We have been telling and hearing and reading war stories for millennia. Their endurance may lie in their impossibility; they can never be complete, for the tensions and the contradictions within them will never be eliminated or resolved. That challenge is essential to their power and their attraction. War stories matter.
I never planned my career. I never planned to be president of Harvard. People would have thought I was crazy, probably, at the age of 8 or 10 or 20, if I had said that. So what I would say to people planning their careers is to be ready to improvise. Be ready to follow up on opportunities as they unfold.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the United States embarked on a new relationship with death, entering into a civil war that proved bloodier than any other conflict in American history, a war that would presage the slaughter of World War I's Western Front and the global carnage of the twentieth century.