25th Annual National Heritage Lecture: “Doing History: Comparing Approaches to Historical Narrative”

Cokie Roberts Leads Panel of Prominent Historians: USCHS Hosts 25th Annual National Heritage Lecture

On the evening of October 20, in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society hosted the 25th Annual National Heritage Lecture. This year’s topic was “Doing History: Comparing Approaches to the Historian’s Craft.”   Cokie Roberts served as moderator for the panel, which included documentarian Grace Guggenheim, historical researcher and writer Mike Hill, and novelist Thomas Mallon.

Established in 1991 by the United States Capitol Historical Society, the White House Historical Association, and the Supreme Court Historical Society, the National Heritage Lecture enhances knowledge and appreciation of the American system of government and the principles upon which it was founded.  Hosted in turn by each of the three historical societies, each year the National Heritage Lecture explores one of the three branches of government and the momentous events and personalities associated with its history. The three historical organizations are private, nonpartisan nonprofits dedicated to research, education, and publication.

More than 100 members and friends of the three organizations attended the event. Stacy McBride, Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, welcomed the group on behalf of Senator Roy Blunt. Don Carlson (Trustee, U.S. Capitol Historical Society), Dr. Curtis Sandberg (Director, the David M. Rubenstein Center for White House History & Senior Vice President of Educational Resources), and Dr. David T. Pride (Executive Director, United States Supreme Court Historical Society) all participated in the program.

Cokie Roberts began the panel discussion by sharing her personal stories of the history of the room and the importance of witnessing and documenting history from multiple perspectives.  Ms. Roberts engaged each member of the panel with insightful questions about their work and led the lively discussion.

The panel shared their different methods of “Doing History” and the unique challenges each face.  Deciding how much fiction or how much history to write into an historical fiction novel; searching for primary sources and original footage; digging past the surface of primary sources to find the whole truth. Thoughtful questions from the audience led to candid and intriguing answers from the panelists.

The panelists provided an exceptional inside look into the process of “Doing History” in this day and age.  It was truly a unique educational program for all.

USCHS would like to thank:
The United States Supreme Court Historical Society

The White House Historical Association

To view the Heritage Lecture, you can follow this link to C-SPAN.


Cokie Roberts Moderator

In addition to her role as a reporter and commentator for ABC News and NPR, Cokie Roberts is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, most dealing with the roles of women in U.S. history. Her books include Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and most recently Capital Dames, about women and Washington in the Civil War.


Grace Guggenheim is President of Guggenheim Productions, Inc.®, and has been a producer and executive producer of historical documentaries for more than 25 years. Her 20+ credits include LBJ: A Remembrance; the 2011 New York Times Critic Pick The Man Nobody Knew; Harry S. Truman:1884 -1972; A Life: The Story of Lady Bird Johnson; the Academy Award®-nominated films A Place in the Land and D-Day Remembered; and 1989 Academy Award®-winning film The Johnstown Flood.


Mike Hill spent nearly ten years working in government and politics before embarking on career as an independent historical researcher. He has assisted with David McCullough’s Truman, John Adams, and The Wright Brothers; Ken Burns’ The Civil War and Baseball; and books by authors including Michael Korda, Michael Beschloss, and Caroline Kennedy. Hill is the author and editor of The Diary and Letters of Elihu Washburne, America’s Minister to France During the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871.


Thomas Mallon has written nine books of fiction including Watergate (a Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award) and Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years, as well as two books of essays and several volumes of nonfiction. He has been literary editor of Gentlemen’s Quarterly and deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 2012 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He is Professor Emeritus of English at The George Washington University.