hollering like the calvary guy that dissented on persons during the third day of gettysburg.
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[inaudible] i will be your sister. i will punch that guy in the no's. >> interesting. i'm not sure that i can do justice to that by repeating the question that the statement was that she reads history because she likes to get a ball. she likes to get in the middle of the story. i will tell you as a professional historian i try to avoid that but i don't always succeed. when i was writing about benjamin franklin, i try to make keep my distance. i'm a corel point in not passing judgment on my characters. i will tell you that he was a great president, great and the specific sense of having a great effect on the world around him. but i won't tell you whether i think he was a good president or a bad president. i've don't tell you whether the new deal was a good deal or a bad deal.
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i lay out the reactions and the justification but i leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions. not all historians do it this way. in fact that would say the most successful don't do it this way. i want to ask david mccullough if he could write about somebody that he did not admire or right -- like? i think most people, a lot of people go to biographies. it's a lot easier, sort of like the rule of thumb is the best broad made -- broadway music. if people come out they theater whistling it worked. for some reason i don't like to do that. i want readers to form their own opinions. i wrote this book on franklin roosevelt called traitor to his class. i pulled various audiences. that title, do you think it is a thumbs-up or thumbs down because traitor is a bad word but he was a traitor to his class. anyway i tried to keep my
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distance every so often i can't. the last years of benjamin franklin's like he was coming back from paris. he had been in paris for nine years and he was coming home and he was sick and wanted to die in america. he'd been estranged from his son william by the revolutionary war and his grandson, william's son, wanted to get the two men -- temple was the grandson's name, wanted his father and grandfather back together so surreptitiously william and temple arranged a meeting in southampton in england. he would stop in southhampton and had to america. it would be the last chance for benjamin franken to see william who was living in exile during the revolutionary war. temple brought the two of them together and at the critical moment, william, the son, the time he was 57 years old. he has decided that his father
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will not live forever and not much longer and so william holds out his hand to make amends with his father, benjamin. and i'm sitting there writing this part of the story and trying to keep my distance but trying to imagine what is going through benjamin's mind. i have three children, and i cannot imagine anything that any of those children would do that would cause me to permanently write them out of my life, especially, even if they had done something and then afterwards said let's let icons be bygones. and so, i wanted -- i have had found myself without wanting to sort of rooting for ben franklin to get them to do the right thing and most of the time he did the right thing. but when william was holding out his hand, i wanted to reach
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across the century and just take benjamin franklin's hand and say, take his hand, take it. but he didn't and he went back to america and he never forgave his sons for well, doing what his conscience told him to do, to side with his king. and i had a particular reason, part of which was the father saying come on, your son is holding out his hand. but i will confess that there was another part to that and that is that it was one of the very few acts of franklin's life that i couldn't explain. because he was on the whole a very reasonable person, and he had fallen out with many in england during the revolutionary war but he had made up with them. and i could not figure out what
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was going through franklin's head and threw through his heart at the time. and now, historians, at least the more modest of us, we don't claim to have all the answers, but this was a big part of franklin's promotional life. and i realized that i don't know why he did this very important thing. and it's toward the end of the book. i thought, i don't know, maybe there is this dark franklin character that i am just not getting. so i had to quickly write the end of the scene and get to the end of the book. i still don't know the answer to it, yeah. other questions? yes, sir? former student? are there such things?
