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Dr. Luke A. Nichter

By Author, Education, Politics One Comment

This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, join us as we delve into the tumultuous year of 1968, a pivotal moment in American and global history, with our special guest, an esteemed historian and professor, Dr. Luke A. Nichter. He is a New York Times bestselling author or editor of eight books, including, most recently, “The Year That Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968,” which was chosen as the Best Book of 2023 by the Wall Street Journal. As an expert on presidential history, Dr Luke brings a wealth of knowledge about the seismic shifts that occurred during this era. He also mentioned that there is talk about using AI for transcribing historical recordings which could revolutionize our understanding of past presidencies by providing deeper insights than ever before possible.

This is such an enlightening episode filled with insights into one of America’s most dynamic years while emphasizing the importance of preserving our country’s rich history for future generations. Tune in now!

This episode is sponsored by:

(Be sure to use code “Gary20” to get 20% off your order!)

In this Episode:

  • Hear about the revolutionary nature of 1968, both domestically and internationally.
  • Discover how media coverage brought the Vietnam War and political unrest into living rooms across America.
  • Comparisons between past conflicts like Vietnam and more recent ones such as Iraq.
  • Explore Lyndon B. Johnson’s complex legacy as president during these transformative times.
  • Hear insightful conversations about whether John F. Kennedy would have escalated or withdrawn from Vietnam had he not been assassinated. 
  • Discover why the treatment of vice presidents has been scrutinized throughout history.
  • Listen to Dr. Luke as he shares personal stories and anecdotes while teaching history to college students.
  • Discover the role technology could play in transcribing historical presidential tapes for greater public access.

Quotations:

“Americans, we often put ourselves, we think we’re the middle of the world and there’s nothing else going on that’s nearly as important.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“Young people especially will surprise you by what they know, but also what they don’t know. And sometimes they know things very differently than you and I would.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“I think just kind of by definition, to reach the office of the presidency, you’ve got to be an interesting person.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“When I see a new political book, you know, on a shelf and I reach for it, you know, there’s that little voice in my head that usually says, well, what’s the author’s take? Do they have an agenda? Do they have a favorite?” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“I think we’ve lost so much historical empathy about history because we’re such in a rush to judge historical figures by our own standards that we’ve lost a connection with history and really what history is.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“These things in politics, while presented nobly, you know, are often driven by partisan concerns.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“Historians, we’re not supposed to care about counterfactuals, you know, or concern ourselves at all with what ifs.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“Often in history, you have two sides and I tend to come down somewhere in the middle.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“Early on in the Republic, the best path to becoming president was to be secretary of state, perhaps. And then there’s a phase where maybe becoming a senator is the way to become the president. You know, there’s a joke made that in the Senate, we have a hundred would-be presidents at all times. And then there’s a period that it’s the governor of a state, especially a large industrial, important state with a big population.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“Presidents have always desired to bypass the media, whether it’s print, whether it’s radio. whether it’s television and speak directly to the American people.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“I think there’s always been a degree of nepotism as long as there’s been politics. The two have always gone back together.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“On each side of the political aisle, you have about 20% that are activists that you gotta watch out for. And so you do get a student either on the right or the left occasionally who’s there to make a point.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“The bigger concern, I would say, now. is that students are afraid to actually say what they think in classrooms. Not because of me. They’re not worried about being judged by me. They’re worried about being judged by their peers.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“College should really be free for all of ideas. You should be going down the intellectual rabbit hole and learning about yourself and situating yourself in the world that you live in.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“I really try to be transparent with my reader. I mean, I really try to separate facts.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“One of the things I do as a historian is, if you’re gonna write about history, you better make friends with archivists.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“My goal is to drive the creation of new knowledge.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

“The more that I learn about history, the more I realize I have to learn about history.” ~ Luke A. Nichter

Bio:

Dr. Luke A. Nichter is a Professor of History and James H. Cavanaugh Endowed Chair in Presidential Studies at Chapman University. His area of specialty is the Cold War, the modern presidency, and U.S. political and diplomatic history, with a focus on the “long 1960s” from John F. Kennedy through Watergate. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan’s Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute, and a Hansard Research Scholar at the London School of Economics.

