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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  September 19, 2009 8:00am-9:00am EDT

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>> simon shama, history professor at columbia university explores debates around immigration, war, religion and race, and how these themes have been echoed throughout the united states' history. the philadelphia free library hosted the event. it's an howrmt. >> as most of you know, here at the free library we provide essential services to thousands of individuals throughout the year. including students, job seekers, and small business owners. due to the economic downturn and a 25% budget cut i for the free library of philadelphia, yet we still need to fill our shelves
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for the 60,000 children who participate if our summer reading program. i encourage you to donate funds, purchasing books from our wish list or buying books from a local retailer and dropping them off at designated library locations. for more information, please visit free drive. tonight's guest has been called a genius of storytelling, and a restless optimist of our dissatisfied times. an essayist and critic for "the new yorker" and a professor of our history at columbia university, simon shama has written and presented more than 30 documentaries for the bbc and pbs, including power of art, an emmy award winner. mr. shama has won numerous literary prizes, including the wolfson award for history, the w.h. prize for literature, the national academy of arts and letters award and the national
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books critics circle award. he also loves to cook and we've seen a number of his recipes in vogue. his newest work, the american future, a history, explores the 2008 presidential election from historical perspective. debating four topics, war, religion, race, and emigration. and the relationship between natural resources and prosperity. mr. shama examines these problems in the context of america's identity. before we bring mr. shama out, we will show you a short clip from his new documentary, that shares the same name of his new book. >> it was a hard american winter.
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a tough time for americans. but out there, beneath the ice, something big was staring. an awakening of the unruly animal -- american democracy. this presidential election isn't like other elections. those who lived here felt the first tremors of a political earthquake. it's not only a war gone back and an economy on the skids, but a nationwide root of the
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aftermath of hurricane katrina. >> i promise you, i will lead america in the 21st century and make you proud. i will restore your trust and confidence in government. >> that's what their votes are saying -- help us to believe in the american future again. in iowa, i saw citizens going to the polls in double the numbers of the last election. it's odd, in a country possessed with it, it's epic figures is treating is a living, breathing thing. >> we are not a collection of red states and blue states. we are the united states of america.
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and in this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again. thank you, eye wawsm. >> it's never been more alive than now. is there anyone in america who doesn't call this election historic? a candle that doesn't reach out to history? >> i want to explore this haunting of the present by the past. i want to follow america deep into the conflict of its history, to understand what's at stake right now.
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ladies and gentlemen, please welcome simon shama. [applause] >> hello. what a place to be at the free library of philadelphia. i love that. i love that. it's sort of redundant because an enslaved library is an oxymoron. tyrants tremble before the dewey decimal system and everything that succeeded it. it's fantastic in america how libraries could light the flame of insurrection.
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i remember being very moved by discovering that thomas jefferson in order to stoke what were already considerable fires of his own indignation about the tierney being exercised by a georgia third used to go to a local library in williamsburg and there he would read deeply in the debate of the english civil war of the sane 40's that ended up cutting off the head of the king and you imagine him looking at the put any debates and the discourses of the levelers and the staring parliamentary debates and think if that could happen really in the land of tea and early to bed, anything could happen in an american library. so you hoped. so the free library of philadelphia, fantastic ghosts of franklin, and i did one series in philadelphia, because one of the programs was called american fervor, which was about religion and it was real live about particularly black
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african-american and religion, and we had to make a choice so here in the spirit of reparation between savannah and philadelphia, and somehow, you know, savannah cuisine won over the cheese steak. don't ask me why that i know. lousy taste, right? exactly. exactly right. so this project, both book and television, and i'd be happy to answer questions afterwards about how the writing is very different for both these forms of craft, which craft i believe they are actually, but both the book and the television project were born, i would say, half of desperation and half of exhilaration. the desperation part was not the sense of the united republic off the united states, which i spent my life going to hell in a hand basket, no, the desperation was
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born of free extreme frustration actually simplicities that were inflicted on descriptions of the united states by many of my friends and by opinion in europe and britain in particular, in which i was very close, working as i do for the b.b.c. among those simplicities, were for example, cowboy politics. you have the same lazy cliches born of journalistic habits of occupied bicoastal positions, preferably in a bar and flying over the rest, you know. you'll be a long time before you find a bbc stringer interloose, for example. more spiffy. and you know, some of the simplistic cowboy politics, american military, religion in particular, gets on my nerves when it's described in britain as a prisoner of the evangelical right, when of course, religion, an intensely important and mobile part of america's history, i speak as someone
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really rather on the side of jeffersonism dayism. jefferson by the way, how many of you think jefferson, it's an easy question, there will be an examine by the way. they told you that before we let you out. right. how many of you think jefferson believes that jesus was the son of god? you are so clever, philadelphia. i gave you that, so you could -- indeed, he sort of ran on a platform. adams is, let's see and you're a bottle of burgundy to someone. what was john adams? john adams, who had his own lee with thewater he, what was his most damming slogan in the election of 1800? it feels like just yesterday, the election of 1800, does it not? what is the most damming slogan against jefferson? come on, class. come on.
