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History unites every aca­demic subject. “It helps to break down the dividers between the dis­ci­plines of science, med­icine, phi­losophy, art, music,” says David McCul­lough, one of America’s greatest his­to­rians. “It’s all part of the human story and ought to be seen as such.” In this way, history does not merely unite academia, it offers sub­stantive middle ground to an angry nation.

McCul­lough, a Pitts­burgh native, author of ten impressive history books, and the voice of Ken Burns’ The Civil War, is a walking museum and a true national treasure. He is per­fectly suited to deliver a com­mencement address to the Class of 2019, and we ought to invite him to share his stories and wisdom with us, our friends, and our fam­ilies.

When McCul­lough tells stories, it’s clear he has a pro­found appre­ci­ation for the uniquely human and tran­scendent ele­ments found within. Facts are important — his works glow with primary sources — but, alone, they are insuf­fi­cient.

“The mind itself isn’t enough,” he says in a speech recorded in Imprimis, “You have to have heart.”

A heart for the truth is part of a broader theme of McCullough’s work. Optimism for the future and an appre­ci­ation for his­torical examples of integrity, char­acter, and accom­plishment per­meate both his choice of subject matter and the work itself. In a day when com­plainers, fear­mongers, and the goblins of internet media decry daily the unprece­dented state of national or global affairs, McCul­lough reminds us that “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 county 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… and believe, rightly, as you do, in the ideals upon which our way of life is founded.”

McCullough’s work shows the attentive reader that our world is no worse off than it ever has been. Yet there is plenty of work to be done — no matter what con­fronts Hillsdale’s grad­uates, the examples of Wash­ington, Adams, and others, brought to life by McCul­lough, can be a great asset.

McCullough’s fre­quent induce­ments to grat­itude are also valuable. Nothing in the past, neither the history of our parents nor of our ancestors, should be taken for granted, he says. This thankful men­tality is an “antidote to the hubris of the present — the idea that every­thing we have and every­thing we do and every­thing we think is the ultimate, the best.” What’s past may be pro­logue, but we all only live in our own present and should avoid the arro­gance of today, which takes advantage of hind­sight and does not appre­ciate the latent power of the future. Hillsdale stu­dents could spend less time clucking dis­ap­prov­ingly at the actions of the slave­holders, com­mu­nists, and socialists of yore and more time seeking to under­stand how these par­ticular pasts came to be and how they have molded the present. McCul­lough is acquainted with Hillsdale: He delivered a fine speech on campus in 2005, and has twice been pub­lished in Imprimis.

If Hillsdale invites him again, McCul­lough could use the college’s illus­trious past, from Ransom Dunn to the Civil War’s 4th Michigan Infantry, and remind stu­dents and faculty of our her­itage — a her­itage so valuable because of the prin­ciples it sus­tains to this day.

McCul­lough would harness the many lessons of the past with which he is familiar to instruct grad­uates who will shape the future. And if he so chooses, he could con­clude his address with the amusing and moti­va­tional words of Abigail Adams to her son, fea­tured also in his Pulitzer-winning biog­raphy “John Adams”: “How unpar­donable would it have been in you to have turned out a blockhead.”

Joshua Pradko is a senior studying American Studies.