There are a few roads that I didn’t take that I maybe could have. When I was a graduate student, maybe a second‑year graduate student, I worked frequently at the Illinois State Library in Springfield, and one day, the director of that library called me into his office and said, “I have some news to tell you that is still very hush‑hush, but I am resigning for this job. I am going to the Chicago Historical Society, and I am going to recommend that you be appointed in my place,” and I was stunned. A second‑year graduate student, I hadn’t published a thing, and suddenly to have this dropped in my lap.
And I thought about it. I was like, you know, this is a real opportunity, but I don’t think it’s for me. I’m not the administrative type. I don’t like to run things. I don’t like to boss other people. I just like to be on my own. So I said, “I think I better pass on this, though I am deeply grateful for it.” So that was one path that wasn’t taken.
A little later, I was teaching at Columbia, and I got a phone call from the Abraham Lincoln Association in Washington, D.C. It was the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and the spokesman was Daniel [inaudible] who was working in that commission at that time. “David,” he said, “there has been a change in the Bicentennial Commission here. We need a new director. Would you like to do it?” I thought to myself, I don’t want to do this sort of thing. This is a public relations kind of job. It is in Washington. You deal with all these Senators and Congressmen trying to get appropriations. I said, “This isn’t for me at all, Dan. I just really don’t want it,” and so they went to somebody else. So there have been careers that I didn’t take, really quite deliberately. I stuck to a fairly narrow career, and I have enjoyed it.