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who said godless? you get the bottle anyway. it's not quite right. yeah, but you get half a bottle. no, it was -- it was the election adams ran on god or jefferson, and no god because jefferson did believe in an almighty creator. he believe it was an absurdity of the creator himself, he was not an atheist, but he thought the virgin birth, give me a break, belies any morality. religion of course has been instrumental in the african-american community, self-determination, both from the mobile period of the antebellum slave churches all the way through to the civil rights movement. you can't possibly think of civil rights movement having been effective without preaching and teaching, riverside church
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is just around the corner from where i teach at columbia, right the way through to cabana's involvement with the church, the church more generally, so it wasn't a surprise to me, although it may have been u unpalletble to some of my friends that found obama wanted to continue george bush's initiative of faith based teaching. that's not sort of reactionary removed. the desperation part was really trying to write a book, not, you know, that would be -- that would explore stories with you, with the american populace, but also try and educate my friends in their 0 obtuse and opaque simplicities. and the biggest simplicity i saw was in europe, during -- the long dark years of w., that
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americans are basically an historically stunted culture. kind of snobby thing that british say, but we say there are kind of no medieval knights clanky around in rusty suits of armor in north dakota. we call those harley-davidson riders actually. one of the cleverest things on one and one of the most misleading things he ever said was to describe to the united states and the united states with amnesia. the impression that history doesn't matter to the american people, is to arrive at the mind numbing phenomenon called the social studies textbook. in fact, folks, can we,
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philadelphia famous for fire brand causes, tonight in this room, at this moment, launch the campaign to abolish the dreaded word social studies. yes. take back the discipline, we are going to call it history. because history is about flesh and blood, it's not memory and of course, all you know that beach blockbusters are another door stopper in the life of ben i can't minimum franklin. -- benjamin franklin. americans live and breathe history in a way in which europeans understand, because it's the remit of the supreme court in the first place to interpret the wish of the founding fathers every single day and woke in which the supreme court is then -- is in session in order to make the constitution, that living, breathbreathing, organic thing . it was actually aubrieta and a
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scott, lord brithe, who tried to educate his own countrymen back in britain on the -- on the vitality, the enduring vitality, precisely, because it was always open to discussion, debate, and interpretation of the constitution. and sometimes one feels, when one listens to the historian and chief in the white house, who can barely make a speech, really, wet invoking as he did, somewhat mournfully i have to say, washington stairing. q. ly at the ice flows -- gloomry at the ice flows, the crossing across the delaware, that's a cuddly scene for the folks, as freezing as we all were out in washington on that glory jose day, you have the impression that obama is getting the very best advice from a crack cabinet because it consists of thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton and abraham
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lincoln who is somewhat compulsively identified. there is this sense of the founding fathers, because they debated what america was to become. the possibilities of america. america was founded aces an act of -- as an act separation from the device and misdemeanors and errors of sew many blood bolted machiavellians. it would be a place if which you can mcan american, irrespective of tribe or notion or origin or nation or cast, simply by virtue of subscribing to the great democratic ideal of freedom, unless of course you were black. something that is now at last, that long art of disingenuous hypocrisy that's been exercised by the 44th president. so there is a sense in which i think history matters. it matters deeply in america and it matters once one is out of the crushing tyranny, and i mean this orthopedically of the
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social studies curriculum textbook. part two of our campaign which you all signed up for, there are subscription envelopes way at the back there. we've all just abolished social studies. we are nothing on to abolish the textbook. anyone that works for mcgraw-hill? you're out of a job. mcmillan, you're gone. there is this sense actually, which past and present really are married together in the american experience. and i say it rationally, when obama was actually beginning the campaign, and not doing very well, actually, sort of towards the end of 2007, but long before the iowa caucus, the end to which you've just seen, but really i thought actually the person who would win the election, whether it would be a republican or a democrat, hillary or obama, whoever, who would be the person who commanded the best story, the dreaded n word, narrative, tell the american people why, because the american people needed to be
