Authors and Poets

Sep 15 2015 11 mins 1

For 50 years, the Academy of Achievement has invited the world's pre-eminent authors to address its annual Summit. Novelists and playwrights, journalists and historians, critics and humorists, poets and songwriters, essayists and philosophers, all have shared their wisdom with the Academy's honorees and student delegates. Now you can see and hear these presentations, recorded live at the International Achievement Summit. In poetry and prose, these men and women explore the world of nature and the drama of the human condition. Some are creators of fantasy, others are chroniclers of fact; some evoke the nuances of personal experience, others explain the mysteries of the cosmos. Hear their personal accounts of the passions that first inspired them, and the dedication that sustained them as they patiently mastered their art.










Carole King
Feb 13 2014 12 mins  
The most successful and admired female songwriter in the history of pop music, Carole King proves that one woman alone at the piano can be more powerful than a four-piece rock band or a 30-piece orchestra. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where her mother was a teacher and her father a firefighter. She learned to play the piano at age four and formed her first band in high school. At age 18, she scored her first Number One hit record ’Ŭ the first of 118 pop hits on the Billboard charts, including such classics as ’źWill You Love Me Tomorrow,’Ź ’źThe Loco-Motion,’Ź ’źUp on the Roof,’Ź It’Ŵs Too Late, Baby,’Ź ’źI Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet,’Ź ’źYou Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’Ź and ’źYou’Ŵve Got a Friend.’Ź To date, she has recorded 25 solo albums, the most successful of which, Tapestry, sold 25 million copies, and for a quarter of a century held the record for a female artist for most weeks at the top of the charts. The recipient of the 2013 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2013 Gershwin Prize, she is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For more than a half century, she has given voice to her innermost truth, and struck a resounding chord in the hearts of listeners around the world. Composer and performer, author and activist, she has brought the same passion, courage and unyielding honesty to her life, to her work, and to her defense of the woods and wildlife of her beloved Rocky Mountains. Carol King received the Gold Medal of the Academy of Achievement in a ceremony at the Academy's headquarters in Washington, D.C. on February 12, 2014. In this podcast, recorded on that occasion, Carole King discusses her life and career. Her remarks are interspersed with excerpts from her performance at the Academy earlier that evening.


Athol Fugard
Sep 13 2014 12 mins  
Hailed as the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world, South Africa's Athol Fugard has won international praise for creating theater of "power, glory, and majestic language." In more than 20 plays, written over six decades, he has chronicled the struggles of men and women of all races for dignity and human fulfillment. Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, he founded a multiracial theater company in the 1950s in defiance of the South African government's apartheid system. When he and a black colleague appeared as mixed-race brothers in his play The Blood Knot, it was closed after a single performance. In the 1960s, his work found an audience in other English-speaking countries, but after he appeared in The Blood Knot on BBC Television, the government seized his passport. Since the downfall of the apartheid system, Fugard has been honored by his country's government and by critics and audiences the world over. An Honorary Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature, in 2001 he received Broadway's Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. His novel Tsotsi was adapted into the film of the same name, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 2006. He has appeared as an actor in the feature films Gandhi and The Killing Fields. In 2014, he returned to the stage for the first time in 15 years to act in his play Shadow of the Hummingbird at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. In this podcast, recorded at the 2014 International Achievement Summit in San Francisco, he speaks of his youth in South Africa and his early adventures as a merchant seaman. Rather than dwelling on the persecution he suffered as an advocate of racial equality in his country, he focuses on the most basic and satisfying emotions that have informed his life, including the love of other human beings and of nature.


Natasha Trethewey
Oct 27 2012 9 mins  
This autumn, Natasha Trethewey took up her duties as United States Poet Laureate, the 19th poet to serve since Congress created the position in 1985. Also known as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the Laureate is responsible for all the public poetry programs of the Library, as well as an annual lecture and reading. With her appointment as Poet Laureate, Trethewey crowns a career steeped in the complexities of American history. The marriage of her white, Canadian-born father and her African American mother was still illegal in Mississippi, where she was born, on Confederate Memorial Day, in 1966, although the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage the following year. Her parents divorced when she was young; she grew up with her mother in Georgia, spending summers with her grandmother in Mississippi and her father in New Orleans. When Natasha was 19, her mother was murdered by her second husband. In Trethewey’Ŵs words, ’źI turned to poetry to make sense of what had happened.’Ź Trethewey’Ŵs poetry is unique for the manner in which she fuses historical materials and vernacular language with traditional verse forms. In Bellocq’Ŵs Ophelia, she imagines the inner life of an anonymous prostitute immortalized by the New Orleans photographer E.J. Bellocq. In 2007, she received the Pulitzer Prize for her book Native Guard, a verse narrative inspired by a black regiment of the Union Army during the Civil War.


Louise Glück (SD)
Oct 27 2012 11 mins  
Louise Glück is “a strong and haunting presence” among America’s greatest living poets. Her work is distinguished by a rare ability to deploy ostensibly simple language to evoke powerful emotion. While many of her poems clearly address the challenges of life and love in the contemporary world, they are at times informed by the themes and landscapes of classical mythology. She has published 12 volumes of verse to date, including The Seven Ages, Vita Novo, Triumph of Achilles and Averno. Her book The Wild Iris received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She has since received virtually every other major award for poetry, including the Bollingen Prize in 2001 for her lifetime achievement. In 2003, she was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. Born in New York City, she began writing at an early age. She studied at Sarah Lawrence and Columbia University, and although she never took a degree herself, she has spent much of her life teaching in universities. For 20 years, she taught at Williams College in Massachusetts. She now teaches in the creative writing program at Boston University and is the Rosencranz Writer in Residence at Yale University. Her 2009 book, A Village Life, is a collection of dramatic vignettes of everyday life in an unnamed Mediterranean community, where an ancient way of life, governed by the seasons, is gradually giving way to the pressures of modernity. A comprehensive collection, Poems 1962-2012, will appear this November.




Rita Dove
Jun 01 1994 13 mins  
Rita Dove is one of America's best-known and most honored poets. Her collection of poems, Thomas and Beulah, based on the lives of her grandparents, earned her the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She was only the second African-American to win this prize. In 1993, she was appointed to a two-year term as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She was the youngest person, and the first African-American, to receive this highest official honor in American letters. From an early age, Rita loved poetry and music. As one of the most outstanding high school graduates of her year, she was invited to the White House as a Presidential Scholar. She began to pursue writing seriously while studying at Miami University in Ohio. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in English in 1973, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany for two years at the University of Tubingen. She then joined the famous Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, receiving her Masters' Degree in 1977. Appearances in magazines and anthologies won national acclaim for Rita Dove before she published her first poetry collection, The Yellow House on the Corner in 1980. Other publications by Rita Dove include a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday, the poetry collections Grace Notes, Selected Poems and Mother Love, and the novel Through the Ivory Gate. In 2009, she published Sonata Mulattica, a book-length cycle of poems telling the story of the 19th century African-European violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower and his turbulent friendship with Ludwig van Beethoven. Today, she holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. In this podcast, recorded at the 1994 International Achievement Summit in Las Vegas, while she was serving as U.S. Poet Laureate, Rita Dove reads several of her poems and considers the nature of inspiration, innocence, and evil.