He is a New York Times bestselling author or editor of eight books, including, most recently, The Year That Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968 (Yale University Press). It is the first rigorously researched historical account of the most controversial election in modern U.S. history to have cooperation from all four major sides – Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace. Luke interviewed approximately 85 family members and former staffers, in addition to extensive archival research and access to new evidence that dramatically changes our understanding of the election. This work was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

Luke’s last book was The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the Making of the Cold War (Yale University Press). It was the first full biography of Lodge – whose public career spanned from the 1930s to the 1970s – based on extensive multilingual archival research. This work was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Grant. He is also the author of Richard Nixon and Europe: The Reshaping of the Postwar Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press), which was based on multilingual archival research in six countries, and is now at work on a book tentatively titled LBJ: The White House Years of Lyndon Johnson.

Luke earned his Ph.D. in History from Bowling Green State University, and lives in Orange, California and Bowling Green, Ohio.

Guest Contact Info:

Website: http://lukenichter.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/luke-a-nichter-1190877/

Johnny Sirpilla

By Author, Faith, Grief, Leadership, Mental Health, Personal Growth No Comments

This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, our host Gary Scott Thomas welcomes our special guest, Johnny Sirpilla, an entrepreneur, founder and chief encourager of Encourage LLC, and the best-selling author of Life Is Hard but I’ll Be OK. Johnny opens up about how he inherited not only a successful RV business from his father but also an ethos of hard work and integrity. He discusses how these values have shaped him into who he is today—driven, and perfectionistic, yet always striving to honor his family name. We also delve into the respective childhoods and parental expectations, highlighting both differences in upbringing and common threads such as love, support, and setting standards. This episode is filled with insights on personal growth and dedication towards family values. Tune in now!

This episode is sponsored by:

(Be sure to tell them Gary sent you so you can save 20%!)

In this Episode:

  • Gary and Johnny share amusing anecdotes about their distinctive hairstyles during their younger years. 
  • Discover Johnny’s impressively long bio and wealth of experiences.
  • Discussions on full-blooded Italian traits lead to light-hearted banter about food preferences between Italy vs America.
  • Insights into how family expectations shaped and influenced Johnny’s decision to continue his father’s legacy while creating new avenues within the RV industry.
  • Hear about reflections on parental expectations, love, and support while also setting standards around honor, integrity, and a hard work ethic without spoiling children materially.
  • As a board member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Johnny shares his passion for football and his favorite player.

Quotations:

“The simplicity is what makes it so amazing.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“I kind of wanted to make my imprint in the industry the way that my dad did in the fifties as a pioneer dealer.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“(RV) It’s taking the comforts of home with you on the road, right? Why sleep in a hotel bed and a stranger’s bed that other people have been in when you can have your own? So it’s a great way to see the country for sure. And great family time.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“I was driven at 15 and had some pretty high expectations of what I could achieve. So I always put a lot of pressure on myself, too much.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“What was awesome about my parents is there is no boundaries to the love that they would give and the support.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“I can truly say that I never felt spoiled by my parents because while there might be nice things, the expectation of how we acted in our character in representing our family name. you know, you had to be, you know, at your best.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“They wanted me to have and I bet your mom was the same way. They wanted me to have the life experiences that they didn’t.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“I bet our parents were similar in terms of, you know, where they came from and then maybe hopes and dreams bigger for us. Maybe my parents, because they’re full-blooded Italian each that they just talk so damn much that they verbalized it more.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“It’s been an amazing experience to volunteer for the great sport of football and the Hall is such a place of excellence that, you know, any service that I can give to honor the heroes of the game.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“I wrote the book to really help people when life is hard because I do believe that life is hard. Even if you have a good life, there’s plenty of things that go wrong in a good life and life is hard.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“There’s gotta be some blessings and graces that come out of this experience that makes me a better man, a better husband, a better business leader, and hopefully someday a better father.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“Practicing gratitude could make a great day really bright and sunny.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“We were able to experience something that God gave us this gift of parenting. even though it was short, it doesn’t mean it was insignificant. It was incredibly significant. And so their lives were incredibly significant.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“I can reframe anything that happens in my life with my anxiety. I can reframe it to something that’s really a gift and a blessing.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“The gift of being a father, you know, it’s the greatest gift of my life.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“The empathy and the mindfulness that I had for situations, that’s actually one of the beauties and maybe superpowers of anxiety. Anxiety makes you extremely mindful and extremely intentional because my mind has to work and think.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

