David McCullough, award-winning author and historian, was guest of honor at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Paris last night. His most recent book, The Greater Journey, is about Americans who lived in Paris from the 1830s to the 1900s.
In his speech, McCullough talked about the importance of the Franco-American relationship, asserting that the United States would not have gained its independence without the financial, military, and intellectual support of France. In reference to France’s intellectual influence, he stated the the founding fathers who came to Paris felt at home here because the ideals of freedom were being discussed in intellectual circles at that time.
A speaker on hundreds of college campuses, McCullough spoke of his dismay that students today are historically illiterate. He talked about the importance of studying history and stated that history is more than just political and military narrative. History covers all human activity, including art, architecture, music, and poetry.
History, he said, shows that individuals cannot achieve great things alone, that they must work with others in a community. An historian, he said, is forcibly a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.
McCullough came to Paris for the first time in 1961. He loves the city and the research that he performs here. He was particularly proud to announce that his granddaughter, who attended the event, is currently studying French in Paris.
A film crew from the Public Broadcasting System filmed McCullough’s presentation. Journalist Morley Safer and stage and screen star Olivia de Havilland (who played the roll of Melanie Hamilton in the movie Gone with the Wind) were among the guests.
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