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>> your students are very lucky. you told us a lot about what burr did and most of us are used to thinking of him as the villain. without giving away all of the book what do you think was in his heart? >> i think that burr was ambitious. i know that burr was ambitious. i think that he saw the path to political achievement was closed in the east because both of the major parties were dead set against him so he wanted to go west. he recognized something that we had forgotten, and that is, before the age of steamboats and age of railroads, wanted dead west of the appalachian mountains, gravity pulls you to the west. there was very little that said a continental republic could survive and it's worth knowing
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or remembering that there was no particular reason to think that the continental republic should survive. just five years before, thomas jefferson himself had been in author of the kentucky revolution that in essence lay the groundwork for no vacation and possession. so if you believe in self governance, especially when the american republic was no more than a generation old, it was entirely consistent with that view that if the people of kentucky and louisiana and tennessee decided that their political interests, were better served by independence from america from the united states, then by sticking with the united states, that was exactly the logic of well, the declaration of independence. and so, to think in terms of separating the west, it would be a voluntary separation. one of the reasons that burr went to the west was to sound
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people out. andrew jackson, first of all celebrated the fact that he had killed alexander hamilton. everybody in the west.burr was a great man and went burr talked about, tart to know exactly what he did but when he talked about a possible independent future for the west, it was entirely consistent with american philosophy of politics including that of thomas jefferson but even more importantly, it was the almost inevitable outcome of geography, because once you cross the mountains, the rivers all ran downstream and the rivers were the essence of commerce. they were the avenues of transport. and jefferson himself sometimes wondered whether louisiana's fate was with the united states. and so, burr was simply, i don't know if he was articulating or were simply letting people articulate what they thought
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their future might be. because if you lived in new orleans in 1805, it took forever to get to washington or new york and you could well ask yourself, how can those people in the east govern? that was part of what he was up to. would he have waged war against the united states? i doubt it. he only had 50 guys and they didn't have an army that they could wage a war with. he did hope that a war with a gap between spain and the united states. so did andrew jackson, so did james wilkinson and by the way who really was a traitor in the story. wilkinson for decades was on this payroll of the spanish government, unbeknownst to his superiors in the u.s. army and the u.s. government. anyway, so burr's logic strikes us perhaps, assuming that he did what he was alleged to have done, to have plotted this scheme to separate what is the
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mississippi valley or texas and beyond from the rest of the united states. but it hardly seems, it hardly seemed a heinous crime to most of those people living in the west at the time. and i will simply add that there are plenty of people living in the states of the former confederacy today who think you know, the confederacy lost the argument on the battlefield, the argument that they have a right to chart their own futures. anyway, so that is what i can make of it. how are we doing? alright, yes. i can't let you it out of here without at least the possibility of dying it. thank you very much. you have been a wonderful audience. [applause]
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>> i thought i would just talk briefly about why this story intrigues me so much, little bit about the reporting process and you now bring it forward to today because i think that is what opened the floor to questions. i will admit first of all i am sadly not a holy cross grad which somebody thought naturally that i must be an alumnus of the school. the way i came across the story was sam grayson, one of the men in the book, we were just having a lunch and it was the same day that ted wells was the front-page story in "the new york times." he was representing scooter libby at the time so going way back and he started to talk about his other black classmates and started to talk about for a -- father brooks. i was intrigued and i was partly intrigued because clarence thomas was one of those classmates and i had not read much about the interaction between a justice thomas and
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father brooks. so that just got me intrigued. i'm a business journalist. it was not a classic story, but i am always interested in leadership and i'm always interested in mentoring, and it took quite a wild to get justice thomas to speak with me. i think in part because he didn't necessarily trust the agenda that i had, which was i would like in fact to talk about 1968, 69, 70, those years and what amazed me was when i did go and see him, the depth of passion that he had for holy cross, the feelings and emotions he had about father brooks. i'm not sure who was at his presentation last week where he got an honorary degree, but i think when you can track how he feels about holy cross versus what he has said about his experiences at yale there is a profound difference and i think one of the big differences was his classmates and it was the
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way he felt treated at the college and certainly the way he felt treated by father brooks. and so i basically just set out to do an article. i decided that it was in fact grounds for a book and i have to say this being my first book project, i went on all sorts of directions that ultimately didn't work. one of which was lots of history of the jesuit and the publisher said no. a lot of it is a history of force to sure which took me a while to pronounce like everyone else who is not from the area. and ultimately, it came down to the story of these five men and father brooks. one thing a band was unfortunately i also come a lot of the people i talk to a head to diminish their roles in the book. i had to take names out because again my editor said, you know what, i am getting confused keeping track of all these people. focus on these men and focus on
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the fraternity they formed and used that as sort of a microcosm for what they experienced at holy cross and what was being experienced across the country at that time. i think that there were a couple of things that i tried to be careful not to do. one was heighten the drama too much for the interest and dialogue but i think the main thing that was important to me that holy cross was both special and unique that it was a microcosm of what's happening in the country at that time. i am not american. actually wrote it in scotland. i'm half catholic but brady is a handy name to have when you are reporting at holy cross. i was always intrigued by this period. i was born in the late 60's and never really fully understood kind of the emotions of the time and the book opens right after dr. martin luther king has been
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killed. also, father brooks intrigued me as somebody who was a pioneer who went out there and basically circumvented the admissions process. he was very controversial, as you know, those of you who have read the book and if you know him, he is a very strong-willed band and basic we went out in a card with gallagher, drove to the school, personally interviewed a lot of these men, not the men who came in through other means such as eddie who came in through an athletic scholarship, and i think -- can everybody still hear me? and then sat in a coffee shop one night and decided who was going to get in. the two of them and then he presented a bill to father sword who was the president at the time.
