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David McCullough

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

Thornton Wilder was asked how he got the ideas for his books, and he said -- or his plays -- and he said, "I imagine a story that I would like to read, or see done on the stage. And if nobody has written that book or that play, I write it so that I can read it or I can see it on the stage." Well, I wanted to be able to read a really first-rate book about the incredible story behind the disaster at Johnstown in 1889, and I found there was no such book. But having read that interview I thought, "Well maybe you could write the book that you would like to read." And I am convinced that the only way we ever really learn anything is by doing it.
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David McCullough

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

I love to read mysteries. I love Dickens -- who doesn't love Dickens? -- either on stage or movies, but more in the printed page. And, I love the theater. I saw Frank Fay in Harvey when the road company came to Pittsburgh. I saw Brando in Streetcar. I saw plays like Inherit the Wind, and I thought, "Look at the possibilities in history as drama!"
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Audra McDonald

Six Tony Awards

It's so interesting. In the performing arts you have to have thick, thick, thick skin, because of all the rejection you face on a daily basis, and the fact that work never lasts for very long. But you need thin, thin, thin skin in order to access all of your emotions and your creativity so that you can express it. You can't be dead inside. Otherwise you've got nothing to give. So it's a paradox, that we have to exist in both planes in order to do what we do. So there's, I guess, a certain sort of personality that's drawn to it. As a result, I think they're more open in the world too, because I think it's just being that, the personality that is drawn to the type of work that performing artists do. But I do think that they tend to be a little more open-minded, because they have to be. Maybe another reason is a lot of times they've got to walk in a lot of different shoes. I've had to play characters who I absolutely disagree with, as far as their politics, as far as their religion, and their stance on certain social issues, I completely disagree with them. But I have to go in and find who they are and get to their core, into their truth, and have absolute faith and believe in that, in order to portray it. So you have to walk in a lot of different shoes, in that you can't help but have your mind open as a result of that.
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William McRaven

The Art of Warfare

I had to do the planning for the mission. And I looked at being creative in a number of different fashions, and I won't go into detail on those, but suffice to say I looked at a lot of ways to get to the target. But at the end of the day, I looked at the point of vulnerability, and I realized that if we did, if we attempted to do some of those other approaches, we were potentially going to be vulnerable hours out. Now we may not have been, but the potential for the Pakistanis to identify us hours away from the target was there. With the helicopters, I knew we could get in and we would probably only be vulnerable about two minutes out, and I felt that was good enough. So I absolutely looked at the point of vulnerability, relative superiority, keeping the plan simple. I mean, we kept the plan as simple as we could. Get onto some helicopters, go to the target, take care of the objective, get back on the helicopters and come back home. Now we came back short of one helicopter, but we had a backup plan for that. So it absolutely followed the model, and I made sure that I went back and looked at my own research.
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William McRaven

The Art of Warfare

When we look at a problem, the reason people call special operations forces in is because they looked at it initially as a conventional problem and they said, "Well, you know what, an infantry battalion can't go do this, or an air strike can't go do this." So they have eliminated a conventional approach and now they have come to us. So then it really becomes, "Okay. What is the creative solution to this problem, and how can I apply what skill set we have differently than the infantry battalion or the air strike?" So you absolutely have to be creative, but I think you have to be creative within a framework. If you try to be too creative, the laws of war --the frictions of war -- will bring you down just like they will in an infantry battalion. So again, you have to understand where your talents are, where your expertise is, and within that framework be as creative as you can possibly be. So for example, when I did the theory and the thesis, the Germans for example used gliders to get into Eben-Emael. They used gliders because they were quiet and they knew that the Belgians wouldn't hear them coming. They could put a lot of men in gliders and get on the target quickly.
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