Gao Xingjian
Jun 06 2002 10 mins  
The Chinese-born author Gao Xingjian received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature, for work "of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama." His achievement was all the more remarkable given the obstacles he was forced to overcome. During China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, all intellectuals were considered suspect. "To write, even in secret, was to risk one's life," Gao Xingjian says of those years. For his own safety, the young writer burned all his manuscripts. "It was only in this period," he says, that he learned the true value of literature: "Literature allows a person to preserve a human consciousness." The young writer was placed in a "re-education" camp, and was not permitted to publish or travel until 1979. After his "rehabilitation," he began publishing fiction, plays and controversial essays on modern literature. His plays created a sensation, but were soon condemned as "intellectual pollution." Fleeing government harassment, he set out on foot to explore remote areas of China where remnants of traditional culture survived, an experience he drew on in his masterpiece, the novel Soul Mountain. In 1987, Gao left China to live in France. After the publication of his play, The Fugitives (inspired by the Tiananmen Square massacre), all of his work was banned in China and he was declared persona non grata. He has since taken French citizenship. In accepting the 2000 Nobel Prize, he reaffirmed his belief in the value of a literature that "does not serve politics." "Literature," he says, "can only be the voice of the individual." This podcast was recorded at the 2002 International Achievement Summit. Speaking through an interpreter, Gao reads an excerpt from Soul Mountain, and discusses his experience of loneliness and the meaning of personal freedom.





Oliver Sacks
Jun 15 2000 12 mins  
Dr. Oliver Sacks is an internationally renowned neurologist and best-sel1ing author. As physician and writer he is concerned above all with the link between body and mind; many of his books recount case histories from the outer limits of neurological experience. Born in London, England, he obtained his medical degree at Oxford and moved to the United States in the early 1960s. Since 1965 he has lived in New York City, where he is now clinical professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University. In the 1960s, Dr. Sacks went to work in a Bronx charity hospital, where he encountered an extraordinary group of patients, many of whom had spent decades in strange, frozen states, like human statues. They were survivors of a great epidemic of sleeping sickness that swept the world between 1916 and 1927. Sacks was able to revive many of them through the use of the drug L-dopa, but their reactions to re-entering the world after four decades of unconsciousness varied greatly. They became the subject of Dr. Sacks's book Awakenings, which inspired an acclaimed motion picture, starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. One of Sacks's most widely read books, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, describes extraordinary perceptive disorders arising from injuries to the brain. His other books include Seeing Voices, An Anthropologist on Mars, and The Mind's Eye. Dr. Sacks addressed the Academy of Achievement at its 2000 gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona. In this podcast, recorded on that occasion, he describes three passions that have significantly influenced his life since childhood: his fascination with the physical sciences; reading and writing in all genres; and the hearing and telling of stories. He describes the enchantment of the sciences and compares scientists to artists. Medicine, he proposes, is concerned with the stories of human lives, and how they relate.


Ray Kurzweil
Jun 16 2000 16 mins  
Raymond Kurzweil has founded four successful businesses, all based on artificial intelligence technology he developed. He pioneered systems for optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, and speech recognition. He developed the CCD (charge-coupled device) flatbed scanner, and the first electronic keyboard to synthesize the sounds of acoustic instruments. His interest in artificial intelligence began in high school, when he built a computer and programmed it to compose music in the style of different composers. This project won him first prize in the International Science Fair and an appearance on the television show What's My Line? As a sophomore at MIT, Kurzweil ran a business matching high school students with appropriate colleges using a program he had written. At the time, there was only one computer in New England with enough memory to run his database. Today, his scanners and OCR are standard equipment in the modern office, his synthesizers pervade popular music, his Reading Machines allow the blind to hear the contents of printed matter, and his voice recognition system is used in emergency rooms all over the United States. Kurzweil's 1990 book The Age of Intelligent Machines contained remarkably accurate predictions about the immediate future of technology and society. Another book, The 10% Solution For a Healthy Life, describes Kurzweil's successful effort to rid himself of Type II diabetes through a diet he researched himself, and recommends a course of action for all but eliminating the risk of heart disease and cancer. In 1999 he published the international bestseller The Age of Spiritual Machines and was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton. His 2005 book, The Singularity Is Near, proposes that technology will permit the extension of human consciousness beyond its present biological limits. In this 2000 address to the Academy of Achievement in Scottsdale, Arizona, he reflects on his career as an inventor, and describes impending developments in technology and their implications for human life.




Mona Van Duyn
Jun 27 1992 9 mins  
One of America's most respected and honored poets, Mona Van Duyn (1921 - 2004) served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1992 to 1993. Born and raised in rural Iowa, she was drawn to literature at an early age, but her parents were unsympathetic to her literary ambitions. At Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), a sympathetic teacher encouraged her writing. She earned a master's degree from the University of Iowa, where she participated in the early years of the University's famous Writers' Workshop and met her husband, Jarvis Thurston. The couple founded Perspective: A Quarterly Review of Literature while teaching at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. They and their journal soon moved to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where Van Duyn would teach for much of her life. Over the years, Van Duyn won every major award in American poetry, including the Bollingen Prize, the Sandburg Prize and the National Book Award. She received a 1991 Pulitzer Prize for her collection To See, To Take. Much of her poetry is concerned with a highly nuanced view of marriage and the family. While her early work in particular presents marriage as an essential component of civilized society, To See, To Take, portrays men and women as perpetual strangers, destined to wrestle with the insoluble complexity of their relationships. This podcast was recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1992 Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, shortly after her appointment as Poet Laureate. In this address, she recounts her childhood love of literature, the opposition of her parents, and the encouragement she finally received from a favorite professor.






Oliver Stone
Jun 27 1992 12 mins  
One of the most acclaimed and controversial filmmakers of our times, Oliver Stone's compelling dramas are steeped in the great social conflicts of our history, and grounded in his own experience. After dropping out of Yale University, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in combat in Vietnam. After his military service, he attended the film school of New York University, and wrote a series of hard-hitting screenplays, including Midnight Express, Scarface and Year of the Dragon. He turned to directing with Salvador and won Best of Director Oscars for the powerful Vietnam War dramas, Platoon and Born On the Fourth of July. His 1987 film Wall Street captured the spirit of the "go-go '80s" era in American business. Stone ignited a firestorm of controversy with his 1992 film JFK, which explicitly dramatized a conspiracy theory of the assassination of President Kennedy. In this podcast, recorded during the Academy of Achievement's 1992 Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, Stone discusses this film, and his own research into the Kennedy assassination. He recalls how his experience in Vietnam taught him to distrust official explanations of important events. He encourages the Academy's student delegates to question official history and seek the truth for themselves. In subsequent years, Stone has continued his dramatic explorations of recent American history with the films Nixon and W. Other major films include the Wall Street sequel Money Never Sleeps, and Alexander, recounting the life of Alexander the Great.



Michael Crichton
Jun 27 1992 11 mins  
Michael Crichton (1942 - 2008) was a literary phenomenon. He sold his first article to The New York Times when he was only 14, and worked his way through Harvard Medical School writing detective stories. He struck gold with his 1969 bestseller The Andromeda Strain, a taut thriller, replete with authentic medical detail, in which a team of scientists fight an extraterrestrial virus that threatens the entire human race. The Andromeda Strain was one of three novels he published that year, the same year he completed his medical studies at Harvard. He pursued post-doctoral studies at the Jonas Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, but soon decided to devote all his time to his writing. An extraordinarily prolific writer, he directed his fascination with the outer reaches of scientific knowledge into a career as a bestselling author and filmmaker. For nearly 30 years, he held a worldwide audience spellbound. Many of his novels, including Rising Sun, Congo, Jurassic Park and The Lost World, became highly successful motion pictures. Crichton produced and directed a number of successful films himself, including Westworld and Coma. He also created the long-running television drama ER, drawing on his own medical background. In this podcast, recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1992 Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, Michael Crichton discusses the importance of spiritual values, and the role of goals and intentionality in the conscious and unconscious minds.










