I was not surprised to see historian
Not only is "The Wright Brothers" beautifully written in McCullough's familiar narrative style, it reminds Americans of what we once honored and promoted: vision, initiative, talent, genius, entrepreneurship, faith, even clean living.
The Wrights repeatedly tried to interest the U.S. government in their invention, but each time they were rejected. Several appeals to the
They found it necessary, prompting the French-born American civil engineer, Octave Chanute, to say about the board, "Those fellows are a bunch of a---s."
When it comes to government bureaucracy, little has changed.
The French were eager to believe men could fly, despite numerous failed tests by some of their own, which included some of the most bizarre contraptions ever built. These were more suitable for comic-book fiction than the reality of aerodynamics.
The French government paid for
Wilbur and Orville initially studied birds, observing how they flew, turned, soared and landed. These principles of aerodynamics were vital to their initial experiments and subsequent successes. More than anything else it was their persistence and belief in what others thought impossible that carried them through setbacks and financial challenges. Offered the possibility of a
The values exemplified by the Wright brothers, their preacher father and their sister, were once reflected in many levels of American culture. In schools, the McGuffey Readers reinforced those values in children. Ministers preached them from pulpits and the media mostly promoted them in their journalism and even films, with some notable exceptions.
If contemporary hostility to those values had been present in the early 20th century; if government taxation, regulation and envy of the successful had been the norm, then the Wright brothers' dream of flying might never have gotten off the ground.
On the book jacket of McCullough's biography, the publisher (
There you have the formula for improving any life. While not everyone is as gifted as these "magnificent men in their flying machines," and while no one can learn genius, all can learn about the fruits of determination, vision and persistence. Those values still work. Perhaps some of the presidential candidates might help us rediscover them.