5 QUESTIONS for David McCullough
Smerd, Jeremy, Workforce Management
Historian and author
Americans today get their history lessons from David McCullougli, the country's pre-eminent historian, a two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner and author of best-sellers John Adams and 1776. Mc-Cullough, a keynote speaker last month at the Society for Human Resource Management annual conference, grew up in Pittsburgh and was an linglish major at Vale University helore he "hacked into history'," he says. McCullough recently spoke with Workforce Management staff writer Jeremy Smerd.
Workforce Management: What might a historian offer businesses more concerned with tomorrow than yesterday?
David McCullough: Well, I like to quote a wonderful line from a friend of mine, Daniel Hoorstin, who was a very good historian and Librarian of Congress: "Trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers." A sense of history gives one not only a view of what went hefore, but it also conveys the very realistic idea that we will he judged by history and that we are part of history. History is a way to measure ourselves against past performances. When we look at the way people faced up to past problems, broken hearts and broken promises, we can ask ourselves: I low are we doing when faced with circumstances we don't like?
WM: On an individual level, how is history relevant to people in business?
McCullough: .Anybody who serves as a leader or who aspires Io leadership must understand history and can learn far more about leadership in history than any other way. The lessons of history are manifold, to say the least.
WM: Why are you so passionate about history? …