Stephen Ambrose
May 23 1998 12 mins  
Although the historian Stephen Ambrose (1936 - 2002) wrote over 30 books, he was almost as well-known to the public for his appearances on television's political discussion programs, where he was frequently called upon to discuss the American presidency, the history of the American West and the legacy of the Second World War. As a boy growing up in Wisconsin, Stephen Ambrose planned to follow in his father's footsteps as a small-town doctor; he entered the University of Wisconsin as a pre-med student, but his first day in American History class changed his life. He changed his major to history and never looked back. His first book sold fewer than a thousand copies, but it caught the eye of former President Dwight Eisenhower, who invited Ambrose to write an authorized biography. Ambrose's multi-volume lives of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, along with works on the opening of the American West, and on the experience of common soldiers in World War II, made him one of America's most respected historians. He saw two of his books top the best-seller lists simultaneously: Undaunted Courage, the definitive tale of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Citizen Soldiers, an account of the European front in World War II, told from the point of view of the American GI. Publication of Citizen Soldiers accompanied a massive renewal of public interest in the Second World War and the Americans who fought it; Ambrose served as historical consultant for Steven Spielberg's film about D-Day, Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg and Tom Hanks later produced a television miniseries based on Ambrose's Band of Brothers. In this podcast, recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1998 Summit in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Professor Ambrose discusses Lewis and Clark's voyage of discovery, and the critical role that personal friendship played in their achievement.


Joyce Carol Oates
May 20 1997 3 mins  
Joyce Carol Oates is one of America's most prolific and respected authors. She has distinguished herself in the academic world as teacher and critic, while earning a fortune as the author of best-selling novels in a wide range of genres, from the family chronicle to the historical novel, the gothic horror story and the suspense novel. Her work has been distinguished from the beginning by a keen, unflinching interest in the nature of evil and the sources of violence in American life. She won acclaim early in her career, receiving the National Book Award in 1970 for the novel "them." She has now written over 50 novels and more than 30 collections of short stories, as well as nonfiction works on literary subjects ranging from the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the fiction of Dostoyevsky and James Joyce, to such non-literary subjects as the painter George Bellows and the boxer Mike Tyson. In 1996, Joyce Carol Oates was honored by the international writers' association PEN with its Malamud award, presented for "a lifetime of literary achievement." The following year, she addressed the Academy of Achievement at its gathering in Baltimore, Maryland. In this podcast, recorded on that occasion, she traces her concerns as a writer to her earliest memories, and to her childhood in a farming community in Upstate New York. Today, Joyce Carol Oates continues to live and write in Princeton, New Jersey, where she is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.


David Herbert Donald
May 20 1997 8 mins  
David Herbert Donald (1920 - 2009) was a distinguished historian, longtime chair of the graduate program in American history at Harvard, and a leading authority on the Civil War era and the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Donald's Lincoln studies began at the University of Illinois, where he was a graduate assistant to Professor James Randall. Donald assisted Randall in preparing a four-volume Lincoln biography that served as the definitive portrait of the 16th president until Donald's own work in the 1990s. Donald's first book, published in 1948, was a study of Lincoln's controversial law partner, William Herndon. In the 1950s, Donald emerged as a leading authority on the Civil War era. After teaching at Columbia and Princeton, he held an endowed chair at Harvard University, where he headed the graduate program in American history. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his biographies of the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner and the 20th century Southern novelist Thomas Wolfe. In 1995, he published his crowning accomplishment, Lincoln, an intimate biography of the president who saved the Union. In Donald's gripping, novelistic account, Lincoln emerges from the mists of legend, as a living, breathing human being -- complex, subtle, and burning with ambition. The Lincoln revealed in Donald's pages is a far more human but no less admirable figure than readers had met before. The book won universal acclaim and has become the Lincoln biography against which all others are measured. In this podcast, recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1997 Summit in Baltimore, Maryland, Professor Donald discusses the rewards of historical research, with examples from his studies of President Lincoln.





Edna O'Brien
Jun 06 2002 16 mins  
Born and raised in a small town in rural Ireland, Edna O'Brien came to Dublin as a teenager to become a pharmacist, but a chance encounter with James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man helped her find her own voice as a writer. She completed her first novel, The Country Girls, in only a month when she was 23 years old. The book was banned in her native Ireland (the censor called it a libel on Irish womanhood), and a priest in her parish had the book burned, but thoughtful critics in Ireland and elsewhere reveled in her rich, forceful prose and she is now recognized as one of Ireland's greatest living storytellers. Although she has spent most of her life in London, the people and landscapes of Ireland continue to fill her fiction. The Country Girl trilogy was followed by A Pagan Place, Night, Johnny I Hardly Kew You, The high Road, Time and Tide, and second trilogy: House of Splendid Isolation, Down By the River and Wild Decembers. Her short story collections include A Scandalous Woman, A Fanatic Heart, and Lantern Slides. In addition to her novels Edna O'Brien has written plays and screenplays, and biographies of James Joyce and Lord Byron, as well as numerous books of short stories, including her 2011 collection, Saints and Sinners. Addressing the 2002 International Achievement Summit in Dublin, Ireland, she tells the grim real-life tale that inspired her novel In the Forest, reads a passage from the book, and discusses the controversy that followed its publication.


R.L. Stine
Jun 28 1996 11 mins  
As of 2011, R. L. Stine has sold over 350 million books, making him one of the best-selling children's authors in history. When he was nine years old, he found an old typewriter in his family's attic. That discovery changed his life. He carried it down to his room and began typing stories and little joke books. Since then he has barely stopped. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1965, Stine headed to New York City to become a writer. Initially he concentrated on humorous books for children, but in 1986 he wrote Blind Date, a horror story aimed at teenagers, which became an instant best-seller. Many spooky adult horror novels followed, including Beach House, Hit And Run, The Babysitter, and The Girlfriend. In 1989 he created the Fear Street series, the best-selling young adult book series in history. He has written about 100 Fear Street books about teens facing all kinds of terror. In 1992 he introduced Goosebumps, sa series of fright tales for the younger reader. Translated into 32 different languages, the Goosebumps series has made R.L. Stine an international publishing phenomenon and was the basis for a popular television series. Other R.L. Stine titles include: Ghosts of Fear Street, Give Yourself Goosebumps, The Nightmare Room, Mostly Ghostly, and Beware!, a collection of his favorite stories, poems, comics and illustrations. In this podcast, recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1996 Summit in Sun Valley, Idaho, Stine discusses his childhood passion for writing, and his unusual creative method.










Doris Kearns Goodwin
Jun 29 1996 13 mins  
The acclaimed presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in Rockville Center, Long Island. Her invalid mother encouraged her love of books, while her father shared her love of baseball; she traces her interest in history to her childhood experience recording the fortunes of the Brooklyn Dodgers. A graduate of Colby College in Maine, with a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard, she became a White House Fellow in 1967. Although she had recently published an article criticizing President Lyndon Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam War, when she met the President at a White House dance, rather than argue with her, he asked her to dance. At the end of the evening, he suggested that she be assigned to work directly with him at the White House. After his retirement, he sought her advice and assistance in the preparation of his presidential memoirs. "He's still the most formidable, fascinating, frustrating, irritating individual I think I've ever known in my entire life," she recalls. Her account of his presidency, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, established her national reputation as a historian. She has since written best-selling studies of three other presidents and their inner circles: The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys; No Ordinary Time (on the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt), which earned her the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History; and Team of Rivals, a study of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Her books, political commentary and regular appearances on the leading television news programs have made her one of the most respected authorities on the American Presidency. This podcast was recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1996 Summit in Sun Valley, Idaho. Goodwin had recently appeared on the Ken Burns documentary series Baseball. In her address, Goodwin relates her love of baseball to her passion for history, and discusses her memories of President Lyndon Johnson, as well as her recently completed work on the Roosevelts. Following her address, she takes questions from the Academy's student delegates.



