The year 1776, celebrated as the birth year of the nation and for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all-too-few victories, of sustained suffering, disease, hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too they would never forget.
I think the public library system is one of the most amazing American institutions. Free for everybody. If you ever get the blues about the status of American culture there are still more public libraries than there are McDonald's. During the worst of the Depression not one public library closed their doors.
You have to get inside the people you are writing about. You have to go below the surface. And that's to a very large degree what all writers are doing - they're trying to get below the surface. Whether it's in fiction or poetry or writing history and biography. Some people make that possible because they write wonderful letters and diaries. And you have to sort of go where the material is.
Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world." Winston Churchill Christmas Eve Message, 1941 as printed in "In the Dark Streets Shineth.
One of the things about the arts that is so important is that in the arts you discover the only way to learn how to do it is by doing it. You can't write by reading a book about it. The only way to learn how to write a book is to sit down and try to write a book
I feel very strongly that history is about everything. It isn't just about politics or the military or social issues. If art, music, engineering, science, medicine, finance, the world of architecture and technology - if those are left out, then you're not getting a full sense of the human condition. History is human and we human beings are involved in all kinds of things and that's part of our humanity.
We are all what we are, in large degree, because of others who have helped, coached, taught, counseled, who set a standard by example, who've taken an interest in our interests, opened doors, opened our minds, helped us see, who gave encouragement when we needed it, who reprimanded or prodded when we needed it, and at critical moments, inspired.
On Christmas morning when I was a child, my mother would leave a book wrapped at the foot of the bed, which was a hint that Santa had come. It was also her way of keeping us in bed a little longer before we went downstairs. So I've always associated books with happiness and gifts. And they are. I can't get enough of them.
Any nation that expects to be ignorant and free," Jefferson said, "expects what never was and never will be." And if the gap between the educated and the uneducated in America continues to grow as it is in our time, as fast as or faster than the gap between the rich and the poor, the gap between the educated and the uneducated is going to be of greater consequence and the more serious threat to our way of life. We must not, by any means, misunderstand that.
Unlike the people you see in Mathew Brady's photographs from the Civil War, the men and women of the Revolution seem more like characters in a costume pageant. And it's a pageant in which the performers are all handsome as stage actors, with uniforms and dress that are always costume perfect.
I want people to see that all-important time in a different way-in the way it was. For of a number of reasons, including the absence of photographs, we tend to see the men and women of the Revolution as not quite real. And we have far too little sense of what they suffered.
History is not the story of heroes entirely. It is often the story of cruelty and injustice and shortsightedness. There are monsters, there is evil, there is betrayal. That's why people should read Shakespeare and Dickens as well as history ~~ they will find the best, the worst, the height of noble attainment and the depths of depravity.
Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer.