A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday's List: Dinner with Dead Folks

One of those classic "what if" sort of questions is, "Who would you most like to have dinner with if you could pick any historical figure?" Good question. So, just you and a dead guy, or girl, who would you pick? Please note, dead person-- you can't have God over to dinner, nor Satan, at least not for the purposes of this list. You can have Jesus or Mohommed over for chicken wings as they are historical figures, even if you don't believe they are divine figures.

Right. Tough. Very tough-- I could easily list 100, but in keeping with tradition, here our my top-25 dead folks I'd like to have dinner with:

25) Jim Thorpe. Arguably the greatest athlete ever. What would he make of professional sports and the progress and trials of Native Americans?
24) Thomas Edison. Genius fascinates those of us who lack it (Edison isn't the only genius on this list), and it would be incredible to pick this guys brain. Also to see what he thinks about what his inventions have lead to.
23) John F. Kennedy. What he think of the Democratic party of 2005? How would he justify the affairs, and what would his impressions of the near cultlike status he's achieved in some circles?
22) Crazy Horse. The last great Native American warrior. What would he make of Indian casinos, the Marquette Golden Eagles, and the plague of alcoholism and gang violence that is afflicting much of the Native American population in America today? Oh, and let's not forget about that monument that's due to be finished in about 2218.
21) Karl Marx. A bit risky-- dude could be boring as cold porridge. But I'd really like to ask him if he still thinks he's right even in the face of so much evidence that he was wrong. And the cult thing, I wonder what he would think of that?
20) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. That whole genius, creative mind thing. Plus, I need to know if he really laughs like Tom Hulce in the movie.
19) Winston Churchill. His steadfastness, keen intellect, and way with words would serve our world well a this particular junction in history. I would love to talk politics, war, good and evil, and so many other things with this guy.
18) Mother Theresa. To look into the eyes of someone like Hitler would be to see evil, I think. To look into the eyes of Mother Theresa must be to see good, I would also say. Man, the stories she could tell.
17) Julius Caesar. Da Man. I have to imagine he is about as charismatic as anyone in history.
16) Benjamin Franklin. Such a character. From the standpoint of a sheer dinner conversationalist, Franklin may be the best on this list. And I'd love to see his reaction to how the 21st century makes use of electricity.
15) John and Abigail Adams. A bit of a cheat putting a couple together as one entry, but hey, it's my blog, my list. These two were the ultimate power couple before there was any such thing. And John is underrated amongst the Founding Fathers, imo.
14) Albert Einstein. What would he make of Chaos theory? Computers? Where would that remarkable brain take you over a nice leg of lamb?
13) Mahatma Ghandi. Set the standard for non-violent protest, something which has fallen out of favor and influence of late. What we he make of that and the escalating trend to extremely violent protest? How would he view his beloved India and his influence on its development?
12) Willaim Shakespeare. What do you suppose would be his reaction to knowing that his plays are still being performed nearly 400 years after his death?
11) Martin Luther King, Jr. Would he consider the progress made in the past 40 significant? What would he think of Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, and folks like Senator Byrd?
10) Marie Curie. Would she trade her discovers with radioactive materials in if she had known of the dangers ahead of time? It would also be interesting to get her thoughts on the progress in science, the progress of women in science, and affirmative action programs.
9) Mohammed. The definitive answer of whether the Wahhabists or the moderate muslims have it right, wouldn't you say? Curious to know his thoughts on the turmoil in the Middle-East for the last several thousand years.
8) Abraham Lincoln. What would he make of the state of Union 140 years after he helped save it? And there's all kinds of interesting family questions as well.
7) Harriet Tubman. What a fascinating and courageous figure. And the Civil War is right up there with my Colonial times fascination.
6) Cleopatra. Women are often much better conversationalists than men-- and don't you think she'd have some fascinating stories to tell? It would be interesting to see if she is as beautiful as history portrays her as well.
5) George Washington. Father of my country, brilliant strategist, magnanimous figure. And there's always that cherry tree to ask about.
4) Adolph Hitler. What was it about this fairly unremarable man that made him the most notorious figure of all time? It would be a creepy dinner conversation, but a fascinating one, I think. Would you truly be looking into the eyes of evil if you talked with this guy?
3) Thomas Jefferson. I have a fascination for the remarkable men who were America's Founding Fathers, and of that group, Jefferson is probably the most enigmatic. Railed against slavery, owned slaves. Preached the politics of unity, and through surrogates often viciously maligned his political opponents. A deep, deep thinker, I wonder what he'd make of the Republic he helped found 225+ years down the road?
2) Leonardo da Vinci. Possibly the most creative mind ever. There's always the chance that he's a lousy conversationalist, but wouldn't you like to see his reaction to all the stuff we have? Oh, and the code-- if there really was one.
1) Jesus Christ. Anyone that can inspire a religion with billions of believers and is the incarnate son of God seems worth talking with. And I would love to know what he thinks of all the different ways his teachings have been used and interpreted over the last 2000 years.

I don't think there are any grievous oversites in there, but I'm probably wrong. Other folks I considered for the list (in no particular order): Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Ghengis Khan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Florence Nightengale, Jack the Ripper, Charles Darwin, Oskar Schindler, Sigmund Freud, Isaac Newton, Marco Polo, Susan B. Anthony, Nostradamus, Malcolm X, Paul Revere, George Washington Carver, Christopher Columbus and Georeg Patton.
And it would not be hard to add dozens more to the list. But, there it is, for your viewing pleasure.


Nick, I love your list. Obviously, we will all have our own preferences, but I really like a lot of your choices. Put Winston Churchill very high on my list. On the other side, I don't wish to talk to Hitler. Put St. Bernard of Clairvaux on my list. He was a dude of the 12th century -- any problem that the pope had, he eventually asked Bernard to fix it. I would also put the late John Paul II on the list. Charlemagne and Charles Martel. William the Conqueror. Did you have Michaelangelo? JRR Tolkien. Also, everyone of my ancestors, but especially my maternal Grandpa, who fought in WWI for the Germans.

P.S. -- I'd ask Marx what he thinks of the UW English Dept, seeing as how they love him so much.
Since I've obvously got a keen interest in science, there's a number of scientists I'd like to talk to. Anyway, here's twenty contributions of my own, though I'd definitely include a lot of yours on my "top" list (though not all):

Richard Feynman
King Arthur (assuming he existed)
Rene Descartes
Magellan and/or Cook
Robert E. Lee
Tokugawa Ieyasu
Aldous Huxley
Meriwether Lewis or William Clark
William Wallace
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Galileo Galilei
Rush Limbaugh.
Yeah, I know, Rush is not dead. But he is the only one I could think of. My mind goes blank when I'm asked such a question. But even if he were dead, I'd still choose him.
I like Napolean and Robert E. Lee. Michaelangelo, Confuscius, and Tolkien as well. Actually I'd be interested in nearly everyone Greg and Corribus mention. Told you this was tough.

Rush? Not in my top 100, I think. He'd be interesting to talk to, but he's too recent and if I want to hear Rush talk, I can do that for several hours each day.
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