Lord Martin Rees
Jun 18 1999 11 mins  
The Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom, Martin Rees was appointed to the House of Lords in 2005 as Baron Rees of Ludlow. One of the world's leading cosmologists, he is renowned for his pioneering studies of quasars, galaxies, black holes and the origins of the universe. His early study of the distribution of quasars helped discredit the "steady state" theory of the universe. He was the first to propose the now widely accepted idea that the engines driving the high-energy deep space quasars seen through the Hubble Space Telescope are actually enormous black holes. After studying at the University of Cambridge, and holding postdoctoral fellowships at distinguished universities on both sides of the Atlantic, at age 30 he was appointed Plumian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge. Today, he is Master of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. In addition to his theoretical work, he has won praise for his ability to present sophisticated ideas in a language comprehensible to a general audience. His books include Gravity's Fatal Attraction and Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others, in which he proposes that the universe we know is but one particle in a much larger multiverse. From 2005 to 2010 he was President of the Royal Society. This podcast was recoded at the Academy of Achievement's 1999 Summit in Washington, D.C., after Baron Rees had received a knighthood, prior to his elevation to the peerage.


Gloria Vanderbilt
Jun 28 1986 10 mins  
Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt is an award-winning designer, artist, and best-selling author, and a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family. She was born in New York City as an heiress to an American railroad dynasty. Gloria Vanderbilt was the survivor of the 20th century's most famous child custody case, which was the subject of national attention in the 1930s. She became the heiress to a trust fund after her father's death when she was only 15 months old. As a result of excessive spending, her mother's use of finances was scrutinized by the child Vanderbilt's paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Whitney wanted custody of the young heiress and soon a famous custody trail became the lead story of 1934. The trial was so scandalous, people heard weeping and wailing inside the courtroom. Testimony was heard depicting the mother as an unfit parent; Vanderbilt's mother lost the battle and Gloria became the ward of her Aunt Gertrude. The story of the trial was told in a 1982 NBC miniseries "Little Gloria’ĶHappy at Last." Gloria Vanderbilt emerged as "not only a social legend but also a multi-faceted Renaissance woman." During the 1970s, she ventured into the fashion business. Along with her successful designer blue jeans, Vanderbilt also launched a line of blouses, sheets, shoes, leather goods, fragrances, and accessories. Vanderbilt was one of the first designers to make public appearances, which was difficult for her because of her shyness. For more than three decades, she received recognition as a designer and artist, and was elected to the Fashion Hall of Fame. Her lifelong involvement with and dedication to the arts helped make her a leader in establishing a climate for creativity in America. Gloria Vanderbilt married her fourth husband Wyatt Cooper in 1963, and had two sons, Carter Cooper and Anderson Cooper (now a CNN reporter). Carter Cooper committed suicide in 1988, by jumping from the family's 14th floor apartment as his mother tried in vain to stop him. Gloria Vanderbilt addressed the student delegates at the 1986 Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. and spoke about passion, courage, creativity and motherhood.


Louis L'Amour
Jun 28 1985 18 mins  
Louis L'Amour (March 22-1908 ’Ŭ June 10, 1988) was the all-time best-selling author of Western novels. Credited with 89 novels, 14 short-story collections, and two full-length works of nonfiction, which have resulted in the sale of 100 million books and have been the basis for more than 30 movies, Louis L'Amour was hailed as one of the most popular writers in the world. At age 15, he set out alone to roam the world after his family in North Dakota lost all their assets during the Great Depression. L'Amour worked as a ranch hand, pro boxer, merchant seaman, banana boat loader, lumberjack, circus roustabout, and a gold miner. He made his way across China and Japan, then biked through India, later salvaged a sunken treasure near Macao, and went to Paris to fulfill every young writer’Ŵs romantic fantasy. L’ŴAmour finally settled in the United States after 20 years of "being a stranger everywhere." He became a master storyteller who recreated the saga of the American frontier and became acclaimed as the nation's most highly rated western writer. Louis L'Amour was heralded as one of the six best-selling authors in the world. In 1982, he was the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, and, in 1984, President Ronald Reagan presented L'Amour with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Louis L'Amour participated in the 1985 Achievement Summit in Denver, Colorado and spoke to the student delegates about his reflections on the American West.






Mortimer Adler
Jun 29 1985 6 mins  
Mortimer J. Adler (December 28, 1902 ’Ŭ June 28, 2001) was a philosopher, editor, educator, and prolific author. The son of an immigrant jewelry salesman, Adler dropped out of school at age 14 to become a copy boy for the New York Sun. He hoped to become a journalist, and decided a few years to take some classes at Columbia University to improve his writing. While there he became interested in philosophy after reading the works of English professor John Stuart Mill. Learning that Mill had to read Plato at age five, Adler decided to broaden his philosophical knowledge. He went on to become a professor at Columbia where he wrote numerous books about Western philosophy. Adler avoided academic-sounding language in order to make his thoughts accessible to all readers. He went on write more than 50 books. In the 1930s, Adler became a professor at the University of Chicago, where he advanced the adoption of the Classics as a main part of the curriculum. In later years, Adler helped found the Institute for Philosophical Research, the Aspen Institute, and the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas. Adler's belief in the importance of Classical education led a significant number of American colleges to adopt the Great Books programs ’Ŭ cores of required classes that focus on key works of Western philosophy and literature. Adler was also the inventor and editor of the Syntopicon, which featured his 102 essays on the great ideas of Western civilization. Mortimer Adler addressed the student delegates at the 1985 Achievement Summit in Denver, Colorado on his philosophy of achievement.


Jean Auel
Jun 26 1993 10 mins  
Born Jean Marie Untinen in Chicago, she was the second of five children of a housepainter. Today, Jean Auel is a story-writing phenomenon whose series of novels set in prehistoric Europe have sold nearly 50 million copies worldwide. A grandmother of nine, she put in 12 years of night school at the University of Portland; Jean Auel did not even try to write a book until she was past the age of 40. She quit work as a credit manager, and in 1977, "got the idea for a saga about a young woman's battle to survive in the early Cro Magnon era of the Ice Age." Jean Auel immersed herself in the history of the Ice Age. She joined a survival class to learn how to construct an ice cave, and researched primitive methods of making fire, tanning leather, and knapping stone from the aboriginal skills expert Jim Riggs. The first in her Earth's Children series, "The Clan of the Cave Bear" was rejected by several publishers, but eventually was sold to Crown Publishers for $130,000 (Crown Publishers paid Auel $25 million for the rights to publish her second novel). Her first book was an overnight sensation and sold more than five million copies. After the success of her first novel, Jean Auel traveled to the sites of prehistoric ruins and relics and her research took her across Europe from France to the Ukraine. She went on to author the international best sellers, "The Valley of Horses" (1982), "The Mammoth Hunters" (1985), "The Plains of Passage" (1990), "The Shelters of Stone" (2002), and "The Land of Painted Caves" (2011). Jean Auel addressed the student delegates at the 1993 Achievement Summit in Glacier National Park about her path to success as a novelist.


