David McCullough, who died last August, gave us books about the Panama Canal, the Wright Brothers, the Brooklyn Bridge and the American Revolution and won Pulitzers for “Truman” and “John Adams.” The latter was made into an HBO miniseries that earned 13 Emmy awards and three Golden Globes. In a “behind the scenes” feature on the miniseries DVD McCullough showed his backyard writing cottage and the manual typewriter he continued to use.
A friend in Montgomery called to invite me to a lunch featuring this writer a few years ago. His book on the Wright brothers had just been published, and the mayor and others hosted him at the luncheon. I wasn’t aware the Wrights had spent time in Montgomery and there was a connection. McCullough spoke in his usual affirmation about the goodness of America and our bright future.
They rushed us pretty quickly through the book-signing line where McCullough autographed my copy of “John Adams.”
I managed to speak a brief word: “Mr. McCullough, you made me love John Adams!”
“Ah,” he said, “what’s not to love about John Adams?”
Well, actually, many people didn’t love John Adams. He was sanctimonious, petty and argumentative and was sent back to Boston after one term. (I think we have to be a bit sympathetic since one can only imagine following George Washington as president!)
Adams and his vice-president, Thomas Jefferson, hardly spoke, and Adams slipped out of the capital on the morning of Jefferson’s inauguration so he wouldn’t have to be there. This is surprising since the two men and their friend, Benjamin Franklin, were the committee of three who gave us the Declaration of Independence.
The feud between Adams and Jefferson continued until the men began to correspond. Though they never met again, they wrote letters exploring democracy and affirming mutual respect. And in one of the strangest coincidences in history, our second and third presidents died on the same day: July 4, 1826. Another strange coincidence is that five years later, our fifth president, James Monroe, died on July 4. (So far, Calvin Coolidge is our only president to be born on July 4.)
Think about the deeds that could’ve been done had our second president and vice-president worked together to make the young country greater. This is one of the great “what ifs” of history—opportunities spurned.
Sometimes we Christians allow pettiness to engulf us, too. We magnify offenses, meditate on them and decide we won’t worship nor work with our former friends.
What a tragedy!
Death looms, eternity is sure and so many people hurt in our broken world.
It behooves us to find a way forward together as family in the service of Christ.
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.
See complete story in the Journal Record.