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Archive for Monday, November 18, 2002

McCullough grand finale in presidential lecture series

November 18, 2002

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The United States is facing tough times, said historian David McCullough, but Americans are more steadfast than they know.

âÂÂOur biggest danger is to underestimate our creative energies and fundamental strength as a nation,â he said.

McCullough, who wrote âÂÂTrumanâ and âÂÂJohn Adams,â concluded the Dole Institute of Politics inaugural Presidential Lecture Series Sunday evening. The Lied Center was sold out for the lecture by McCullough, who also narrated the PBS documentary âÂÂThe Civil War.âÂÂ

In an interview Sunday afternoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer argued that despite perceptions of a downsliding country, people today believe in the ideals of their forefathers. Yet they often fail to pass those values on to their children.

McCullough disagreed with many of the negative attitudes about the younger generation.

People say 20-somethings are adrift and apathetic, he said, yet those young people exhibited âÂÂthe right stuffâ after Sept. 11.

Americans may be living in an uncertain time, McCullough said, âÂÂbut it isnâÂÂt the darkest.âÂÂ

The key, he said, is ensuring that AmericaâÂÂs children know their history.

âÂÂWeâÂÂre raising a generation of young people today who are historically illiterate,â McCullough said during the interview, blaming - at least in part - a poor education system.

Teachers are ill-prepared to teach their subjects, he said, and âÂÂtext books are dreary at best, deadly at worst.âÂÂ

An ardent believer in the humanities, he said universities should aim to graduate students who possess an abiding love for reading and the abilities to express themselves on paper and on their feet.

Despite living in residence halls just across Iowa Street, few college students attended SundayâÂÂs lecture; the audience tended to be on the older side.

Dole Institute director Richard Norton Smith called public response to the series âÂÂoverwhelming,â attributing the interest to both top-notch speakers and intelligent residents.

âÂÂPeople have come from literally hundreds of miles,â he said. âÂÂWe could fill this tonight twice over.âÂÂ

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