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given back suffering needed to be given back, a sense of the trajectory of their story. what obama has rather miraculously i think, actually, is sort of sense and it's intuitive. it must have been that's 4:00 a.m. in the morning lessons in which his hippie mother inflicted him before the dawn of jakarta. benjamin franklin would have liked this sort of hippie who said learn. she said wonderfully, it's no picnic for me buster, either, when he complained. how many of you read "dreams for my father"? it's a fantastic book. so fantastic, it doesn't feel like a book written by a politician and it reads that way, because he wasn't in fact a l politician when he wrote this and he was supposed to write an account of the campaign, becoming president of the harvard lawrie view about had the wonderful explorations of where he came from, identity, to discuss anyway. but the things that obama has is a scene armament, our difficult
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grievous, tough, thorny, rough moment in american history and the great arc of our shared fortune and what he will have to preside over, i believe, is an even, you know, it may not have the kind of terror and pain of one's high street bank about to close its doors, but it will in the long term, be a transition for america. from henry's grandiose idea of the omnipotent american history, through an america which understands tough realities in the world. we understand, for example, that we can't go on just simply squandering away natural resources, we understand that america is becoming interestin interestingly colored multicultural place if a way in which franklin, if any of you have had a look, i was astonished to find franklin pair for identification about threats, the german threats, actually, i mean, he was so obsessed with the excellence of
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the scottish, irish, and definitely english, composition of the american population and he thought germans were not quite ready to actually take upon themselves the duties of citizenship. he was also even more worried about the swedes, whom he described as tony. -- tawny. who is he looking at actually when he said that? sven with great sense of rhythm. i have no idea. so obama has this sense of america's place in history and he needs to give us that sense of how to remain america and yet have a sense of our limits. limits is not really an american word and it's a word we brush up against with a sense of unbecoming friction. jimmy carter was a wonderful president in some ways, but he was absolutely hopeless at that. he didn't really want to somehow
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bring together american ingenuity and resourcefulness in the sense of sustained patriotic energy. he wanted to make us feel sinful. william buckley, mischievous man that he was, had a point with after listening to one of jimmy carter's harangs on the radio, said until that point, i didn't realize god was pa part of president obama's cabinet and a rather ferocious god at that. the reason this title of the book is slightly over queue cued, the american future, a history, was born of the conviction, there were certain moments, even though it was thought to be a no no to historians to project back from the present moments, if he is from the past, because of the way obama was, because the historical stories he liked to tell, because of the first for history, in american public culture. i must say, i think the first time i have realized this was
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when i was a young and you'll be astounded to hear, slightly -- although, in cambridge, i was having to teach. i remember tuesday morning, one tuesday morning in 1967, i taught in the morning and add laid steven son in the afternoon. haunted by what they would have made of each other actually. i don't think eloise would have gone for adelaide. i was leaning out the window and i saw these two sweet old ladies coming through the gateway of the college, and one said mable, don't you just love history, it's so old? it is old, it is young at the same time. so this sort of kit toolization between the present -- crystallization between the present and the old struck me as a risky project, because i
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thought what one might do in the four films made for the bbc about shooting a couple, which will be followup films, we're going to be shooting the president on omaha beach on the 61st verse very of d-day, which if you can't find some of his most grand words on that particular occasion, then his gifts will have deserted him and i very much doubt they will, but what i -- i was also a journalist when i graduated from college, and was never quite sure which i wanted to be between doing abalard and adelaide stevenson, in a very, very small role, just a couple of days a week hired by a friend of mine who was working for the paper, i worked for the occasion magazines, sometimes reputable and sometimes not, i felt that it was really the job in a way of good journalists to almost