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was $80,000 of which for a college that had a million dollars in endowments at the time was quite a cross to bear. but what he was looking for, i asked him how do you decide? anybody who is a parent of the room knows that intelligence is not necessarily something that is a hallmark for success and doesn't necessarily lead to success. when you talk to father brooks he was looking for leadership qualities. he was looking for drive. he was looking for people who had a work ethic, the bull who were hoping to reach beyond their draft, black and white and as you may or may not know he was fighting at the time to get women into the college. sadly for the class of 72, think they did not arrive until the fall of that year and that was after father brooks became president and said he managed to shake up the trustees board a little bit and get some people on there that did finally pass a resolution to let women into the college. so, i think that when i look at
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this story, and i will take your questions, i think what really struck me when i look at today is, first of all the network. it's the network of these men. this is not about one man, a theology professor, later at dean and later a president who went out to say the group of men. these were men who were highly motivated, highly accomplished and given the opportunity wouldn't have had two or three years earlier. there were african-american students at holy cross but they tended to be one or two a year and in some cases one. as art martin would say one would come in on an athletic scholarship and one would come in through the catholic school network and that was pretty much it. this was the first major group that came, 20 men, clarence thomas transferred after dropping out of the seminary so it was the first time they had critical campus. and what i think happened was
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father brooks and the college never feared on academic standards. all of them had to work as hard, harder in many cases, and i think ted wells and clarence thomas tended to close down the library at night according to everybody i've talked to. but i think where he did make concessions was socially and he understood how difficult it was. he gave them the bse event. the college paid for the station wagon for them to get off of campus as often as they could. he paid for them to have a you. he them to live together on a black corridor which was very controversial. i know we have one of the editors of the crusaders and i remember reading a lot of the articles that were basically, the students were very upset about this almost desegregation they call that. when i talk to the men, i think
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it was the idea that at the very highest levels of the college, they understood people cared about their success. they understood that people had faith in them and they understood with father brooks there was always an open door. he had that philosophy for the 2000 students who were there. many people here feel very close to father brooks and i am sorry he is not with us today. he was with us last night for clarence thomas' event. when i talked to father brooks today, he just wants leaders and he felt the college was missing out on being the best institution in the country by not reaching out of getting leaders from all parts of society, women, lacks, whites and asians. i know holy cross has made great strides in diversity. certainly there has been a very strong generation of leaders of women. i met jane roberts who was in the first class and many other women who were there.
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so when i book today, i think one thing that is interesting is there has been great success, great faith in terms of what has happened with african-americans at wells. some of his classmates, american express and ken frazier at merck, a lot of highly successful men from that generation but i think there were also a lot of disappointments and there's a lot of disappointment at what has happened with the black widow class in this country, what has happened with education in and the version of opportunity. frankly i think what also happened in terms of some of the decisions, some of which have been made by justice thomas in terms of opportunities and affirmative action in such, and the next way for this generation is going to be financial. it's going to be encouraging entrepreneurship. it's going to be basically giving people the tools to start their own businesses and to inspire the same --
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inspire the same generation of leaders that came out up there. i think in closing, one thing i want to say is another thanks to the holy cross unity because one thing this reporting process has reinforced to me as a strong fraternity and the power that's the school has had but one of the highest levels of getting which is amazing especially for people with universities. they just don't give. holy cross, when i look at the networks that have been forged and the friendships and the power of the cross as they call it in the way that people support each other and love each other across generations, i think it's very inspiring and it's also a testament of how leadership really happens in this country and it happens everywhere else. i think the support of the love that people show for father brooks in this process, that they have shown for these men
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and an appreciation for how difficult it was to be pioneers on that campus. i hope it's a story that we will continue to come back to again and again. is a reporter right to say given the support i got from holy cross i want every story from now on to be based on the holy cross campus. so thank you very much. thank you again for supporting the book. i don't think it does justice to father brooks but i hope it least it's a start and others will come forward and continue to tell these stories. >> you can watch this and other pro-games on line at >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know. >> this summer i want to read the book's what we do which is by robert sigler. it's an inside look at house speaker john boehner and the way he manages to you party freshman
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in congress. there are some great lines that i've heard and read an article about the book that showed just just how crazy it can get in there with a lot of these freshmen who are put in by the tea party who arguably are controlling the way that the house is running, even though they are freshmen. there is one line i have right here. apparently in a meeting, in his conference, boehner told teeple, get in line and i think he this congress has been so polarizing and so -- that a book like this would be great for summer reading to just kick back and figure out some of the dramas that are actually going on behind the scenes as we watch nothing happened. another book i would like to read is a vote called


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