Earlier this month, my friend Brett Bodner came to me and asked if he could conduct an interview and write a feature on me for one of his journalism classes at Monmouth University (he is also their newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief). I laughed out loud, thinking, “Who on earth would find me so interesting that they would want to read a feature on me?” But then he said that the subject would be about my work with the Civil War, through teaching and blogging, and my mindset immediately changed. If it’s about the Civil War, I thought, something I could babble about from sun up to sundown, I don’t care if anyone reads it—I was going to give my two cents about everything, from the history and my general opinions, to my method of teaching and why it is so important to keep the past alive. Anyway, the two cents turned into a whole lot of cents, as we talked for nearly two hours. Most of what I said will probably end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, but that is the nature (and most difficult part) of having to transcribe such a long interview and then hack it down to fit a set number of pages and format. I had so much fun doing it, because as history buffs, we love getting asked questions.
When we were done, Brett asked if there was anyone I could refer to him, so he could ask them about me, as a secondary source. A couple of history teachers came to mind from my old high school, because that is where I did some early student-teaching in my freshman year of college, and then he asked if anyone from Gods and Generals (my experience with the movie coverage on this blog being a large chunk of his interview) could talk about me, and immediately, I thought of my good friend Patrick Gorman, who played Confederate General John Bell Hood in both that and Gettysburg. A kinder man you would never meet in the film-making industry—as I tell everyone who asks about what it is like to interview actors and the like—and the two of them made contact, and Brett conducted the interview. This morning, Patrick sent me the results which are posted below. I have to thank them both; Brett for choosing me as his subject, and Patrick for his super kind words. I never really like to read or hear good things people have to say about me, because as writers, or historians, or educators, we are always pushing ourselves to do better, no matter what. But I was truly flattered by the content below, and that is why I wanted to share it with you all today. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
BB: What are your thoughts on Greg’s Civil War knowledge and interest in the subject?
PG: With the scope of interests Greg displays on his blog and in conversation, I would imagine he has a comprehensive and above average background in the Civil War and the Revolution. I’m not a judge of his academic qualifications but what I am a good judge of is passion and enthusiasm, and he possesses a great deal. I think the major qualification for a teacher should be just that: passion and enthusiasm, and the ability to communicate not only ‘facts’, but his passion for the known and even imagined given circumstances he is studying and presenting to his students. Without that, no matter how much knowledge or expertise, he won’t inspire his students. If he can’t do that, well, he won’t be much of a teacher. That’s my opinion, of course, and only that, an opinion.
BB: What are your thoughts and feelings on Greg as an individual?
PG: I have only met Greg once and that was at the symposium concerning Gods and Generals at the recent Manassas event. He is definitely very personable, articulate and enthusiastic, but of course, I already knew that from our interview conducted on SKYPE. He made me feel comfortable and at ease and knew what he wanted to ask and what to say. He’s a charming guy.
BB: Do you read his blog and if so what do you like about his Civil War articles?
PG: For me, he always seems to have done his homework. He demonstrates his expertise by the quality of his questions. His observations and comments seem very much to be his own and, so far, I have detected no particular bias. But look, none of us are objective, no matter how much we may say we are or present ourselves as being. It just ain’t so. We’re allowed our opinions and our bias as long as we’re aware of them, too. Now, I don’t know if that is entirely the case with Greg but that’s how he strikes me. Honest and straight forward and he has a sense of humor which is indispensable in life and in any profession.
BB: How did you and Greg originally come into contact?
PG: Greg contacted me through Facebook originally, I think, or it may have been through an email connection. I actually don’t remember. But once again, his initial contact was proper, intelligent, direct and enthusiastic. How could I refuse, right? In my line of work, confidence wins. Producers, I believe, hire ‘confidence’, not actors. Greg inspired me with his confidence and I responded in kind.
BB: If you were still a student would like to have Greg as a teacher, and if so, why?
PG: I am still a student and no matter what age, you’d better be, too ‘cause things have a way of changing continually. I hate to repeat myself but passion and the ability to inspire others is a crucial attribute for a teacher – and for an artist. I don’t think his students will be bored and they might even get the bug to learn more just by taking one of Greg’s classes. That’s my suspicion anyway. As long as he remains open, flexible and passionate, he’ll go far. That’s one man’s opinion, in any case.