History is a bit more poorly told, the world is a bit less knowledgeable today. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., died last night. He was 89.
Schlesinger was a model historian in some ways. He wrote well, earning two Pulitzer Prizes. He picked important, salient subjects — The Imperial Presidency, for example, came in the Nixon years, in time to analyze Nixon’s own actions and help make the case for his impeachment.
Also important, Schlesinger was no library recluse. He spent time as an advisor to President Kennedy in the best tradition of a practical, professional historian — trying to help Kennedy avoid the mistakes of the past.
A man who wrote history worth the reading, AND who made history worth the writing. Perhaps no one else other than Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt could be described so, in the 20th century.
I hope you teachers will mention Schlesinger’s passing to your classes, and offer him as an example of the effect a student of history might have.
Arthur M. Schlesinger in 1994; photo courtesy of WNYC FM.