Thomas McGuane
Jun 26 1993 6 mins  
Thomas F. McGuane III is a novelist, screenwriter, essayist, journalist and "counter-culture hero." At age 13, he was inspired to be a writer, attended an exclusive board school, but at age 18, ran away to a Wyoming ranch because of his difficult relationship with his alcoholic father (which would later shadow much of his fiction). McGuane was rebellious and only interested in writing; he flunked out of college. He eventually graduated from Michigan State University and edited the college literary magazine. He went on to study playwriting and dramatic literature at Yale University and earned a Wallace Stegner Fellowship to Stanford University. McGuane finished his first novel "The Sporting Club" in 1969 and bought a ranch in the breathtaking valleys of southern Montana. His second novel, "The Bushwhacked Piano," chronicled the romantic, sporting, and entrepreneurial hijinks of Nicholas Payne, earned rave reviews. His third book, "Ninety-Two in the Shade," a dazzling novel of free-floating angst and male brinkmanship set in the Florida Keys, was widely acclaimed in literary circles. Among his later novels, "Nothing But Blue Skies" stands out as offering the broadest expression of McGuane’Ŵs thoughts on life in America and the American West. McGuane’Ŵs paeans to fly fishing ("The Longest Silence"), horses ("Some Horses"), and his life in the outdoors ("An Outside Chance") capture his belief in the redeeming potential of nature and sporting ritual, and are widely considered among his finest writing those genres. McGuane’Ŵs writing is noted for its mastery of language, a comic appreciation of human endeavors, multiple takes on the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, and relationships with the natural world in the changing American West. Thomas McGuane spoke to the student delegates at the 1993 Achievement Summit in his home state of Montana.





Lawrence Wright
Jun 21 2007 7 mins  
Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." The book's title is a phrase from the Quran: "Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower," which Osama bin Laden quoted three times in a videotaped speech as directed to the 9/11 hijackers. There is no doubt that Lawrence Wright is now the expert on the terrorist organization, Al Qaeda. Wright’Ŵs prodigious capacity for research is legend in the journalistic community, but for his latest book, he exceeded even his own high standards. For five years, he traveled wherever the story took him. He dug through hundreds of books and thousands of documents, filing his notes in a meticulously organized card index. The resulting book is scrupulously factual, breathtaking in its depth, and as absorbing as a spy novel. Wright's involvement with the Middle East goes back to 1969, when he taught English at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Wright was ready to give up journalism for film directing when the events of September 11, 2001 presented him with a new mission. He immediately began a series of stories for The New Yorker magazine, depicting everything from the experiences of everyday New Yorkers to the background of the conspirators, but soon realized it would take a book to tell the whole story. When it was finished, "The Looming Tower" won Wright unanimous critical acclaim, along with the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction. Lawrence Wright addressed the Academy's student delegates about his life and career at the U.S. State Department during the 2007 Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C.




Agnes Nixon
Jun 25 1993 11 mins  
Nixon is the premier storyteller in the history of daytime television, and the creator of beloved soap operas such as "One Life to Live" and "All My Children." Raised in Nashville, as the only child of divorced parents in an Irish-Catholic enclave, she experienced more tears than joy. She felt isolated and painfully lonely because no child she knew had a father living apart from his family. Moreover, she was terrified of her dad's irrationality. Nixon never got over those feelings of inadequacy, and they provided her a writer's insight into the hidden emotions that so often shape people's destinies. In college at Northwestern, she won college competitions for writing and directing the best play, which led to her first job in radio just three days after graduation. Nixon was later hired to write for soap operas, such as "As the World Turns," "Search for Tomorrow," "Guiding Light," and "Another World." In 1968, she was recruited by ABC-TV and offered creative control of her own program. Tired of the restraints imposed by the WASPy, non-controversial nature of daytime drama, Nixon instead decided to dramatize tough, real-life issues, which reflected the changing social structures and attitudes of American family life. Nixon created "One Life to Live" and developed "All My Children" with story lines that grew out of the shenanigans of rogues, scoundrels, temptresses, liars, busybodies, social climbers and the lusty folks who populate Everytown, USA. Nixon had a serial on the air five days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 50 years. Heralded as the "Queen of the Modern Soap Opera," she brought the open discussion of previously forbidden social issues into the living rooms of millions of American homes, on topics ranging from the anti-war movement, cancer, abortion, homosexuality, race relations, and the AIDS epidemic. In 2010, Nixon received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1993, she addressed the students at the Achievement Summit in Glacier National Park.




Betty Comden
Jun 25 1993 11 mins  
The team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green was the longest running creative partnership in theatre history. Betty Comden (May 3, 1917 ’Ŭ November 23, 2006) was born Elizabeth Cohen in Brooklyn. In 1938, soon after graduation from NYU, where she studied drama, she started making the rounds of theatrical agents. While she didn't find an agent, she did get acquainted with Adolph Green, who was also searching for a theatrical agent. They began writing and performing their own satirical comic material in a group called "The Revuers," which included the late Judy Holliday. Comden and Green went onto collaborate with Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins on what was the first show for all of them, "On The Town." With Leonard Bernstein they also did the score for "Wonderful Town" and with Jule Styne they wrote the book and/or lyrics for "Bells Are Ringing," "Hallelujah Baby," "Do Re Mi," "Peter Pan," and wrote the book for "Applause," and book and lyrics for "On The Twentieth Century" and "A Doll's Life." "Applause," "Hallelujah, Baby," "Wonderful Town," and "On The Twentieth Century" won them five Tony Awards. Comden and Green's many film musicals include "Singin' In The Rain," "The Band Wagon," "On The Town," "Bells Are Ringing," "It's Always Fair Weather," and "Good News." "Singin' In The Rain" was voted as one of the ten best American films ever made. Comden and Green also created the classic songs "Just in Time," "The Party's Over," "Make Someone Happy," and "New York, New York." In 1991, Comden and Green reunited with Cy Coleman to write the lyrics for the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, "The Will Rogers Follies." Two years later, Betty Comden spoke to the student delegates at the 1993 Achievement Summit in Glacier National Park in Montana about her legendary career as a lyricist and musical comedy author.











Sidney Sheldon
Jun 30 1990 13 mins  
Sidney Sheldon (February 11, 1917 ’Ŭ January 30, 2007) was a master storyteller and one of the best-selling novelists in the world. He was born Sidney Schechtel in Chicago, into a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. During the Great Depression, he worked at a variety of jobs and attended Northwestern University. In 1937, he moved to Hollywood with the dream of becoming a screenwriter, and landed a job reviewing scripts and collaborated on a number of B movies. After World War II, Sheldon moved to New York City where he began writing musicals for the Broadway stage while writing screenplays for MGM and Paramount. By age 25, had three musicals musical hits simultaneously and won a Tony Award. As a young Hollywood screenwriter earned an Oscar for ’źThe Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer’Ź and was the creative pen behind such movie classics as ’źEaster Parade’Ź and ’źAnnie Get Your Gun.’Ź Sheldon later produced and scripted ’źThe Patty Duke Show’Ź as well as the TV hits ’źI Dream of Jeannie’Ź and ’źHart to Hart.’Ź In 1969, at age 50, he wrote his first novel ’źThe Naked Face’Ź and his second novel ’źThe Other Side of Midnight’Ź climbed to #1 on the best-seller list. His novels often featured determined women who persevere in a tough world run by hostile men. Sheldon went on to author a string of other international best-sellers, including ’źBloodline,’Ź ’źRage of Angels,’Ź ’źMaster of the Game,’Ź ’źIf Tomorrow Comes,’Ź ’źWindmills of the Gods,’Ź and ’źThe Sands of Time’Ź ’Ŭ which sold more than 100 million copies in 30 countries. Sidney Sheldon struggled with bipolar disorder for years and contemplated suicide at age 17. He addressed the student delegates at the 1990 Achievement Summit in Chicago, the place of his birth more than seventy years earlier.

















