Humanities Lecture – Is That All There Is?

Historian David McCullough gives this year’s annual Jefferson Lecture, the “highest humanities honor the US federal government can bestow. The NEH, which curates annual lecture series, asks only that the Jefferson Lecture, for which it pays the speaker $10,000, be “original and substantial.” Unfortunately, McCullough’s lecture, while entertaining, was neither very original nor particularly substantial. It was meant, perhaps, to be inspirational, with a long peroration about the glories of history, the human drama, the importance of leadership, the lifting of the spirit, and much more repetitive flapdoodle. This stuff sounds good when well delivered, and McCullough has the natural, practiced delivery of a man who might do voice-overs for the History Channel. But for something so prestigious as the Jefferson Lecture it was all rather flimsy and diffuse.”