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write the first draft of history. i was lucky, you know, so much in life really, i was the sort of undeservdeserved legaty in tn cambridge, you did two kinds of histories, and i'm simplifying a bit, goodness how times flies when one is having fun. where is young andy? stand off and be counted. how long do i have? that sounds alarming. your live will expire in three minutes. and i'm counting now. 2 minutes, 59, 2 minutes 58. yes. 8:15 a.m., the guillotine drops at 8:15 a.m. see, you're standing there. the solid kid with the curly
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hair. go get him. you interrupt our fun at your peril, buster. there are two kinds of histories you can do and they have a great and honored pedigree in history itself. going all the way back. in the 19th century when history became a university department, that gloomest of all phrases, the great one was in oxford, founded by ankle bishop studs, who was a great medievalist, but some were horrified by what he thought of as the contamination of history by loose literature. he had in mind an egregious examples like the author of the water he babies, charles kingsley becoming a professor in cambridge, but he also had in mind and since i've just been shown in a state of shock and reference, charles dick inch son's desk upstairs, he had in mind the close relationship between dickinson and carlisle. carlisle was told, we owe much
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of his library on the french revolution, taking his wheelbarrow around the corner from chelsea and that was just the kind of thing that he hated. he thought this was the kind of vulgar, as i say, contamination and instead, what the historian had to model himself on was a monk, who simply lock himselfs in the archives, and tuned into the kind of mysterious star treky way to the mysterious vibes that came out of the roles of which he was the interlocut interlocutor. the historians job was under the circumstancer self-effacement, was the objective presentation of raw archival material to his students, who would then go -- so editing was scholarship. interpretation was a no no. it was the interposition of your subjective views between you and the raw surviving evidence of the past. and the english historical review, which bishop stubs founded, was the kind of institutional expression of that
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super obsessive austere view of what history was. now a different view arrived in the following way of give perspectives a break basically. it's the give me a break school, which says there is to history without personal interpretation, because guess what, history isn't the record of everything everyone stands since the first caveman came grunting, having completed his, you know, last eland, history is above all, an ordering in the terms of significance, about what counts and what does not count, when it addresses itself to wig -- big questions. we have a bottle of i'm feeling big. who knows in its first sentence, which you've allred, class,
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herotisis history. he describes himself as being obliged to retight the historia. and what does historia mean? what does historia literally from the greek mean? not you, you've already won a bottle down there. well, it doesn't mean story. no, actually, it would be wonderful for, you know, story tellers like me -- it doesn't really mean story. no. no. one more guess. what does someone thing? record note. it means actually inquiry, so from the very first sentence, even though herotisis was the sort of a rom writer, because he tended to confuse myth and gossip and history. herotisis at least knew when he was writing the history of the greek and the persians that you
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begin with a bloody great big question -- why the hell did it happen? and it is for that question that you deliver your ordering system for what is significant and what's insignificant, kind of evidence. so given that you cannot escape in the writing of history, personal subjective interpretation, the kind of view is the kind of fantasy really about history writing itself, about the imagine purity of the archives. so those who were historical interpreters, carried on, but they were always the kind of distastefully regarded minority in universities, but i was lucky. i had to teacher called jack plumb, who actually spent a lot of time in america, wrote foreamerican heritage some of the older among you may remember his beautiful writing and plumb taught me actually that you weren't really historian unless you wrote for the public as well as for academics. foster, paraphrasing ruddiard
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kip link in this context, what do they history know that only know other historians, so there were in the 1960's who were -- i have to tell you, letting down the side and letting out trade secrets, one of the problems of the universities now in the united states is that academics are really all about each other than. professors are too much into the business of collective self-reproduction, producing kind of countless mini me's who then go on to give the right kind of paper, give the right kind of conference to get the right kind of jobs and of the pane things we can't afford hummers, we also can't afford that kind of higher graduate instruction. oops beings there's me out of a job. short life. i'll just write cooking. but plumb wasn't like that. plumb gave me my first review. i remember it very well in 1965,
