By Paul Burkholder
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2012, All Rights Reserved
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in May 2012. It was the final President’s Message of Paul Burkholder’s Presidency.
Our May meeting ends my term as president of the Roundtable.
I suspect I was like many future Roundtable presidents when, four years ago, Jon Thompson and Mel Maurer approached me about serving as treasurer/vice president/president. I really wanted nothing to do with it and immediately started scheming on polite ways to say “no,” such as: “I’m too busy!” “Public speaking makes me violently ill!” “I’m too involved at church!” “I gave at the office!” “The dog ate my homework!”
Jon and Mel, of course, would have none of it. They played the classic good cop, bad cop routine on me. Mel would sidle up to me at meetings and say something like, “Hey, Paul, have you given any more thought to this presidency thing? I’m only asking again because Jon’s been pressing me about it and, honestly, I don’t think I can control him much longer. He just gets so crazy, I mean, you know how he is. I just wouldn’t want anything bad to happen, you know, because I like you a lot.” I would look over Mel’s shoulder and see Jon glaring at me from across the room with a faint, threatening smile on his face. (OK, I might be making large parts of this up.)
As persuasive as that all was, it was actually Dick Crews who got me over the hump. Dick also approached me during this time and just said, “Hey, I hear you’re considering jumping on the presidential track. You gotta do this. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have. The year I served as president was my best year in the Roundtable!”
I have to tell you that Dick was spot on with his comments. I have had a blast serving as Roundtable president. Just as Dick suggested, it has been my best year in the Roundtable. Yes, it involved some work, but far less than I anticipated. And the amount of help I was both offered and received was far, far more than I anticipated. I was the beneficiary of the experience and insight of many people; Dan Zeiser and Dave Carrino, in particular, were continual sources of guidance, brawn, ideas, and inspiration. To everyone who showed me how it’s done, I say thank you.
I’d also like to thank Chris Fortunato, Mel Maurer, and William Vodrey once again for creating and performing “The Last Lincoln-Douglas Debate” at our March meeting. I saw up close the substantial commitment of time and effort required to research, write, and produce such a play. The results, however, justified the effort; their “debate” was terrific.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you, the members of the Roundtable, first, for allowing me to serve in this role and, second, for making the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable what it is. It is both a pleasure and privilege to meet with such a smart, friendly, well-read group each month and share our common interest in history, books, and politics. It’s just good fun and I love it.
For our final meeting of the year, we welcome the great Ed Bearss, without question the most famous, highly regarded living Civil War historian. His appearance at our May meeting, by the way, provides a good example of the kind of help a Roundtable president receives. Here’s the story: I’m on Lisa Kempfer’s 2010 field trip, standing outside the Museum of the Shenandoah in Winchester, Virginia, and the aforementioned Dick Crews asks me, “So, what speakers have you lined up for next year?” I run through my not yet complete program schedule and express to Dick that I’m hoping to still add at least one big name speaker – “You know, someone like Ken Burns or Doris Kearns Goodwin or James McPherson or Ed Bearss,” I say. Dick immediately responds, “You want Ed Bearss? I can get you Ed Bearss. He’s a friend of mine!” To make a long story short, I take Dick up on his offer and as a result, we all get to enjoy Ed Bearss at our May meeting. And what did landing Ed Bearss cost me in time and effort? Nothing! Dick did all the work!
Like they say, it takes a village.