I was taking in copious amounts of PBS this weekend. (Hey, it's pretty rockin around here, what can I say?) Truman, mandates, Watergate, and Reagan. Halfway through the second program, I was shamed into the realization that I know nothing about US history.
I have never been very good with remembering history. I have a handle on the big things: Nixon = Watergate, George Washington = first president, 1776 = signing of the Declaration of Independence, and a few other key points of interest along the time line of my country. And it seems like a decent amount of knowledge, doesn't it? Enough to get me through a Trivial Pursuit game, at least.
But then I thought back to a vacation I spent, visiting a friend, in Scotland. He took me through Edinburgh Castle. I didn't have to stop to read one description. No geeky headset narrative plastered to my ear. He walked me through a thousand years of history, chattering all the way, noting relations between this ruler and this clan, discussing his country's early history as an independent state, as well as it's development during the Medieval period.
I've always remembered the shock I felt at the ease with which he spoke of these things. And I have trouble remembering who more than half of the presidents were. Never mind what order they came in or what they accomplished while in office!
So, I decided to give myself a reading challenge this year. I want to know the history of my country. It's still such a young country, I think I can catch up! For now, I am most interested in learning more about each of our presidents, so good old G. Washington seems as good a place as any to start!
I'm open to suggestions for books to read. I will shy away from anything that is dry and heavy on the politics. I am really looking for a good story, or biographer who is able to weave those elements in without my really knowing it. Sort of the way my mom used to feed me vegetables. Hidden amongst the pasta and cheese.
My goal is to have a good handle on at least the first 10 presidents by the end of the year. I may choose to read supplemental material on each, so, there's no telling where this is going to take me, but I'm so excited to get started!
I'm calling it the Know Thy Country Challenge. Now, it's not a real challenge in the sense that it has any real rules, or dates, or guidelines. It's more of a promise to myself to be a more informed citizen of my particular spot on Earth.
Come on history buffs, whaddya got for me?