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i was still an undergraduate, it was a review of a book about the battle of waterloo, but somewhat called david howard and it was a terrific book and it was for the saturday evening post. that's how old i am, everybody, and i got $5 for it and it was a fortune to me and i framed the check, and it was the kind of my hippocratic oath. i swore really, it solved the problem about green eye shadow journalism or read the life of a scholar. they are not mutually depleting, they are necessarily obligatorily self-nourishing, you write for the public, that you may write eloquent scholarship. you do scholarship that you may write for the public and you write for the public as a friend and companion, but above all, as an authority, with the impeccable integrity of research and primary sources, so you want to say, for god's sake, boys, make up already. thomas carlisle, bishop stubs,
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enough already. so i've been lucky enough to do that hand the american future was born in some sense of this complicate the marriage between on the road journalism and reflecting back as was kindly said, we seem to run out of time to investigate any debts, but that's ok, because you can read the book, these four subjects on war and immigration and religion and plenty, and the reason i -- none of us quite saw the financial meltdown in the magnitude with which it happened and i plead guilty to that, i was going to make a fifth film and therefore would have been a fifth chapter called america, money, but actually, the bbc ran out of its own money. which is unfortunately true. we are now making a film about morals and money, which is the story of the 1,907th crash. but i think with and if we devotely hope, the present government gets us or we get
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ourselves, not government getting us through, it is really -- part of the most admirable part of obama's project does seem to me to be about the restoration of america, a sense of mutual obligation, and the miracle of it was, i have to say, i think about election campaign, following it around, was that oh, he said something very wise at the exception speech at denver, he said you can always make big elections small. he said, it's been tried, it's worked, and what he meant by that was lee at water i think. what he meant was that the proven success also of course, karl rove in 2004, was that it's all very well still about the great issues affecting america, american destiny, the deep structural problems, all the fields that i've talked about, but you know, americans actually want politics to be a branch of entertainment tonight. enough already with the idea bates. don't need that. americans are sort of obtuse,
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it's a very, very patronizing view, the roger ales, lee atwater, karl rove view. it really is a view if you cancel most of the people most of the time and call television debasing and wow, did it come ungloriously unstuck in the months of our trevails last year. and it was obama's bet that america did want to hear about the things that actually mattered to the life and death of the republic. 2005 and 2006 sealed that possibility or at least i think gave obama the audacity to actually try and hey, finish his sentences. something which -- and those of us going around the country, it wasn't just the gradual sense in
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which we've all been sold a bill of goods about the weapons of mass destruction and the relationship between the iraq war and 9-11 or the known relationship, but also, the katrina. i remember giving a lecture in norman, oklahoma, rather wonderful place actually and oklahoma city too, that moving, moving memorial, but not really somewhere normally in the democratic side of the column, and lots of military families and i remember, i describe actually our driver in iowa, but i was very struck by it, in not long after -- it must have been towards christmas 2005, not long after katrina and someone from a military family described his stomach being turned. it wasn't doing you're doing a heck of a job brownie moment. he said it was the flyers. he said i don't expect our government to do much. he said i agree with ronald reagan, government can sometimes be the problem, not the answer, but i do expect them to get the bodies out of the mud. it was really -- we all want as
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americans, we want our government to be decent, and we want it to work. and i think the sort of sense of alienation from the idea of governance, you know, we all so deafened by the relentless rants of the right wing talk shows in which any kind of public service is a form of betrayal of our american credentials, that we forgot there was something noble and honorable and important and necessary about the elementary obligations of public service. and that i think actually, you know, taking a huge risk was what obama gambled on in his campaign and is indeed gambling, in sense of restored mutuality and trouble. and if it had not been for government, welt be if an even deeper and terminal hold than we actually are, but it seemed to be something that was lying out there in american history anyway, where if you looked, it was lying in, you know, what lincoln had to say, certainly
