“Does Boston College require students to take history in order to graduate?” David McCullough asked a capacity crowd at Robsham Theater in September.
“Yes!” shouted out several in the audience.
“Bravo,” McCullough responded.
An easy ploy to butter up the Boston College audience? Not so. McCullough’s praise was genuine. It turns out, the University’s History Core makes it an outlier. “Eighty percent of colleges,” McCullough continued, “no longer require history.
America’s elder statesman of narrative history, McCullough was returning to Chestnut Hill as the 2017 Clough Colloquium speaker a decade after he headlined the inaugural Clough Colloquium. Aimed at bringing to campus speakers who are leaders in their fields, the lecture series is part of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, which celebrated its 10th anniversary that evening (see sidebar).
Through his epic books, such as 1776 and The Great Bridge, as well as his voiceover duties on PBS’s The American Experience and other productions, the Pittsburgh native has brought to life long-dead people and events, teaching millions of Americans that the past holds meaning for our present. That night at Robsham, he mounted a spirited defense of humanities education as a booster shot for our current epidemic of incivility.