“If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?”
“If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?” This simple question and common icebreaker would play in my brain for hours. Whom – in all of history – would I want to break bread with? The possibilities are endless. As a lover of early American history, my answers typically ranged from guys like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Eventually, my active imagination got the best of me, and instead of just wondering who I would choose, I began to wonder what we talk about and how they would respond to my many thoughts and queries. Once that train of thought got going, it couldn’t be stopped. What would they say? What would it really be like to have dinner with Samuel Adams or Patrick Henry? So, I consumed biographies, history books, writings, speeches, and original texts to find out. And that’s when I realized that you can, in a very real way, have dinner with these fine gentlemen, and find out where they stand on all your burning questions.
Get To Know History – Personally
Why is it that we ask, “who would you have dinner with?” Why not, “who would you most like to talk to?” In the west today, those questions are one and the same. All of our gatherings center around food. Even most board meetings offer pastries, lunch, or at the very least, coffee. When you want to get to know someone, you take them out for coffee, drinks, or a meal. I remember that when I was growing up, there was a big campaign encouraging parents to take the time to eat dinner around the family table to more deeply connect with their children. Asking “who would you have dinner with?” is akin to asking “who would you like to get to know better on a deeper and more personal level? Who would you like to connect with and talk with about the things going on around you or in your life?” So I invite you to “have a meal with” – to get better acquainted with – history.
How do you do this? As I alluded to earlier, reading biographies and history books is a great start. Biographies often help you build the character in your mind’s eye. It can tell you about their personality, the type of clothes they wore, the house they lived in, their family make-up, profession, and more. History books will give you more context about the time in which they lived, and the events that were unfolding around them. These are important first steps in getting to know your new historical friend. Next, and most importantly, to get to know them on a deeper, more personal level, you need to talk to them. Rather, you need to listen to them. You need to hear (or, in this case, read) what they have to say about the important issues of their day. You need to learn about their faith and the way they related to their family, friends, and colleagues. You need to give them a chance to tell you about themselves in their own words. This you do by reading the letters they wrote, the speeches they gave, the journals they kept – anything they penned, read it. This will give you a much better picture of the whole person, and you will know them so much better than you would if you had just read the history book or the biography.
Why It’s Important to Know History
Why is it important that we get to know our historical figures in a real, personal way? It is important, first, because it is important to recognize that nobody is perfect. There has only been one perfect man to walk the earth, and that was long before America was established. Yet, in America, it is common for us to raise American heroes to a level of adoration that is unhealthy, un-American, and unbiblical. If we wisely avoid falling into this trap, we often foolishly fall into the trap of demonizing American heroes because of their faults or mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I know that I have made mistakes, held wrong opinions, and acted in ways that I am not proud of. I do hope, though, that those things don’t enshrine me as a bad guy for all of human history.
The second reason it is important to know history in such an intimate fashion is that it will create a bond between us and them, and then we will be more likely to, and more able to, defend the historical character and stand up for truth, disallowing the spread of misinformation. It will deepen our understanding of the truth, help us to form our opinions and beliefs on a more accurate understanding of history, and be less likely to be deceived or led astray by people who – intentionally or unintentionally – give an incorrect, incomplete, or completely wrong account of historical information.
Where Can I Find Original Sources?
Hopefully, I have convinced you to look for original sources and learn more about your favorite (and least favorite!) historical figures. Here are a few resources to get you started in your journey of deepening your relationship with history:
LibrariesLibraries are a great resource to find biographies, history books, and scans or copies of original documents, journals, letters, and speeches. Ask your reference librarian for help.
archives.gov You can also view the original Founding Documents in person at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. (Sadly, there is no map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.)
founders.archives.govOne of the easiest ways to find correspondence to and from a Founding Father.
My Dinner With The Founding Fathers
To experience what it is like interacting with history come to life, check out Under The Sun Publishing‘s book My Dinner With The Founding Fathers: A Collection of Short Stories About Dining With The Men Who Built America.
In this book, A.L. Talarowski brings you face-to-face with America’s Founding Fathers, using actual quotes to hold the conversations you have most wanted to have with men like Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. Step into her imagination and learn history like never before.
Textbooks are boring, and movies are inaccurate. So A.L. Talarowski decided to make history come alive by breathing life back into the men she was trying to learn about. She decided she would ask the men who lived through the founding what the founding was actually like. Would you be nervous about hosting a dinner party for the men who built America?
The table was set, the food was cooked, and my heart was pounding. What was I going to say? What should I ask him? What if he didn’t like turducken? My frantic worrying was suddenly put to a halt – he had arrived. I quickly looked in the mirror, fixed my hair, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
“Mr. President, hi. It’s so nice of you to have come.”
–My Dinner With The Founding Fathers, A.L. Talarowski
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