Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam

It must have been about September of 1973 when I read David Halberstam’s “The Best And The Brightest.” The Fall Quarter of my junior year in college was about to begin and armed with my course schedule, I eagerly visited the campus bookstore to load up on assigned reading. I still remember how I’d get “intellectual goose bumps” from shaking hands with the assorted materials that would shape my world for the coming months.

On this particular day, I went straight for the shelves containing books for my Foreign Policy class. I picked up "The Best And The Brightest"--and nearly fainted. Nine hundred frigging pages. And it was only one of the ten titles required. Yikes.

I decided to get a head start, so even before school began, I cracked it open and started reading…and pretty much didn’t put it down again until I’d finished (which, you can well imagine, was a unique experience when it came to a “textbook”).

I was enthralled...and an instant fan.

So much so that somewhere around the Fall of 1976, when I saw in the newspaper that David Halberstam would be giving a talk at a local college, I couldn’t wait to go…only I didn’t know anyone who’d go with me. That was when I first realized that in life, you have to be prepared to do things on your own, or risk never doing them at all. So I went by myself, sitting a little self-consciously toward the back. First he gave a talk, then he opened things up for questions.

I had one in mind. I desperately wanted to ask about his research process. How he kept the massive amount of facts straight that went into a tome like "The Best and the Brightest." I sat there with my palms getting sweaty, scared to death my hand would involuntarily shoot up in the air, asking to be called on.

But, I was too shy. I never made a peep.

Still...I never forgot my "brush" with author greatness, and I'm saddened by his untimely passing.

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