Callista Discusses Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride on the Steve Gill Radio Show
The Steve Gill Show
October 9, 2012
Gill: Callista Gingrich is with us. She has a new children’s book, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride. Ellis the Elephant is back, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the jungle. Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is out with another destined to be New York Times Bestseller children’s book. Written and illustrated by Callista Gingrich and Susan Arciero. Ellis is again as educating and entertaining as he discovers the thirteen colonies. Callista, good to have you with us.
Gingrich: Thanks, Steve. Thanks for having me.
Gill: Normally we catch up on buses during political season, so it’s good to have you in a more a stable environment. The first book did great and not surprisingly, it was time for a sequel.
Gingrich: Absolutely. In my first book, Sweet Land of Liberty, Ellis the Elephant discovers the pivotal moments of our nation’s history to understand the greatness of our nation. In Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, Ellis discovers how we began as a country as he learns about Colonial America. It is so important to focus on Colonial America because it is a major and often unknown part of our history. Our children really need to understand how our nation began and how our characteristics and traits as Americans were shaped during the Colonial period.
Gill: Part of it was a deep reliance on faith. We have this new Pew Research Center survey that shows the “Godless” level in America, not identifying with any religion, is rising dramatically and one of the things when we talk about the faith of our fathers, the faith of our founders, they instilled in us a culture of character that was based on faith and freedom.
Gingrich: That’s right. Unfortunately today so many of our children are failing to learn our history, which includes learning about our founding values and principles, such as religious liberty. Instead they’re learning revisionist and politically correct history. A recent survey just showed that a majority of fourth graders couldn’t identify Jamestown as our first English settlement. Most fourth graders didn’t know why the pilgrims left England. In that same study it was found that fewer than a third of all 8th graders knew why the colonists fought England during the Revolutionary War. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. It is really important that we help our kids learn what it means to be American.
Gill: And sadly they grow up to be adults and voters who are equally ill-informed, uninformed. You mentioned some of the other examples, but if they hear about Benjamin Franklin they think it’s all about the Benjamins, they think it is about the $100 bill. Not the guy.
Gingrich: That’s right. Our colonists were good role models, people like Benjamin Franklin. They embodied many of the traits and values we like in our leaders and presidents like, hard-work, integrity, perseverance, resourcefulness. Traits that really enabled our first settlers to not only survive but thrive and build our new nation.
Gill: You and Newt among many other characteristics, share an absolute love of history. And yet history, the way it is often taught in our schools, is just a boring recollection of dates and times and places that don’t seem to connect to us or our kids in school. And it kind of leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths about history. Obviously for these 4- 8 year old children you’re targeting in Sweet Land of Liberty and the new book, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, you’re making history fun. How do we do that for those teenagers for those young adults and adults to make history personalized and interesting.
Gingrich: That’s right we need to catch their interest early. That’s why books like this our so important. We developed Ellis the Elephant because we knew we needed a unique character to capture the interest and attention of young people. To get them interested. I considered many types of animals including bunnies, hippos, and giraffes, but in the end I couldn’t resist this adorable little elephant. Politics not withstanding.
Gill: You didn’t pick a donkey, I understand. But elephants never forget – makes sense there too.
Gingrich: That’s right, but this book is really about patriotism and our nation’s humble beginnings. It’s not meant to be a Republican book or a Democrat book but a pro-American book. I really hope many American families will see this as a celebration of our patriotic values and our nation.
Gill: People talk about the divisive nature and how divided America is in some way, and yet as you recount with Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, our colonies were very unique. Massachusetts, Virginia, South Carolina, very unique characteristics, very unique personalities, and yet they were able to blend together and come together because of something bigger and more important than each of them.
Gingrich: Absolutely. There are so many remarkable stories in each of our colonies. In New Hampshire there was a rule that each village of 15 or more people had to have its own school, placing a very high priority on education. In Rhode Island we learn about Roger Williams and his quest to make freedom of a religion a basic human right. In Georgia we learn about the fallen and underprivileged who were given a second chance by working their way out of debt instead of going to prison. So these rich stories really need to be shared with our children.
Gill: When you look at the success of the first book, what are you expecting with Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride? Is a third one already in the making? You have to do things in trilogies!
Gingrich: Yes, we are looking forward to a third book. Ellis would like to learn more about the American Revolution, so that is our plan. I would hope that Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride will do as well as Sweet Land of Liberty. We love Ellis the Elephant and we love sharing American history with our children.
Gill: Are you doing a book tour? Or are you pretty much doing the radio and interview process?
Gingrich: We are doing both. Tonight we’re going to be in Las Vegas, NV at Barnes & Noble. Both Newt and I will be there.
Gill: Yes, you have to hit some of the battleground states there. Do you miss being on the campaign trail? I know you don’t miss some aspects of it – like attack ads – but do you miss getting out there? I guess you’re still doing that with the book, but do you miss to kind of be with Newt kind of shaping public policy – even on the campaign trail?
Gingrich: It was exhilarating We were blessed to be part of this process. We learned the American people are good people, generous people, whether or not they agree with you. And people are still optimistic about the future.
Gill: People get to know, they don’t get to know you well, but beyond the caricature of the media snippets. I’ve been fortunate to know Newt a long time and get to know him and get to know you as well. And who you, and Mitt Romney, and Ann Romney, and Newt are really doesn’t come through based on what you get to see on the news.
Gingrich: Yes, you really need to visit with people and meet them to get to know them. But it was a lot of fun on the campaign trail. All the candidates and spouses do get to know one another and we all know what we are doing is in the best interest of our country.
Gill: I think Mitt was channeling his inner Newt in the debate last Wednesday. I saw a lot of flashes of Newt in that debate.
Gingrich: Yes. He was strong. He had an outstanding performance. He was prepared, energetic and articulate. He demonstrated he had a lot of good ideas.
Gill: I know you’re loving doing the children’s book, but as we point out those tweens, they’re past the 4 – 8 group you’re targeting. Is there a way to reach out to the mid-age young range? Have you all had that discussion?
Gingrich: We have talked about groups of folks who target that group, so that may be something we might look at in the future.
Gill: Yes, if nothing else lay out the historical foundation they need to know. Johnny Traimane was a book I gravitated to in sixth grade. A great book to embrace the love of history.
Gingrich: I hope these stories help our kids feel proud of our country and the sacrifice and courage it took to build our great nation.
Gill: Again it’s about the personalities, the folks they aren’t being taught, like James Madison. James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Pochahantos and other personalities in your book. I bet if we went on the street and asked adults the same questions they wouldn’t do much better than the kids.
Gingrich: That’s right. In part our schools are failing our kids. So we have the responsibility to make sure our kids know what it means to be American.
Gill: Great. Another great addition. The illustrations are amazing as well. Ellis looks like he’d be fun to hang with. Great book, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride. If you have a kid 4-8 go buy a copy or maybe donate a copy to the local school or library so that we can educate a lot of young kids about the greatness of America because they’re not getting it in school. Thanks, Callista. Great to talk to you.
Gingrich: Thanks, Steve.