Salena Zito

The historian, who painted vivid portraits of John Adams, Harry Truman and Teddy Roosevelt, grew up 80 miles from here in Pittsburgh. His first book, “The Johnstown Flood,” chronicled the disaster that spilled 20 million tons of water into an industrial town just 30 miles down the road.

In each of his books, McCullough has told of people with a common thread. Battlefield heroes, statesmen, a young engineer working at a summer camp – they are always formidable in their work ethic and boundless drive to do the right thing.

“I think Americans … greatly dislike hypocrisy in any form,” he said, calling it “a sustaining belief.”

McCullough said a constant reminder of America’s spirit is evident in his newest book, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris,” in which he tells of daring artists who went to the Old World to make their mark on our culture – something no Americans did before.

He credits his outlook to his Pittsburgh upbringing: “There was an attitude, I heard it all of the time, particularly from my mother and father. They would tell you, ‘Oh, he is a good worker,’ which meant you could forgive almost anything … .”

Men and women who lead, no matter what self-doubts they have, could learn much from that wisdom – as McCullough says, “that you did the job you were supposed to do and you did it well … and that almost nothing of consequence was accomplished alone.”

It is what most people here would say is unremarkable about their lives. To them, it is what you are supposed to be, the right thing to do.

The person running for president next year who understands and communicates those values will certainly get a second look on Main Street.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.