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what franklin roosevelt had to say. it was this what you read in the records of the black churches in the 19th century that produced the most important educational programs for their people, all through the long miserable years of jim crow and segregation, but there was lying richly in american tradition, a sense of not having to apologize for decent government and there's no guarantee that we're going to get it. there's no guarantee we're going to get it but at least, you know, that the young, my children's generation of poking their heads of above the public. my daughter's boyfriend, for example is one of many, and i tell the story right at the end of the book of another who gave up a fat job in corporate law and order to go into of all places the office of managements and budget in the government, which is either the worst job in the world or the best job in the world but in any case, have a sense of actually doing
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something again for the country. many, many millions of americans felt i think of a 9-11 that there was a real opportunity for the president to actually stir and mobilize the altruism, which, you know, we've seen it all in any church bake sale or pta, it's out there, with an extraordinarily tough, impassioned sense of what it means to be part of an american community. so it was an extraordinary bet that obama took and he won the bet, i think, for me, appealingly, because he was prepared to embrace the power of language. part of the atwater-rove assumption, which went along with assuming that americans were just turned off by politics, you know, and it turned out, what is it, 70 million people watched the first debate, that they were ready to listen to different kinds of language and obama came at them with an extraordinary movement. on the one hand, the language of our grandchildren, the language of the blog, the language of the
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web, which, you know, circumnavigated around the old tried and true campaign machinery of spin and on the other hand, the brand new contemporary street mobilizing of the kids and the students and mobilizing $10 at a time, a staggering amount of money for the campaign, and on the other hand, of course, what obama brought back into american public life was the beauty of public rhetoric. now, you all know that in the 19th century, you had to pass exams in rhetoric to get through high school in many states and in college. i actually gave the 5 bet that cap pa iteration at harvard and it was called the fate of eloquence in the age of ozzy osbourne. but there were millions of little c.i.a. cero's all over america. abraham lincoln made him one of those. and of course you say that the power, not just the sort of
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ornamental beauty of fine speaking but the ability to actually be persuasive as a speaker was something which seemed to be absolutely sort of discounted in the world of campaign spin and takedown mutual character assassination, but obama sort of delivered that. i mean, here the gracious speech of all campaign was on march 18, wasn't it, in the midst of jeremiah wright. that still remains one of the great speeches that, you know, has ever been composed in the history of american politics, and i thought that morning, we were filming in monticello and with i heard it, i thought he's going down if flames. hillary will be the nominee, because this was the act of the most extraordinarily dead on frontal candor, explaining to america, the roots of black rage in the church form as at the took, as well as a duty to white rage, but actually america took it, it was a credit to the
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sophistication of the electorate, really, to -- its willingness to face something fresh, to actually face truths, even as they're a bit tough about american history, that instead of doing him irrepairable and irreversible farm, it did immediately, an enormous amount of good, even though he had to distance himself further. because jeremiah wright would not leave well enough alone, would not shut up at that particular point really, so i think we have a moment really, in which the american future and the american past are this extraordinary like two wires in a kind of electrical connection. no, we can't use history, really, as a predictor of what will happen next, but you do know that you know, whether it's wonderful books about franklin roosevelt's 100 days or about the depression, or whether it's about the end of the american
