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Honorary alumnus David McCullough releases book that features his 2004 speech at OHIO


Renowned historian and author David McCullough, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters after addressing graduates during Ohio University’s Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies in 2004, recently released a book, “The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For,” which features his speech from that day. 

McCullough, a Yale graduate, is the author of "John Adams," a 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winner for biography. He began his career writing for magazines, but eventually turned to historical narrative. His other historical works include "Truman" (1992), which also won a Pulitzer Prize; "Brave Companions: Portraits in History" (1992), which are essays on heroic figures of the past and present; and "Mornings on Horseback" (1981), about the young Theodore Roosevelt. 

McCullough has also hosted several public television shows including "Smithsonian World" and "The American Experience," and narrated Ken Burns' documentary, "The Civil War." 

He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the Francis Parkman Prize (which he won twice), the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the National Humanities Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

McCullough’s speech at OHIO in 2004, titled “The Bulwark of Freedom,” emphasized the importance of understanding and embracing the lessons of history to understand the present. An excerpt of his speech is below: 

“When bad news is riding high and despair in fashion, when loud mouths and corruption seem to own center stage, when some keep crying that the country is going to the dogs, remember it’s always been going to the dogs in the eyes of some, and that 90 percent, or more, of the people are good people, generous-hearted, law-abiding, good citizens who get to work on time, do a good job, love their country, pay their taxes, care about their neighbors, care about their children’s education, and believe, rightly, as you do, in the ideals upon which our way of life is founded.” 

“The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For” is a collection of speeches by McCullough designed to identify important principles and characteristics that are particularly American. The book seeks to remind us of core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background.

McCullough is working on another book, “The Pioneers,” which is scheduled for a 2019 release. The book will tell the story of the courageous first settlers of the Northwest Territory in the late 1700s and early 1800s, including Ohio University founder Manasseh Cutler.