Monday, May 8, 2017

New book by David McCullough, who served as an apprentice at USIA during the Kennedy administration

A Wall Street Journal review of David McCullough's new book, The American Spirit (a collection of 15 speeches given around the country between 1989 and 2016.)

The reviewer notes that McCullough "decries the spectacle of historical ignorance among the young. 'Innumerable studies have been made and there’s no denying it,' he writes, recounting a conversation with a young woman who was astonished to learn that all the original 13 colonies were on the East Coast."


In his words, McCullough remarks (elsewhere) that "After Yale I served a valuable apprenticeship, first at Time and Life, then at the U.S. Information Agency [see] ..." He notes:
[W]hen John F. Kennedy came along and asked us to do something for our country, I took it to heart, quit Time-​Life and went to Washington to look for a job in government where I could be of service. I wound up working at the United States Information Agency (USIA) for three years, which, in many ways, was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was thrown into a job that was way over my head. It was truly a “sink or swim” situation. I was put in charge of a magazine that the USIA published for the Arab world, and I knew absolutely nothing about the Arab world. I told this to the fellow who had hired me, and all he said was, “You’re going to learn a lot then.”
In time, what I learned is that I could do that job. It was a very valuable apprenticeship and I got educated, not just about the Arab world, but about how to run a publishing concern, because I had to keep the whole thing going. Now, our budget and staff were both quite limited, so in order to do a lot of the things I wanted to do with the magazine I had to work seven days a week.

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