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century, and you know, where we go from here in our relationship with china and so on, one does know that what's the richly informed bed of understanding, which history gives us about america, is something we absolutely need as we go on into a difficult future. it was cicero who plagiarized a bit by jefferson and lincoln, that you lose historical memory and not with us they can go because they know not whence they came and whatever we can say about the 44th president, that's not a problem with him and with the campaign to all polish social studies, a whole new american history before us. we know whatever is in store for the american future, it is most certainly not the end of one particular story, but the beginning of a new and i'm confident, to say, spirited and noble chapter. thanks. [applause]
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>> would you share a few of your thoughts about the outcome that
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you see with regard to the tension, with regard to building the economy and protecting the environment? >> it's a small subject you've asked me about. this is going to be tough. the chapter called american plenty is about america's expectations, really, that if you -- again, it's right to say this in the city of franklin, that if you have enough resourcefulness and enough hard work, then the providencially american expanse will always provide for abun dance, because we know that even if sarah palin had her wish and we drilled, baby drill, the whole of alaska, we maybe would get 18 months more of oil for our recertificate he was, so i think, you know, it wasn't just the -- at least one hopes it
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wasn't just the $5 a gallon gas crisis of last summer and autumn, which made americans, you know, wean them off s.u.v.'s and seal the doom of some redundant departments of detroit in dearborn, michigan, but it's up to the educator and chief in the white house, us a he was out there yesterday in laying down tougher rules about admission, it's sort of to educate the public that really that is our economic future in some sense depends how much short-term pain, and there will be an awful lot of pain mostly of course in the collapse of the automobile industry, in transitioning to a greener feature, for us all, we really sort of have no choice. i mean, as extraordinary irony doesn't quite answer your question, but it's not completely irrelevant. i was in shanghai recently and you would think that the chinese would all be in gloat mode at
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the moment. our creditor, once our debtor, now our creditor, if they turn in their bombs, the bottom falls out of what's left of the american economy, but actually, they're not. they're not at hall. and they are instead not wanting the american model to fail, but on the other hand, what they don't like is sort of the message that we really have to at least deliver to ourselves. shanghai, and i've been if some prettier places in the world, shank hype really takes the -- shanghai really takes the place, it is staggerly turbid with the most emphysema ridden environment. and they're stirring up all kinds of extensive and tragic problems for themselves. i'm not saying america has to look to china for a cullal lesson, but this is one of the transition out of easy abunnans
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into a time where we're stewards of our own resources. this too is an american tradition. one of the chapters in the book, called american plenty, is about water and water is a really -- going to be an absolutely incredibly major problem for the west in particular. lake mead is running at about 50% of capacity. i'm not sure what the shortfall snow melt was for this year, but it was projected to be dire. i went to a place, about the most improbable place as a model of environmental stewardship, which is las vegas. one of the most impressive people i've ever met in american life is pat mull roy, who runs the south nevada water authority, all of those slightly over the top lagoons and fountains that decorate the great fountains of las vegas is all recycled water.
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people are basking by the side of pools and they better not ask where the water came from. but las vegas pays citizens, you can see trucks drying off people's lawns taking away the lawns and replacing them with cactus and dirt. and pullroy complains about runoff in places like albuquerque, phoenix, and los angeles, as compounding a difficult problem and intensely i were gated crops like alpha if a, for example, you wouldn't need as much alfalfa if you didn't actually do industrial cattle raising. another of our campaigns, which we're about to start everybody, aren't we all lucky tonight, is actually muck bison really. bison are the answer, everybody, it turns out, the plains indians knew what the hell they were doing.
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bison basically, you know, live on junk that grows, live on thorns and prick he wills and weeds and they don't actually need mass tour of any kind, much less alfalfa. how many of you cook bison burgers? good for you. aren't they great and they're not expensive. we can leave this room absolutely dripping with social virtues tonight really. that's real not enough in answer to your question. yes? >> you came to the united states quite a while ago, but as an outsider he, what was the essence that drew you here? why was it attractive, why did you want to come and why -- do you still find whatever it was appealing and why?
