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The 2011-12 academic year has been a blend of writing and speaking. I relish each day at the Huntington Library writing a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which will be published by Random House in 2014. As of May 2012, I have been marching with Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman as they close in on Vicksburg in May, 1863 – chapter 17 of an expected 30 chapters. Within the past year I have visited several of the battlefields where Grant began to make his name as a Civil War general. I appreciate so much the National Park Service historians who have helped me understand Fort Donelson, Chattanooga, and Shiloh. I am on the trail of Grant's Methodist faith journey, which, as is true of most presidential biographies, lies forgotten or misunderstood.
The speaker always learns as much or more than the audience. In August 2011, I had the joy of being the lecturer for American Experience Week at the Bay View Chautauqua on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. The Chautauqua movement began on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York as a camp meeting, but quickly became an effort to offer education to Methodists who would not be attending college. The founder, John Heyl Vincent, was Grant's pastor in Galena, Ill. What an experience!
Another highlight was speaking in November at the Punahou School in Honolulu. Punahou was founded by missionaries for their children. President Barack Obama attended Punahou. I spoke to all the 11th graders as they studied American history.
Visiting Whitworth both refreshes old ties and builds new ones. I have welcomed the opportunity to become friends with President Beck Taylor. I am in the final weeks of readying the bulk of my American Religious History collection to give to Whitworth's Cowles Memorial Library. I have been the beneficiary of more than I can give back.
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