Hal David Interview
May 14 2010 11 mins  
For over 60 years, Hal David (1921-2012) wrote the words America loves to sing. His career spanned the decades from the swing era to the age of hip-hop and took him from Hollywood to Broadway to Nashville. He wrote his first hit song in 1947 and continued to score hits throughout the 1950s, writing for artists as varied as Marty Robbins, Perry Como and Sarah Vaughan. In the 1960s, his partnership with composer Burt Bacharach produced an incomparable series of pop classics such as ’źDon’Ŵt Make Me Over,’Ź ’źWhat the World Needs Now’Ź and ’źDo You Know the Way to San Jose.’Ź Bacharach and David enjoyed some of their biggest hits with singer Dionne Warwick, the ideal interpreter of Bacharach’Ŵs music and Hal David’Ŵs lyrics. Simultaneously with their reign over the pop charts, Bacharach and David enjoyed success in Hollywood and on Broadway, winning an Oscar for their song ’źRaindrops Keep Falling On My Head’Ź from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and writing the score for the hit Broadway musical Promises, Promises, with its signature song ’źI’Ŵll Never Fall In Love Again.’Ź In the years that followed, Hal David crafted hit songs with other composers in a variety of genres, including country hits for singers such as Ronnie Milsap. David scored an international crossover hit with ’źTo All the Girls I’Ŵve Loved Before,’Ź sung by Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias. In every decade, in every style, his lyrics captured the humor and the whimsy, the passions and the sorrows -- the romance of American life. Born in New York City, Hal David died in Los Angeles at the age of 91. In 2010, the Academy of Achievement honored Hal David as the Dean of American Songwriters. In this podcast, recorded on that occasion, he is joined onstage by a dear friend, the premier interpreter of his songs, Dionne Warwick.






Brian Wilson
Jul 05 2008 6 mins  
The songs Brian Wilson created as leader of the Beach Boys combined the rhythms of rock and roll with Baroque counterpoint and jazz harmony to create an exhilarating sound that has become the perennial soundtrack of the American summer. Despite near deafness in one ear, Brian Wilson began experimenting with music and tape recorders as a teenager in Hawthorne, California. Forming the Beach Boys with his two younger brothers, a cousin, and a neighbor, he recorded their first single at home while his parents were out of town. The song was called ո‡Surfin',ո‡ and it made the Beach Boys a national sensation. A succession of hit singles and albums followed. In the mid-'60s, the Beach Boys' sound became increasingly complex with dense, layered hits like ո‡California Girlsո‡ and "Good Vibrations," repeatedly voted the greatest single of all time. Despite the rapturous sounds he created, Brian Wilson suffered from deep depression and spent many years hiding from the world while the Beach Boys continued to perform without him. As Wilson made a slow, painful recovery, he was confronted with the loss of both his brothers. By 1998, Brian Wilson had overcome his demons and embarked on a sold-out concert tour. Today, he is once again composing, recording and touring the world with an ace band of young musicians. His achievements as musician, songwriter, arranger and producer continue to this day, and his work exerts a powerful influence on musicians not yet born when he recorded his first hits. This podcast was recorded during Brian Wilson's performance at the 2008 International Achievement Summit in Hawaii.









Arthur Golden
Jun 21 2007 13 mins  
Arthur S. Golden is the author of Memoirs of a Geisha. Readers and critics were stunned that an American man -- a first-time novelist at that -- could so vividly create the internal life of a Japanese woman living the almost unimaginably alien and structured life of a traditional geisha in the years before and during World War II. Golden's accomplishment grew from years of painstaking research. "After six years of work and two completely separate drafts of a novel about a geisha, I passed my manuscript around and readers described it as dry. Being an analytical person, I developed a rational plan of attack. Step one: panic. Step two: figure out what went wrong. In the following week I realized I'd been afraid of the challenge I'd set, namely, to understand and describe the inner life of a fictional geisha. From fear, I'd kept a distance between myself and her. Now I could see the proper course to merge the two of us together - write the story in the first person - even if it meant throwing everything away and starting over. It was the most difficult moment of my career." Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Golden received a degree in art history from Harvard College, where he specialized in Japanese art, and a master's in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. He spent a summer at Beijing University andrick then worked in Tokyo, where he became intrigued by the story of an acquaintance whose mother had been a geisha before her marriage. Golden returned to the United States and earned a master's in English from Boston University, but the young man's story, and his mother's, still preoccupied him, and he began work on a novel. When Golden first made up his mind to write a novel about a geisha, he read everything he could find on the subject, in English and in Japanese. After he had completed an 800-page draft of his novel, a longtime friend of his grandmother's introduced Golden to an actual retired geisha who was willing to discuss her past. He interviewed her at length, and when he was done, he threw away his manuscript and began again from scratch. His second draft attracted initial interest, but no publishers. It was only then, six years into his project, that Golden rewrote his story from the point of view of the woman herself. The resulting book spent more than a year on the New York Times best-seller list; its dramatic plot and vivid characters evoked comparisons with Dickens. Arthur Golden lives with his wife and two children in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he is now at work on a new book. In 2005, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment released the film version of Memoirs of a Geisha.


Calvin Trillin
Jun 19 2007 10 mins  
Calvin Trillin has excelled in so many forms of writing that his admirers may argue over whether he is properly characterized as a journalist, memoirist, novelist, humorist, or America's greatest living comic poet. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Trillin graduated from Yale University, where he was Chairman of the Yale Daily News. After serving in the Army, he worked as a reporter for Time magazine and covered the integration of the University of Georgia, an event that became the subject of his first book, An Education in Georgia. In 1963, Trillin joined the staff of The New Yorker. For 15 years, he wrote the magazine's popular "U.S. Journal" feature, reporting local events, both serious and frivolous, from all over the country. Along the way, he became a champion of regional American cuisine, a passion he shared in three books: Fried American; Alice, Let's Eat; and Third Helpings. In recent years, his gustatory adventures have taken him even farther afield, as recorded in Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties from Kansas City to Cuzco. Trillin has published three novels to date, including Tepper's Not Getting Out, without a doubt the greatest novel ever written on the subject of parking in New York City. Over the years, he has contributed regular opinion columns to Time, The Nation, and newspapers across the country. Since 1990, he has composed a weekly satirical poem for The Nation. These dangerously funny verses have been gathered in a number of collections, including Deadline Poet, Obliviously On He Sails and A Heckuva Job. Trillin's ready wit and dry Midwestern delivery have made him a popular live performer and television talk show guest. Among his two dozen books, Trillin has penned a number of highly affecting memoirs, including the best-selling Remembering Denny. In 2007, he published a deeply moving tribute to his late wife, About Alice. In the book, he fondly recalls their meeting, her own distinguished career as writer and educator, and the joys of their 36-year marriage. Transcending his sense of loss, Trillin's book is suffused with love and with gratitude for the time he and Alice shared.










Harold Prince
Jun 21 2007 17 mins  
Make a list of the landmarks of the American musical theater over the last half a century -- West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera -- and you'll find Harold Prince behind every one of them. He has won 21 Tony Awards as producer and director, a record no one can touch. Prince began his producing career at age 26, enjoying back-to-back hits with The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. The first show also marked the beginning of his collaboration with director and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The pair made history in 1957 with West Side Story, a retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story set among rival New York street gangs, with a classic score by composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The collaboration of Prince and Robbins reached its peak with Fiddler on the Roof, the timeless story of a Jewish family in pre-revolutionary Russia, coping with the conflicting pull of tradition and modernity. Prince's attention turned to directing, and in 1967 he scored a hit with Cabaret, a dark-hued tale of Berlin night life on the eve of the Nazi takeover. In the 1970s, he enjoyed a memorable collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, creating some of the most sophisticated works in the history of the musical stage: Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and their biggest hit, Sweeney Todd. Prince enjoyed even greater success with two lavish musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Evita and The Phantom of the Opera. Audiences around the world were thrilled by Phantom's breathtaking stagecraft and went back to see it again and again. Over the years, Harold Prince has diversified, directing dramas, films and opera, but the musical theater remains his greatest love. Now in the sixth decade of his career, he is still going strong.





