Top positive review
McCullough's 2003 Jefferson Lecture in Humanities
Reviewed in the United States on September 8, 2018
In May of 2003, David McCullough wrote and presented The Course of Human Events in The 2003 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, in Washington, DC, forty years after he began writing his first book.
This is the fourth book I’ve read by McCullough, the first one of his that I read was The Wright Brothers, and I was amazed at his ability to make history come alive. Last year, shortly before Christmas, I read his In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story, which was educational, entertaining and also lovely. This past 4th of July, I happened to see his The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For, which was inspiring. This short book offered, in addition to some fascinating details about our history as a country, a certain amount of comfort.
In this speech he speaks of many aspects of how this work - his writing, speaking - has led to so much more, for him, than he could have anticipated so many years ago.
”The reward of the work has always been the work itself, and more so the longer I’ve been at it. And I’ve kept the most interesting company imaginable with people long gone. Some I’ve come to know better than many I know in real life, since in real life we don’t get to read other people’s mail.”
He quotes many others, but this was my favourite:
”It was then, in 1942, that the classical scholar Edith Hamilton issued an expanded edition of her book, The Greek Way, in which, in the preface, she wrote the following:”
“I have felt while writing these new chapters a fresh realization of the refuge and strength the past can be to us in the troubled present….Religion is the great stronghold for the untroubled vision of the eternal, but there are others too. We have many silent sanctuaries in which we can find breathing space to free ourselves from the personal, to rise above our harassed and perplexed minds and catch sight of values that are stable, which no selfish and timorous preoccupations can make waver, because they are the hard-won permanent possessions of humanity….
“When the world is storm-driven and the bad that happens and the worse that threatens are so urgent as to shut out everything else from view, then we need to know all the strong fortresses of the spirit which men have built through the ages.”