When I was contemplating moving to DC and transitioning back into grad school, I came across a documentary called David McCullough: Painting with Words (which one could easily find online). The film, produced by Tom Hanks, is an intimate and charming portrait of McCullough, his life, his relationship with his wife and children, and his antique typewriter, which he still uses to write every single word. In the film, McCollough talks about the beauty of language and how his goal is always to write great literature that happens to be about history. I took this as a sort of personal model, a desire to write literature that happens to be about literature, and I decided that if I moved to DC, I'd somehow get into one of his lectures.
Not surprisingly, David McCullough is just as charming in person as he is in the film, though, perhaps a bit rambling, as the extremely knowledgeable tend to be. He clearly loves his job. He loves history and archive work and reading and writing, and perhaps most of all, he clearly loves standing in front of an audience and educating. He has a lot to say about education, as well. He spoke passionately about the need for teachers who love their subject matter and the imperative necessity of a cultural shift towards valuing educators in our society. His strongest criticisms were rightly placed on No Child Left Behind, which is little more than an industrial model of education in an increasingly post-industrial society. (For more on this, you can see Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk.) At the end of the evening, I left with the same feeling that I had from watching the documentary on his life, wanting to be a better writer, a better researcher, and a better educator.
If you're in the DC area (or will be in September), McCullough will be at this year's National Book Festival.