Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Ron Chernow

13 Oct

When I first went to buy a ticket to a Pittsburgh Speakers Series speech, I was very frustrated to find that they only sell them as a full subscription.  You can’t just buy a ticket to one speech.  The purpose of this is to expose attendees to more ideas and opinions, even if sometimes controversial.  For a moment I considered not buying a subscription, because there were only two speakers I really wanted to see.  Since I put the Pittsburgh Speakers Series on my 30 before 30 list, I decided to just go for it.

This week I saw Ron Chernow speak.  Chernow is a famous biographer.  The subjects of his acclaimed and bestselling works have included George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan.

Before Chernow’s introduction at the speech I literally had no idea who he is.  If we were given the option of buying tickets to individual speeches, and even if I had bothered to read a blurb about him ahead of time, I would not have picked his speech to attend.  I am interested in history and biographies, but am bored to tears by Washington, Hamilton, etc.

After attending, though, I do understand the Speakers Series approach.  Chernow was engaging, and managed to get even me interested in his subjects.  I am not running out to buy his books right away, but I have mentally filed them away under “wouldn’t be so bad to read.” Chernow mostly spoke about Washington, but spent a few minutes talking about Hamilton as well.  He debunked the biggest Washington myths (cherry tree, wooden teeth, etc.), and painted a picture for us of a complicated, human Washington.   Chernow sometimes teetered on rosy with his descriptions, but when you’re telling the story of a famous historical figure, you’re bound to come off as either rosy or jaded.

If you’re an American history enthusiast, it sounds like you’d enjoy Chernow’s works.  He’s a good storyteller, and takes great care to illustrate his subjects as the full, multi-layered individuals they were.


2 Responses to “Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Ron Chernow”


  1. 30 before 30 « beezuskiddo - October 13, 2011

    […] Go to one of the speeches in the Pittsburgh Speakers Series. (Preferably Azar Nafisi, I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran). (Accomplished October 12, 2011). […]

  2. Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Tom Brokaw « BeezusKiddo - April 27, 2012

    […] tickets.  My second favorites were Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson, and tying for third were Ron Chernow and Michael Pollan. (Brokaw lagged far behind in fourth place, and I unfortunately was not able to […]

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