Another week is coming to a close and I still haven’t posted the events from last weekend! I kicked it off on Friday night with the emerging writers event, and the following night proved to be another enjoyable evening. I was one of a half dozen authors featured at the New Jersey State Society’s (NJSS) Author Reception along with fellow biographer Al Felzenberg who wrote a biography of Tom Kean (Millicent Fenwick was the only person who defeated Kean – leading Fenwick to Congress and Kean to the governorship); New Jersey Scholar Maxine Lurie (I blogged about her New Jersey Anthology back in April which featured a chapter excerpted from Millicent Fenwick: Her Way); Dr. Masood Hatamee; Stylist George Worrell; and children’s author, Tom Yezerski. He brings a fresh perspective about the environment and lessons learned to a young audience in his book Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story. As always, NJSS Executive Director Nancy Fatemi orchestrated another great event.
Sunday marked the first time the National Book Festival, started by First Lady Laura Bush, expanded to two days – thank goodness as it was the only day I made it! I never left the History & Biography tent. Highlights included friend and fellow Washington Biography Group member Kristie Miller who told the engaging tale of Woodrow Wilson and the two women in his life. Ellen Axson, his first wife, had more impact on the office of the First Lady then most realize. She is even responsible for the introduction of legislation to revamp alleys in the shadows of the Capitol that were in squalor. In fact her dying wish in 1914 was that Congress pass the Alley Bill, H.R. 13219, and later S. 1624. The Senate obliged.
President Wilson’s second wife, Edith Bolling, is more widely remembered. Her primary focus as First Lady was quite different than Ellen’s. She did not take much of a vested interest in policy, her sole focus was her husband and adhering to his wishes. After President Wilson’s debilitating stroke in 1919, Edith made it her mission to keep her husband in office, per his desire, and, in the process she deceived the country and those in Congress about the president’s failing health. In Miller’s book, Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson’s First Lady, Miller juxtaposes these two women and presents a fascinating portrait that is contrary to popular belief about President Wilson and his two wives.
The big finale in the History & Biography tent was David MCullough. He enthralled the audience with his insight about education, history, and, of course, his latest book The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. As he said, “Not all pioneers went west.” During his talk, McCullough emphasized the importance of story telling and curiosity. “Curiosity is an essential element of the human being. The more we know the more we want to know.” How true.
Those of us in the audience were treated to a double dose of McCullough. Following his book talk, he did a 1-hour live Q & A with C-Span’s Senior Executive Producer, Peter Slen. You can watch it at: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/301663-9. To hear Kristie Miller visit: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/301663-5