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>> intellectual freedom is the republicans. impart of the great, you know, jewish world conspiracy, in which you know, there were brothers and from my mother's family, i'm talking about the steinburg's rather than the shamas, by steinburg's were lithuanian lumber jacks, i always want today revise that famous monty python song, cross over with fiddler in the woods. they were lithuanian lumber jacks, it's true, and there were four brothers and three of them had the energy to go from london to liverpool and made the atlantic crossing and settled of course in brooklyn, but my grandfather mark, the butcher, actually, stayed in london, what this meant, the reason why it's slight digress i have --
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digressive answer to your question, we always had an american family when i was growing up. my uncle came in his beautiful american air force uniform. new york, when i came, if that's allowed to be america, philadelphia, we always felt very much like home to me. it wasn't a surprise. you know, it was -- it was -- i got tired, i was raising in cambridge, as i said, in, you know, i'm very grateful for the kind of liberty i was given by my doctor father to really write popular history and colony history, but then i went to teach at oxford and there was a sense in which you were tied to an immemorial curriculum, never mind what you wanted to teach and i was interested if kind of slightly crack pot things to do with the dutch and planning strategies and strange and whacky things, and i remember actually standing up and proposing to the faculty of
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history, a course on the history of the family, for example, and it was as though i remember being met with looks of roomy eyed disme, that i had uttered some unspeakable profanity and i thought i have to get out of here and then i think the next day, you know, i tried to kin he will the enthusiasm of one of my undergraduates in something very marginal, say of russian revolution and i was met with that extraordinary twinkle, which reminded me very much of what cousin jasper said in brides revisited, treat the dawns like the village par son and you won't go wrong. i was tired of being treated like the village parson and i wanted to wipe the smile off hur country gentleman faces and i wanted to teach what i wanted and harvard sort of hired me for a term, and you know, the first thing the department chairman at harvard, i guess this is 1979, said to me, and what would you
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like to teach? and no one had ever -- it wasn't what would you like to teach. it was staggeringly trail blazing thing to say, so i was really a piggy in clover at harvard and i taught crossover things between history and art ever since and i found the american university much more hospitalble to that kind of interdisciplinary exchange and i would flirt around with anthropology and some philosop philosophy, arranged that was really -- i -- i often ask myself, i've written some odd books, landscape of memory and so on, whether or not any embarrassment of riches, whether i would have done that, if i would have stayed in more conventional english university setting, and i'm actually not sure i would. so it's all america's fault.
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: >> the impression that people get or jewish people get in the united states is that british liberal intellectuals are hostile towards israel and siding with the palestinians and making the israelis go there in this terrible drama and i was wondering, you sort of have a foot in england and a foot in columbia, which would be another place where such views are prevalent. >> no they're not. stand up with you say that. >> ok. >> i'm glad to hear that. so i'm just wondering if you could talk about that a bit. :
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lawrence and so then. the sort of sense in the kind of romantic conservatism of the last century. oh, god it shows me how old i am. i mean, the 19th century as well as the 20th in which the arab was incredibly idealized in a way. and the jew, if you think about the sort of repellent figure, for example, was a
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representative of insidious metropolitan commercial modernity. so there's a kind of slightly club patronizing snobbery of the jew. it was picked up like the jew squats in the windowsill and so then. so i think there is a sense of style as well but there's a degree of slightly unhinged hostility towards israeli government policy. i'm not a great admirer of current israeli policy. i'm sort of wet, peace now nick but i'm a scientist i believe in the jewish state and a palestinian state. i'm a two-state solution. but are they calling it without a kind of furtive anti-semitisim? the answer is yes in my view.
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and it's something actually which friends of mine who are jewish public intellectuals a phrase which slightly makes my blood freeze but like howard jacobson, for example, and jonathan freedlyn are. and we launch it into print actually. i refuse to be taken as an apologist of it israeli government by picking out moments which are especially unsavory in the anti-semitic implications. i think it's certainly worse in britain than it is in germany, for example. it is a peculiar british thing which i'm sort of worried about. and i fear growing actually. [inaudible] >>
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it >> it seems to me it's ironic that you should be advocating the obligation of social studies -- >> only the name. not the subject. in our high school controversies, on the one hand you've got the new approach which is social studies or cultural world history. >> yeah. >> and on the other hand, just history. and i thought i was on your side in advocating that you were on my side and advocating just history. but now even when you describe oxford and cambridge. you seem to be advocating in your own versatility cross-disciplinary versatility. >> what i want, i think we are really country unevolved unless our kids know the story. unless our kids in high school and middle school. what ie


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