Sunday, July 13, 2008

Revolutionary Era

I read David McCullough's book on John Adams several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style and his insight into the private world of one of America's founding fathers. Adams was known as the "voice of the Revolution" as much as Jefferson was known as the "pen of the Revolution" because of his vocal, argumentative, strong personality. McCullough won a Pulitzer Price for his writing on Adams, both for his strong historical work in the original sources (he spent many hours reading the letters between John and Abigail (his beloved wife) and between John and Thomas Jefferson) and his wonderful story-telling ability.

McCullough also won a Puli
tzer for his work on the life of Harry Truman, another president from American history who shaped our country in significant ways but was relatively unknown compared to other major figures from history. McCullough's book on Truman's life is also a fascinating read, though incredibly long and detailed (around 1,000 pages if I remember correctly).

But back to John Adams. HBO just turned McCullough's book into a 7-part miniseries that I've had the joy of watching while hanging out with my new baby late at night the last week. The series is awesome, and I would encourage everyone to check it out. The material captures well the complexity of the character of our second president. He was very intelligent, but could be overly-belligerent and hard to work with. He seemed to always be concerned with his reputation, and to that end, worked ceaselessly for his country while many times leaving his family to fend for themselves.

This series captures all of the awe-inspiring scenes of Adams' life - from his presence at the signing of the declaration of independence, to his time in France and his time as the first ambassador for America to England, to his time as the first vice-president of the US, to his four years as president of the US, to his long-time writing relationship with Thomas Jefferson. In all of this, the signs of the times stand out as remarkable when viewed from a 21st century perspective: the long times of separation from his family, the rigid relationships at home, the long trips across the ocean to get back and forth to Europe, the terrible medical conditions, and the blight of slavery.

In the end, this amazing series (and book) makes me thankful again for the sacrifices of so many that allowed us to enjoy the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.

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