Center hopes hero book reprint will inspire, teach
By UofL Today
Francis Parkman was a historian and author in the 1800s. He wrote “The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life.”
For authors Teddy Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, Parkman was a hero. He overcame extreme depression, blindness and other debilitating illnesses to persevere as a chronicler of American history.
Parkman’s heroic tale is one of 26 stories featured in “Hero Tales from American History,” an 1895 book that the McConnell Center republished earlier this year. The new edition includes the original text and an introduction by Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gary Gregg, McConnell Center director.
The Center is selling copies of the hard cover book online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It also is working to get the books into high schools to help spur interest in American history.
“These stories are little snippets, little crumbs of bread on the trail, that will hopefully lead some readers on further explorations of American history,” Gregg said.
Roosevelt, the 26th American president, and Lodge, a U.S. Senator from 1893 to 1924, wrote 26 short essays on people they considered to be heroes who helped define America.
The book begins with George Washington and ends with Abraham Lincoln, and includes several people with Kentucky ties: George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone and Isaac Shelby.
The stories aren’t simply an overview of their lives, but rather snippets in which the authors identified their heroic activities.
In addition to the original text, the reprinted edition includes blank journal pages in which readers are encouraged to write about their own heroes.
Gregg said he first learned about the book about 15 years ago from an author who praised his grandfather for giving him a copy, but when Gregg tried to find one for himself, he was disappointed to see there were no quality editions of the book in print.
He brought the idea of reprinting the book with him to the McConnell Center and waited for the opportunity to reprint it in an updated format – one that is “attractive, fun and new,” Gregg said, and “might entice some teachers to use it and some young people to read it.”
The opportunity came this year, as the McConnell Center began a yearlong series on American History that includes lectures, workshops, seminars and conferences.
Gregg said he thinks the books could help relaunch the imagination of young people and push them to strive to be heroes.
“We become heroes if our imagination lets us,” he said. “If you’re spending all day playing video games, you don’t have that kind of imagination that will let you make self-sacrificial decisions for your community, your family or for a cause greater than yourself.”
Get a free copy
The McConnell Center will give away 25 copies of the book “Hero Tales from American History” to University of Louisville students and another 25 copies to faculty and staff who participate in a trivia contest.
To win, send the correct answers to these three questions to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon, Nov. 11. Answers reflect a few of the heroes identified in “Hero Tales from American History.”
- What young lieutenant volunteered to go on the daring mission to float into the harbor at Tripoli in order to sneak aboard and burn the captured ship “The Philadelphia”?
- Whose last words were reported to have been, “Let us cross over the river and rest in the shade”?
- Who commanded the 54th Regiment of black soldiers during the Civil War?
Please include your name, e-mail address and whether you are student or employee. Participants who answer all three questions correctly will be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of the book. Winners will be notified by e-mail after Nov. 14.