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The Discontented
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Willard Sterne Randall

      . . . is a former award-winning investigative journalist who now wins his awards writing history. His work includes biographies of people from the American Revolutionary War period, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He is presently a visiting professor at John Cabot University. Randall, Nahra and their daughter divide their time between the US and Italy.

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Nancy Nahra

      . . . is an nationally recognized, award-winning poet, who also teaches classical civilization and poetry. Nahra earned her master‚s degree from Stanford and a doctorate in Romance Languages from Princeton. Currently she is a visiting professor at John Cabot University in Vermont, where she and her husband live with their daughter, when they are not living in Rome.

      America was built by people not satisfied with the way things had always been. Misfits. Many of those who changed history have, sadly, been forgotten. Will Randall and Nancy Nahra have rediscovered some of them, people well known in their own time, forgotten in ours. They are worth remembering, according to Nancy and Will, because they began a revolution that continues, worldwide, to this day. And they are inspiring.

      America‚s tradition is to leave people behind, try new things, be discontent. It‚s been a recipe for revolutionary ideas which have swept the planet. These ideas were not the exclusive domain of the people typically found in standard history books. Among Randall and Nahra‚s „forgotten Americansš are all kinds of people. There are individuals from every ethnic background and economic class, women and men so focused on their causes that they did not have the time to worry if they‚d be in history books.

      Nahra and Randall rediscovered European refugees fleeing tyranny and civil wars; African-Americans struggling to be free; women disabled by law and custom; immigrants disillusioned by harsh industrial realities; Native Americans redefining themselves in the face of the tidal wave of new arrivals. Simply consider the foreign soldiers from 20 nations who joined our Revolutionary Armies during the War of Independence. These were men eager to learn how to make a revolution so they could return home to start their own. And they did.

      Find a person‚s words, as this wife-and-husband writing team has, and you can recreate a long dead voice. With that voice, silenced truths can be told. Randall and Nahra want us to hear the truths lest we forget them as these „footnote figuresš were themselves forgotten. Begin, Nahra and Randall urge, by embracing the fact that life is never simple. That‚s as true today in the face of political correctness as it was when George Washington‚s forbears were fleeing the English Civil Wars.

      America was built on an intellectually cosmopolitan, profoundly diverse foundation. We attracted the rebels of the planet and started a revolution that is far from over. Then we forgot many of those who changed the world by changing America. These people Nahra and Randall have revivified were not willing to accept things the way they were. They also were confident that they could, individually, make a difference. And that change takes time.

      Nahra and Randall are convinced our past is a source of great strength. So they join with Teddy Roosevelt who, a hundred years ago, urged, „Do the best you can with what you have, where you are.š That, too, is worth remembering. Excerpts3:53 secs

Conversation 1

Will Randall and Nancy Nahra give Paula Gordon and Bill Russell a number of sound reasons why countless Americans have always led lives in which resistance was a major reality. They describe the cultural traits which emerged from the foundations laid by people who, by definition, didn‚t get along in their countries of origin, weren‚t content with where they had been, were misfits.

Conversation 2

The American Revolution, Randall reminds us, was not a WASP (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant) affair. He gives examples of people he calls „Freedom Fighters,š individuals from 20 foreign nations who fought in the Revolutionary armies. His example is Poland‚s Tadeus Kosciuszko, who learned how to conduct a revolution, went back and led one against Russia, and for two years was the President of a Free Poland. Nahra describes how supremely intellectually cosmopolitan the Revolutionaries were, reminding us America has never been homogeneous, has always been diverse. Randall maintains America‚s real civil war started in the 13th century Europe, the American Revolution a chapter in an ongoing revolution that eventually spread all over the planet, an ongoing process that continues today.

Conversation 3

Women ruled Europe at the time England colonized America. Randall and Nahra describe the changing roles of women from that time forward, using examples of women now forgotten. When women came to America, the farther West they went, the more freedom they LOST. Nahra and Randall exemplify this trend with stories from centuries during which women could not speak in public. There follows a lively discussion of how and why the people in their book ended up forgotten and why these people and their ideas are now relevant again. America‚s first African-American millionaire and first woman lawyer are examples. Nahra and Randall compare what they see as men‚s and women‚s approaches to consensus and individualism.

Conversation 4

Randall comments on what‚s happening now that Americans have geographic boundaries and can no longer run away from our problems. He describes how social change required all sorts of people ų not just heroes. Nahra recounts how their work started, reminding us that the forgotten can be a wellspring of strength. She demonstrates the significant influence America‚s first woman lawyer had, in spite of the fact that she could not practice in a court of law. Randall admires the openness which America‚s political accountability fosters. Together, they consider women‚s considerable influence in America, even when disenfranchised and legally disabled, using Thomas Jefferson and his daughter as an example.

Conversation 5

Nahra establishes a connection between women‚s moral authority and their frequent roles as gadfly. Randall shows how our challenges change but do not go away, noting that America did away with chattel slavery, but adapted economic oppression to the exploitation of immigrants in sweatshops and factories. The challenge continues now when, in effect, we out-source slavery to other parts of the world. He applauds public information as a wonderful way to influence the power of the economic marketplace. Nahra points out that people they highlight are individuals who refused the simplicity that they were supposed to go along with, pointing to political correctness as one of today‚s temptations to over-simplify. Randall uses the original Cleveland Indian as an example of how political correctness can threaten the best intentions of those embracing it. The roots of America‚s temperance movement offer another example of how addressing a real social need can get trivialized.

Conversation 6

Randall and Nahra show the power of the contributions of people too busy to think about their own place in history books.  They describe such people as knowing they had jobs to do, causes to promote, being too busy to be vain, knowing they could accomplish their goals, but that it would take a long time. Teddy Roosevelt‚s admonition is revitalized: Do the best you can with what you have, where you are. As journalists, Randall and Nahra have searched for the truth in their subjects‚ lives. As storytellers, they want to make sure we carry those truths on.


Will and Nancy quite literally „met us half wayš to record this program. We appreciate their willingness to drive to New Hampshire to record this Show, especially since it was Halloween and they had to hurry back to Trick‚OR Treat.

Peter Hale at Perseus Books was wonderful in facilitating arrangements for us to talk with Will and Nancy and we thank him.

The Inn at Pleasant Lake (below) in New London, New Hampshire, was a great deal more than „pleasant.š Their hospitality was gracious and we thank them making available to us the original part of their Inn, sturdily built in 1790.

Additional Links:
Forgotten Americans:  Footnote Figures Who Changed American History is published by Addison-Wesley, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

The Inn at Pleasant Lake - An Appropriate Setting.

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