David McCullough Lecture

Author/Historian Spoke to Santa Barbarans Monday, May 16, at the Granada Theatre.

“The excitement is the sense of the adventure of discovery,” said David McCullough, author of notable history books such as Truman and John Adams, of his love of research. McCullough was addressing a full house at the Granada Theater last Monday night for his lecture “History as a Source of Strength,” presented by UCSB’s Arts & Lectures.

McCullough had the crowd laughing when he related a question a college student recently asked him after one of his lectures. “Aside from Harry S. Truman and John Adams, how many other presidents have you interviewed,” the coed queried. “Despite what you see here on stage, I haven’t actually met any of the presidents I’ve written about,” McCullough joked. “I get to know these people more than ever, though, because I read their journals and letters.”

The coed comment was a jumping off point for a discussion about how little people know about history these days. “The young folks today are historically illiterate,” McCullough said. After one speaking engagement at a major college in the Midwest, he said, “a student told me that she never knew the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast. How did that student make it all the way to college without learning that?”

One solution to remedying the problem? Support teachers more. “No one in our society does more far-reaching, long lasting work than our teachers. “Teachers should be recognized and we should have statues in every town of teacher who have changed the lives of students,” McCullough said.

He told a story about a graduate teacher’s assistant he had for a history course while an undergraduate at Yale. “He changed my life when he told us not to worry about remembering quotes and dates.” McCullough went on to list what he thinks are the essential lessons of history.

·There’s no such thing as the past. It only happened in the present, somebody else’s present, true.

·There is no foreseeable future.

·Nothing of great accomplishment is done alone.

·Hard work and pride of work is what every society ought to strive for.

To get folks involved in learning history, we need to “bring back conversations about the books and history we love,” McCullough suggested. “History is about character,” he added. “History is like art or music, dance, theater. It’s part of the enjoyment of life. Why should we confine our interest to just the present?”

His point was well taken, and his passion and excitement about his work, this country, and life itself was palpable and inspiring.


David McCullough’s latest book, The Greater Journey, about Americans in Paris from 1830-1900, will be in stores Tuesday, May 24, and will be available at Chaucer’s Books, 3321 State St., 682-6787

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Senior Fair Hosts the ‘Young at Heart’

The Senior Fair brought together more than 25 organizations to match needs with services.

City College Ranked #1 by Value Colleges

High graduation rate, community service, and online degree programs made SBCC a 'flawless investment.'

News Commentary: Ribbon Cutting Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Grand opening for new Eastside bridge conveys a tingle of progress.

Santa Barbara Rental Prices Have Skyrocketed Over the Last Five Years

The average rent for a South Coast studio is $1,553.

Trio Stops the Show at Board of Education

More than a dozen appeal to Santa Barbara Unified School District to maintain music classes and programs.