Before his biographies Truman and John Adams won the Pulitzer Prize, David McCullough strived to write clearly and well on historical topics such as the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the construction of the Panama Canal. Whether the histories were focused on founders, presidents, bankers, engineers, or laborers on these undertakings, his goal was that his readers would feel the uncertainties and possibilities of the people who were there.
"What I'm trying to do is show readers--especially young readers--that things didn't have to turn out as well as they did. I want them to know that life felt every bit as uncertain to the people back then as it does to us today. there were these moments when they had to be thinking, 'there is no way we can get this bridge built, or get this canal dug.'
But things worked out--because individuals behaved in certain ways, with integrity and resilience. They figured out how to work with other people, and they tried to do the right thing. And my hope is that these stories will inspire some readers to behave the same way in the face of uncertainty in their lives.
I hope there are always going to be historians, looking back for people like Harry Truman, like John Adams--honest and brave people who took stands that might have been unpopular. They had more than courage--they had the courage of their convictions. They will be the ones worth writing about. "