Taylor Branch on King, LBJ, Obama, and College Sports

Taylor Branch is known to the world as author of the monumental "America in the King Years" trilogy. He's additionally known to Atlantic readers for his definitive cover story "The Shame of College Sports" in late 2011. He is additionally known to me as my immediate predecessor as a writer and editor at The Washington Monthly in the early 1970s. I was just out of graduate school and looking for a job, and he was leaving the job and headed to Texas to work with a young aspiring politico from Arkansas [yes, Yale law student Bill Clinton] on the McGovern campaign there.

This afternoon I had an opportunity to interview Taylor Branch at the Aspen Institute's offices in Washington on his new book The King Years, as part of Aspen's Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series. This was about as interesting an hour-plus as I can remember spending. The video of the session is below. When you have some time to listen to Taylor's full account, I think you will be glad to have done so. If you want to feel both better and worse, contrast the way you hear Taylor discuss the currents and contradictions in America's politics with the way you usually hear them presented by practitioners and analysts today. Better, because of the context he adds; worse, because of what is normally left out.

If you can hear only a little bit of this, listen to the first 10-minute discussion, in which Taylor Branch explains why he thinks we should be kicking off a series of week-by-week observations of the 50th anniversary of fateful moments of 1963. Here is the YouTube link as well.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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