David McCullough is one of America’s most acclaimed and well-known historians and authors. He’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner who has documented the lives and careers of a number of presidents, including John Adams and Harry Truman.
He recently released a collection of his speeches, given between 1989 and 2016, called “The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For.”
Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with McCullough about his new book and what he thinks of what he’s seeing in President Trump’s first 100 days.
“I think the hundred days is arbitrary and really a senseless issue to make,” says McCullough. “It’s one of those unrealistic score-keeping systems that catch on.”
Still, he does have an opinion on the president’s behavior over the last three months or so, bringing it into the context of American voting habits.
“I can understand why some people, many people felt that we needed a change. Change is part of our ritual,” says McCullough. But he says Trump has not delivered anything of substance.
“I think it’s been appalling and I think it’s easily the most inept and undisciplined raucous start off of any president ever… And there’s no eloquence. There’s no call to serve.”
McCullough’s book offers a number of reflections on the politics of the time in which they were written, many of which reverberate today.
During a speech at the University of Massachusetts in Boston in 1998, he says:
“A sense of history is an antidote to self-pity and self-importance, of which there is much too much in our time. To a large degree, history is a lesson in proportions… History teaches that character counts. Character above all.”
“This book… contains a lot of what I have come to conclude through more than 50 years of writing history and of trying to understand as best as possible who it has been that has really made our progress as a nation possible,” says McCullough, “and what they — and consequently, let us hope, we — stand for.”
To hear the full conversation, click the audio player above.