John Updike
Jun 09 2004 11 mins  
Novelist, short story writer and poet, John Updike is one of America's premier men of letters. As a boy growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania, he suffered from psoriasis and a stammer, ailments that set him apart from his peers. He found solace in writing, and won a scholarship to Harvard, where he edited the Lampoon humor magazine. He sold his first poem and short story to The New Yorker shortly after graduation. He won early fame with his novel Rabbit, Run (1960), and Pulitzer Prizes for two of its sequels, Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990), chronicling the life of a middle class American through the social upheavals of the 1960s and beyond. Rabbit, Run and Couples (1968) both stirred controversy with their forthright depiction of America's changing sexual mores, and established his reputation as a peerless observer of the human complexity behind the facade of ostensibly conventional lives. His fiction, poetry and essays also show a persistent interest in moral and philosophical questions, informed by a lifelong interest in Christian theology. John Updike is one of very few Americans to be honored with both the National Medal of Art and the National Medal for the Humanities. As of this writing, he has published more thn 60 books. The Early Stories, 1953-1975, published in 2004, collects the short fiction from the first two decades of his career. As large a volume as it is, it represents only a small part of his vast contribution to American literature. His latest novel, The Widows of Eastwick, appeared in the fall of 2008.




Nadine Gordimer
Jul 03 2009 10 mins  
Born and raised in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer published her first short story in a children's magazine in 1937 at the age of 16. She left college without a degree and continued publishing short fiction in South African journals. She drew attention outside her country in 1951, when her stories began appearing in The New Yorker magazine. She published her first novel, The Lying Days in 1953. In her short stories and novels such as Burger's Daughter and July's People, she explored the distortions imposed on ordinary human relationships by oppressive social systems like that of apartheid in South Africa. The infamous Sharpeville massacre of 1960 drove the author into political activism. She joined the African National Congress while it was still listed as an illegal organization by the government. While her fiction was repeatedly banned by the South African government it received the highest acclaim abroad. She won Britain's most distinguished literary award the Booker Prize for her 1974 novel The Conservationist. In 1991 she received the Nobel Prize for Literature, in recognition of her "magnificent epic writing’Ķ of very great benefit to humanity." While she has traveled widely to lecture and teach she continues to make her home in South Africa. In this podcast, recorded at the 2009 International Achievement Summit in Cape Town, Nadine Gordimer discusses the relationship between the image and the word in a multimedia age, the challenges of achieving universal literacy in the developing nations, and the enduring power of the written word.


Nora Ephron - Part 1
Jun 19 2007 14 mins  
Nora Ephron (1941 - 2012) achieved international success as a director and writer of feature films, a field that had been effectively closed to women for over half a century. Her earlier work as a journalist and essayist had already won her a reputation for sharp-eyed social observation and sharp-tongued humor. It also introduced a distinctive approach to her favorite subjects: New York City, food, and the baffling ways of men and women in love. She was pregnant with her second child when her husband left her, and she found herself at home with two babies to take care of while trying to break into screenwriting. In 1983, her script for the film Silkwood was nominated for an Oscar, and her novel Heartburn, a comic fictionalization of the end of her marriage, became a bestseller. Ephron's original screenplay, When Harry Met Sally, solidified her reputation as a screenwriter, but she wanted something more. She made her name as a director with Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, runaway successes that established her as Hollywood's premier creator of modern romantic comedies. Her 2009 film Julie and Julia recounted the life of the author and television personality Julia Child, who introduced Americans to French cooking in the 1960s. Ephron's 2006 book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, topped the New York Times hardcover best-seller list for over nine months. Although her subject was the aging process, her approach to the human condition remained unchanged. "When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you," she said. "But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your laugh."


Nora Ephron - Part 2
Jun 19 2007 7 mins  
Nora Ephron (1941 - 2012) achieved international success as a director and writer of feature films, a field that had been effectively closed to women for over half a century. Her earlier work as a journalist and essayist had already won her a reputation for sharp-eyed social observation and sharp-tongued humor. It also introduced a distinctive approach to her favorite subjects: New York City, food, and the baffling ways of men and women in love. She was pregnant with her second child when her husband left her, and she found herself at home with two babies to take care of while trying to break into screenwriting. In 1983, her script for the film Silkwood was nominated for an Oscar, and her novel Heartburn, a comic fictionalization of the end of her marriage, became a bestseller. Ephron's original screenplay, When Harry Met Sally, solidified her reputation as a screenwriter, but she wanted something more. She made her name as a director with Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, runaway successes that established her as Hollywood's premier creator of modern romantic comedies. Her 2009 film Julie and Julia recounted the life of the author and television personality Julia Child, who introduced Americans to French cooking in the 1960s. Ephron's 2006 book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, topped the New York Times hardcover best-seller list for over nine months. Although her subject was the aging process, her approach to the human condition remained unchanged. "When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you," she said. "But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your laugh."







Rick Atkinson 2010 - Part 1
Mar 24 2010 15 mins  
America's greatest living chronicler of men at war, Rick Atkinson draws on an intimate knowledge of the soldier's life. The son of a career army officer, he was born in Germany and grew up on military posts. He developed his mastery of research -- along with his powerful prose style and keen eye for the telling detail -- as a reporter for The Kansas City Times and The Washington Post. In 1982, he was honored, along with the rest of the Kansas City newsroom team, with a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. The same year, he received an individual Pulitzer for national reporting. Among the articles cited by the prize jury were a series he wrote on the West Point class of 1966. Atkinson later elaborated this story in his bestselling book, The Long Gray Line. Since 1983, he has worked for The Washington Post, covering everything from election campaigns and the savings and loan scandal to the wars in Bosnia and Somalia. His reporting on the 1991 conflict with Iraq resulted in the book Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. As editor in charge of investigations, he brought the paper a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1999 with a series of stories on police shootings in the District of Columbia. Atkinson accompanied General David Petraeus and the 101st Airborne as an embedded reporter in the first months of the Iraq war. He distilled these experiences in the book In the Company of Soldiers, hailed as the most vivid depiction yet written of the day-to-day experience of combat soldiers in Iraq. Last year, he returned to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate the impact of roadside bombs in the two conflicts. Between assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Atkinson is writing an exhaustively researched history of the U.S. armed forces in the European theater of World War II. The first book, An Army at Dawn, was widely praised as the definitive account of the North African campaign and received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for History. The second acclaimed volume, The Day of Battle, focusing on the Italian campaign, was published in 2007. He is now at work on the third volume of his trilogy, recounting the liberation of Western Europe.


Rick Atkinson 2010 - Part 2
Mar 24 2010 14 mins  
America's greatest living chronicler of men at war, Rick Atkinson draws on an intimate knowledge of the soldier's life. The son of a career army officer, he was born in Germany and grew up on military posts. He developed his mastery of research -- along with his powerful prose style and keen eye for the telling detail -- as a reporter for The Kansas City Times and The Washington Post. In 1982, he was honored, along with the rest of the Kansas City newsroom team, with a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. The same year, he received an individual Pulitzer for national reporting. Among the articles cited by the prize jury were a series he wrote on the West Point class of 1966. Atkinson later elaborated this story in his bestselling book, The Long Gray Line. Since 1983, he has worked for The Washington Post, covering everything from election campaigns and the savings and loan scandal to the wars in Bosnia and Somalia. His reporting on the 1991 conflict with Iraq resulted in the book Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. As editor in charge of investigations, he brought the paper a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1999 with a series of stories on police shootings in the District of Columbia. Atkinson accompanied General David Petraeus and the 101st Airborne as an embedded reporter in the first months of the Iraq war. He distilled these experiences in the book In the Company of Soldiers, hailed as the most vivid depiction yet written of the day-to-day experience of combat soldiers in Iraq. Last year, he returned to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate the impact of roadside bombs in the two conflicts. Between assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Atkinson is writing an exhaustively researched history of the U.S. armed forces in the European theater of World War II. The first book, An Army at Dawn, was widely praised as the definitive account of the North African campaign and received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for History. The second acclaimed volume, The Day of Battle, focusing on the Italian campaign, was published in 2007. He is now at work on the third volume of his trilogy, recounting the liberation of Western Europe.


