Larry Schweikart recently spoke at the Heritage Foundation about the newly released 10th anniversary edition of the book he co-authored with Michael Allen, “A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to America’s Age of Entitlement.”
“A Patriot’s History” had a rather unusual journey from publication to fame; becoming a No.1 New York Times bestseller six years after its publication.
Schweikart, a history professor at the University of Dayton, wrote the book in response to what he calls a lack of textbooks that “dealt accurately and fairly with American history.”
Many of the existing classroom materials, he said, display “antipathy towards free markets” and conduct “a love affair with big government.”
In his view, these books write off all that is good about America and condemn it as a nation founded by old, rich, white men.
“Do you want unsuccessful losers drafting your laws? I want the guys who know what they’re doing,” said Schweikart.
One of these books, “A People’s History of the United States,” by revisionist historian Howard Zinn, particularly irks Schweikart.
“Zinn has no sources. I tell students, ‘Go to the back and look at his sources.’ They say ‘Oh, he doesn’t have any.’ Exactly!” said Schweikart.
So, he decided to “wage a guerilla war against the textbook industry” by writing his own.
Despite being sent to a plethora of publishers, the book received two offers. He chose one and hoped for the best.
“I thought I was going to be selling the book out of the back of a van with Ho-Hos, good light bulbs and loose cigarettes,” said Schweikart.
The publisher insisted that its original title, “A Cup of Hope,” be scrapped, and the 1,700-page book be trimmed to less than 1,000, so the book could be sold for less than $25.
The book was modestly successful. Six years later, everything changed.
In 2010, Schweikart made an appearance on Glenn Beck’s program on Fox News.
A few days later, Schweikart received a call from Beck in which the host apologized for not reading the book beforehand and told Schweikart how much he enjoyed it.
When Schweikart tuned in to Beck’s next show, he was discussing “A Patriot’s History” at length, brandishing it in front of the camera complete with highlights and sticky notes, and asking that his viewers read it “like George Foreman selling a grill on an infomercial.”
The book suddenly skyrocketed up the bestseller lists.
Schweikart said his publisher would call him and say things like “We’re going to be on the New York Times bestseller list!” or “We’re going to be in the top 10 on the New York Times bestseller list!”
Schweikart always responded modestly, “Oh, that’s nice.”
Finally, he got a call that the book was No.1.
Schweikart laughed at the “popping corks” in the background and responded as he always did to his publisher’s call.
“Don’t you understand what this means?” his publisher cried incredulously. “It’s going to be in Walmart!”
“We’re going to be in Walmart? Praise Jesus!” exclaimed Schweikart.
Schweikart said he wrote the book for the average American rather than “academics” or “elites,” and that if the book was available at Walmart, he had succeeded.
The new edition of the book goes through 2013 and President Obama’s first term.
“[Jimmy Carter] finally has somebody worse than himself and Millard Fillmore.”
In the new edition, Schweikart also examined George Bush’s presidency and what his “biggest mistake” was (here’s a hint: He doesn’t think it wasn’t Iraq).
Schweikart also offered his take as to why America has been successful.
“Constitutions don’t enforce freedom, but the mindset of the people who enforce the Constitution,” said Schweikart.
Schweikart’s latest project is called Rockin’ the Wall, a documentary about rock music’s contribution to bringing down the Iron Curtain.