About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
November 1, 2019

Good afternoon, 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 me for this  program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from H. W. Brands about his new book, Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up next week.

On Thursday, November 7, at 7 p.m., we will show the documentary film Just Like Me: Vietnam War Stories from All Sides. Vietnam veteran Ron Osgood collected stories from veterans and noncombatants from all sides of the Vietnam War. Osgood and historian Marc Leepson will discuss the film after the screening.

And on Friday, November 8, at 7 p.m., Mo Rocca will tell us about his new book, Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving. Joining him will be CBS News correspondent Rita Braver. 

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

Another way to get involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports our education and outreach programs. Go to archivesfoundation.org to learn more about them how you can join.


In a recent review of Dreams of El Dorado in the Wall Street Journal, Gerard Helferich wrote, “Mr. Brands’s economical, conversational prose serves him well. . . . and [he] knows how to write in a popular style that draws us in and holds our interest.” One way Brands engages the reader’s interest is by using a subject’s own words to help tell the story. Reading an historical figure’s own writings and hear the voice in your mind brings a sense of immediacy to events that happened long ago.

Archives large and small preserve the original words of historical figures, whether they are famous names or ordinary people whose lives temporarily intersected with recorded history. Here are the National Archives, we preserve an immense volume of records relating to the lands that are now the western United States.

Stories of people from all walks of life can be found in homestead applications, court testimony, geological survey reports, Bureau of Indian Affairs correspondence, and much more.

It’s our mission to preserve the records of our past— making them available to all those who search for the stories of our nation, and sharing them with future generations.


Let’s turn now to today’s guest author and learn about the stories he records in Dreams of El Dorado.

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 honorary societies including the Society of American Historians and the Philosophical Society of Texas.

Brands wrote 25 books, coauthored or edited five others, and published dozens of articles and scores of reviews. 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, magazines and journals. 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, and several of his books have been bestsellers.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Professor Brands!