David McCullough more excited by Obama than any president since JFK

Historians in the News

History is not some dull collection of stories from the past but rather “endlessly fascinating because it’s about life, human nature and the cause and effect of individual talent and ability,” according to award-winning author and historian David McCullough, who spoke to capacity crowds Saturday at the Emerson Center’s Celebrated Speaker Series.

McCullough, who earned Pulitzer Prizes for his non-fictional accounts of former U.S. presidents John Adams and Harry Truman, as well as the National Book Award, has been acclaimed as a master of the art of narrative history.

Making his first visit to Vero Beach, McCullough noted that over the past three decades, American youth – including history majors at Ivy League colleges – have displayed “a widespread lack of understanding of history.”

“You can’t blame them for what they’re not being taught,” McCullough said.

“What’s the use of history? It’s who we are. And how do we know who we are if we don’t know where we’ve come from?” McCullough asked.

In defining what makes a historically eminent leader, McCullough said, “One common ingredient they all had was access to books as children. A leader must be a reader. We are what we read."

McCullough said that although most of the nation’s founding fathers were young in years and experience, a classical education imbued them with “character, integrity and honor which so many people are (now) conspicuously lacking.”

McCullough called for changes to America’s educational system.

“Go back to certain, basic required courses including history, science and a second language. Re-instate dinnertime conversations. Pay more recognition to teachers and give them respect. The more you learn, the more you want to know. That’s what separates us from cabbages,” McCullough said.

When asked to rate President Barack Obama, McCullough responded that Obama was the first president since Kennedy who has “so exhilarated me.”

“He’s most gifted, articulate and bright and I think the world of him. He personifies what we’ve long said we believe in – ambition to excel. And he has excelled all the way,” McCullough said.

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