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David McCullough is called the "citizen chronicler" by Librarian of Congress James Billington. His books have led a renaissance of interest in American history--from learning about a flood in Pennsylvania[…]

If John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton came back today, they would be amazed that the system of government that they created is still in place.

Question: Does America today embody the spirit of the Declaration of Independence?

David McCullough: I think if John Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, and the others were to come back today they would be amazed that the system of government that they created is still in place; that the constitution is still there; that we still have the Bill of Rights at that they created. And I think they would be very proud of that we have an independent judiciary, for example—that the legislature is in two parts, Senate and the House, and that the President is the chief executive.

That would all please them enormously because the odds were that it would not survive. That the nation is survived, it did not pull itself apart. They would be amazed by our dentistry, our medicine, our capacity to build skyscrapers and bridges and all of that, the speed at which we communicate and the speed at which we move from one place to another. I think they would think they would feel that we were rather soft and that we really hadn’t been through anything like they had experienced.  I think that their stomachs might turn little at the role of money in our politics now and the degree to which politics has been turned into merchandising and marketing and advertising and ballyhoo.

Recorded on: March 3, 2008