Scott Berg - Part 1
Jul 03 2008 12 mins  
A. Scott Berg found his calling early in life. At 15, he already knew he wanted to attend Princeton University. At Princeton he determined to tell the story of 20th century America by writing "five or six biographies" of American cultural figures. At 19 he began work on his senior thesis, a biography of Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor who "discovered" and developed F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, James Jones and dozens of other important writers. After graduating cum laude in 1971, Berg spent seven years expanding the thesis, which became his first book, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. The first effort won the National Book Award and earned the young biographer a Guggenheim Fellowship, which helped support him while he completed his next book Goldwyn: A Biography, a life of the pioneer motion picture producer, published in 1989.Berg was looking for the subject of his next work when a publisher suggested the life of the controversial aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh had himself written a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, and his widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was also a distinguished author. Previous biographies had offended Lindbergh with their inaccuracies, and the family had never cooperated fully with a biographer before. Berg spent seven days visiting with Mrs. Lindbergh to persuade her that he would tell her husband's story fairly. He scored the ultimate coup for a Lindbergh biographer: Mrs. Lindbergh gave Berg access to 2,000 boxes of private papers, including 60 years of her own diaries. Berg spent two years in the family's archives, poring over the material. In Paris he rested on the bed in the American ambassador's residence where Lindbergh slept after his transatlantic flight. It took Berg nine years to complete his biography of the flier, but the resulting book, Lindbergh, immediately became a best-seller and won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Berg's next project is a biography on the 28th American President, Woodrow Wilson.


Scott Berg - Part 2
Jul 03 2008 12 mins  
A. Scott Berg found his calling early in life. At 15, he already knew he wanted to attend Princeton University. At Princeton he determined to tell the story of 20th century America by writing "five or six biographies" of American cultural figures. At 19 he began work on his senior thesis, a biography of Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor who "discovered" and developed F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, James Jones and dozens of other important writers. After graduating cum laude in 1971, Berg spent seven years expanding the thesis, which became his first book, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. The first effort won the National Book Award and earned the young biographer a Guggenheim Fellowship, which helped support him while he completed his next book Goldwyn: A Biography, a life of the pioneer motion picture producer, published in 1989. Berg was looking for the subject of his next work when a publisher suggested the life of the controversial aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh had himself written a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, and his widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was also a distinguished author. Previous biographies had offended Lindbergh with their inaccuracies, and the family had never cooperated fully with a biographer before. Berg spent seven days visiting with Mrs. Lindbergh to persuade her that he would tell her husband's story fairly. He scored the ultimate coup for a Lindbergh biographer: Mrs. Lindbergh gave Berg access to 2,000 boxes of private papers, including 60 years of her own diaries. Berg spent two years in the family's archives, poring over the material. In Paris he rested on the bed in the American ambassador's residence where Lindbergh slept after his transatlantic flight. It took Berg nine years to complete his biography of the flier, but the resulting book, Lindbergh, immediately became a best-seller and won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Berg's next project is a biography on the 28th American President, Woodrow Wilson.


Sue Grafton
Jun 16 2000 12 mins  
Sue Grafton is one of America's most popular mystery writers, the author of a series of best-sellers known as the alphabet mysteries, beginning with "A" is for Alibi and continuing through her latest, "U" is for Undertow due out in December 2009. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky and graduated from the University of Louisville. She was always interested in writing, but feared that she could never make a living at it. Her own father had published two mystery novels but died without achieving the success he had dreamed of. "From the age of twenty-two on, I wrote at night, every night, while I was working full time and raising a family," she says. "I wrote because I couldn't help it... I wrote in the face of rejection, frustration, hardship, weariness and stress. The very act of doing what I loved gave me energy." She completed four book-length manuscripts before publishing her first novel, Keziah Dane, in 1967, followed by The Lolly-Madonna War in 1969. She wrote the screen lay for the film version of Lolly-Madonna, released by MGM in 1973. This led to a lucrative career as a writer for episodic television and made-for-TV-movies, including episodes of Rhoda, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, many written in collaboration with her husband, Steven Humphrey. By the early 1980s, Grafton had acquired a reputation in the industry for her aptitude with the murder mystery genre. She returned to the novel, creating the alphabet mystery series around a hard-boiled female private investigator named Kinsey Millhone, who lives in the fictional coastal community of Santa Teresa, California. In every day life, she is the mother of three and the grandmother of two. When she is not enjoying a garden or writing, Grafton divides her time between Louisville and Montecito, California. Her books have been published all over the world, and have won almost every award in the mystery field. When not writing her mysteries she writes and lectures on the craft of writing.




Toni Morrison
Jun 21 2007 17 mins  
In novels such as the modern classic, Beloved, Toni Morrison has fused history and legend, realism and fantasy, to craft an epic saga of African American life. Although her work is steeped in local history and folklore, the fundamental human values of her art have captured the hearts of readers around the world. After earning a Master's in English from Cornell University, Morrison taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C. for many years, and first took up writing as a form of escape from an unhappy marriage. She completed her first novel, The Bluest Eye, while raising two children on her own and working full time as an editor at Random House in New York. She received the National Book Critics Award for her second novel, Sula. Her third, Song of Solomon, attracted an international audience. A year after Beloved was published in 1987, Morrison received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 1993, Morrison was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is the first African American to receive this honor, and the first black woman of any country. She embraces her historic role proudly, and often writes on issues of race and gender in American life and letters. Now a Professor in the Council of Humanities at Princeton University, she has often said that she takes teaching as seriously as writing. Her novel, Love, appeared in 2003. Her opera, Margaret Garner, had its world premiere in the spring of 2005 and was performed throughout the United States. Morrison's novel A Mercy, published in 2008, returns to the subject of slavery in 17th-century America.


W.S. Merwin
Jul 03 2008 13 mins  
The dynamic evolution of W.S. Merwin's verse -- allied with his accomplishments as translator, essayist and environmentalist -- have made him the most admired and imitated of American poets. He published his first volume of verse at age 24 and soon won acclaim for an impressive mastery of classical verse technique, combined with a vivid appreciation of animal life and the natural world. Merwin embraced the use of more colloquial language and contemporary themes in the 1960s, advocating experimentation in his influential essay, "On Open Form." When his book, The Carrier of Ladders, won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Merwin took the occasion to voice his opposition to the Vietnam War. His poetry in the following decades increasingly reflected his passionate antiwar convictions. Long celebrated as an outstanding translator of Latin, French, Spanish and Italian literature, his attention turned to the poetry of China, Japan and India. For many years, he has lived on the island of Maui in Hawaii and much of his poetry is suffused with the mythology and natural beauty of the islands. The meditative simplicity of his later work reflects his growing involvement with Buddhism and the philosophy of deep ecology. Fifty years of his poetry were collected in Migration: Selected Poems 1951-2001, a volume honored with the National Book Award. Thirty-eight years after winning his first Pulitzer, W.S. Merwin received a second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 2008 volume The Shadow of Sirius. In 2010 he was named Poet Laureate of the United States. In this podcast, recorded at the 2008 International Achievement Summit in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, the poet exhorts the Academy's student delegates to pursue their individual aspirations without fear of the collective judgments of society.











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