About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
December 16, 2019

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for this evening’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we bring up David Rubenstein and our panel of historians, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up next month in the McGowan Theater.

On Thursday, January 16, at noon, author William Rosenau will be here to tell us about his new book, Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America’s First Female Terrorist Group.

And on Tuesday, January 21, at noon, Julie Des Jardins will discuss her book American Queenmaker: How Missy Meloney Brought Women Into Politics. This talk is part of the series of programs connected to our special exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, which closes on January 3, 2021.

To keep informed about events throughout the year, check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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The book we feature tonight—The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians—grew out of the Congressional Dialogues on Great Americans series at the Library of Congress. Since 2013, the Library has hosted conversations with biographers and historians about significant figures in American history. Although these sessions were open only to members of Congress, this book gives us all an opportunity to learn about great Americans from our most renowned historians.

David M. Rubenstein is a generous supporter of the National Archives and its Foundation and received the Foundation’s Records of Achievement Award in 2011. Our ground-floor exhibit in the Rubenstein Gallery, Records of Rights, features the 1297 Magna Carta, which he has loaned to the National Archives for public display. And the Public Vaults exhibition displays a rare Stone engraving of the Declaration of Independence, also courtesy of Mr. Rubenstein.

A native of Baltimore, David, is co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager. A magna cum laude graduate of Duke, Rubenstein graduated in 1973 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review. After practicing law in New York, he served as Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments. During the Carter administration, Rubenstein was Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. After his White House service, he practiced law at a private firm in Washington, and then co-founded The Carlyle Group in 1987.

He has also hosted five seasons of The David Rubenstein Show, presented by Bloomberg, which explores leadership through conversations with the most influential people in their fields.

Taylor Branch is an American author and public speaker best known for his landmark trilogy on the civil rights era, America in the King Years. The trilogy’s first book, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989.

Branch’s 2009 memoir, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President, chronicles an unprecedented eight-year project to gather a sitting President’s comprehensive oral history confidentially on tape, and his cover story for the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic, “The Shame of College Sports,” touched off continuing national debate.

In 2019, he won an Emmy Award as executive producer for the 2018 HBO documentary King in the Wilderness, a Kunhardt Films production about the final three years of Dr. King’s life.

H. W. Brands holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas, where he has taught since 2005.

He is a member of various honorary societies, including the Society of American Historians and the Philosophical Society of Texas. He is a regular guest on national radio and television programs and is frequently interviewed by the American and foreign press.

Brands has written 25 books, coauthored or edited five others, and published dozens of articles. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Journal of American History, and many other newspapers and magazines. His writings have received critical and popular acclaim. The First American and Traitor to His Class were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Prize.

Jay Winik is one of the nation's leading public historians. He is the author of the highly acclaimed work on the Civil War, April 1865: The Month That Saved America, which was turned into an Emmy award–winning television special. He is also the author of the best-selling works 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History and The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788–1800. He was the Presidential historian for Fox News's coverage of the last three historic Presidential inaugurations, and was also the historical adviser to the chairman of the National Geographic networks. Until recently he was the inaugural Historian-in-Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, endowed by David Rubenstein. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations as well as the Society of American Historians.

Before I turn the stage over to our speakers, I want you to know that David Rubenstein has graciously provided us with free, autographed copies of The American Story for each person in the audience this evening. They will be distributed by National Archives Foundation staff in the theater lobby as you exit. Our panelists have all contributed chapters to the book and are willing to add their signatures. Limited copies of our panelists’ books will also be available in the theater lobby for purchase. (Christmas is just a week away—and autographed books make an excellent gift choice.)

And now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome David Rubenstein, Taylor Branch, H. W. Brands, and Jay Winik.