That History Day Guy

March 27, 2008

My Reccomendations for Natiopnal History Day Speakers 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 4:53 pm

So I was listening to This American life the other day. For those of you who don’t know this show, it features stories that range from the heartbreaking to the surreal to the heartwarming to the utterly hilarious. They are radio stories, almost always real or based on peoples lives, and each show has a theme.

Last week was Nice Work if You can Get it. On it are two speakers and writers who may be some of the funniest and greatest people working today:  Sarah Vowel and John Hodgeman. You may know John as PC from the Mac commercials, and he was great, but it was Sarah’s vignette about John Freemont’s expedition West to map the Oregan Trail that immediately made me think of next year’s topic : “The Individual in History.”

In her work, such as Assassination Vacation, she demonstrates how scholarly research can be done for other purposes than heart tugging documentaries. History can be used for the purpose of humor.

This week she details a story of the cartographer Charles Preuss who traveled with John Freemont ( the Pathfinder) to explore and map the Oregan Trail. It is a thorough explanation that explores an individual’s role in our history, but it is thick with sarcasm and humor, along with scholarly research.

Freemont was the “front man” for Manifest Destiny, Vowel reports and Preuss was his polar opposite. While Freemont looked for mountains to jab flags in, Charles Preuss longed for the comforts of home.

“I wish I were at the market with a shopping basket.” and when facing a kettle of roasting mule meat, he wishes for “a bottle of wine.”

This little vignette about Charles Preuss even has a thesis statement about this reluctant explorer:She says “Charles Preuss was the most important, influential, and talented  cartographers of his generation. “

Vowel clearly demonstrates that some of our important historical figures sometimes reluctantly took their place in the annals of history. So all this leads to my wish list for speakers at the 2008 National History Day Conference.  Last year we were blessed with Ken Burns and we also got to see a side of Dick Dryfuss that I could have lived my entire life without seeing. So this year here are a few of my proposals:

  1. Sarah Vowel
  2. John Hodgeman
  3. John Stewart (If he curses it will be mild and not the result of back medication)
  4. Hillary or Barack. I will even take McCain.
  5. Dave Eggers
  6. Martin Scorsese
  7. Jack Black
  8. Minnie Driver

Ok the last two are way off, but it’s my list.Who not to invite:

  1. Larry the Cable Guy
  2. Louis Black
  3. Bill O’Riley
  4. Paris Hilton

So there you have it. My hope is that Sarah is free and feeling generous this year. Perhaps we could promise her a dorm room and a Chick Fillet. Or maybe she will just do it for the kids!

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1 Comment »

  1. These are brilliant suggestions. Brilliant! In fact, you should work a keynote speech into the NYSHD and invite Sarah.

    Comment by That History Day Wife — March 27, 2008 @ 6:03 pm | Reply


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