“It becomes a really mindful way of living that produces a lot of joy.” ~ Johnny Sirpilla

Bio:

John A. Sirpilla is a 1988 graduate of Miami University with a degree in Accounting and a special interest in Psychology and Finance, a 2000 graduate of the University of Phoenix with a master’s degree in Organizational Management, and holds a certification in Executive Presence and Influence: Persuasive Leadership Development from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.

In 1992, Johnny became President of Sirpilla R.V. Center, Inc. Within a few years, he was recognized out of more than 3,000 dealers as the National RV Dealer of the Year for the best overall-run dealership in the country. In 2003, Johnny was one of the initial acquisitions by Camping World and sold his family business to become part of the executive team to attempt the first RV dealership roll-up plan in the industry’s history.

Johnny served as President of Camping World, a 140-store nationwide retail chain serving the RV industry, and was promoted in 2012 to Chief Business Development Officer for the parent company, Camping World and Good Sam with annual sales of nearly $4 billion. Johnny retired from Camping World in 2017 after a successful IPO.

His company, Encourage LLC, has various holdings in industries including leadership development, population health management, employee benefits, medical device innovation, e-commerce roll-up, executive leadership and consulting, fashion and interior design, and senior living communities, and has become an international best-selling author with his book, Life Is Hard but I’ll Be OK.

Johnny has been married to his college sweetheart, Susan, for over 30 years, and they reside in Canton, Ohio, and Naples, Florida.  They have three grown children, Beau, Bella, and Stone, who all reside in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

Guest Contact Info:

Website: https://johnnysirpilla.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnySirpilla/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnnysirpilla/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnny-sirpilla/

Mark Lundholm

By Author, Comedian, Fun, Mental Health, Personal Growth No Comments

This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, we sit down with the hilariously insightful and widely known recovery comedian, Mark Lundholm. Known for his unique blend of humor and mental health advocacy, Mark shares insights from his life’s journey—from dysfunctional beginnings to becoming one of just three people in the country who do what he does (and arguably doing it best). With anecdotes that range from humorous to profound, he reflects on personal growth through experiences and his unique perspective on life. Now, he’s sharing the tools he uses to captivate, entertain, and educate audiences around the world.

Whether you’re looking for laughs or life lessons—or ideally both—this episode promises plenty of each, courtesy of one of the most distinctive voices in stand-up today. Tune in now!

This episode is sponsored by:

(Use code “Gary” to get $89 off any Mike Counsil Plumbing and Rooter service!)

In this Episode:

  • Discover shared interests between Gary and Mark bond over their mutual love for cigars and a specific shop they unknowingly frequented together.
  •  Learn about Mark’s unique niche that combines humor with mental health advocacy. As one of only a few in his field, he shares insights on using comedy as a platform to educate and enlighten.
  • Reflect on how age brings experience over energy, particularly in comedy. With years spent touring different countries and all 50 states multiple times, hear about what longevity has taught him.
  • Explore Mark’s language fluency across audiences: From inmates to politicians, Mark prides himself on speaking ‘all languages’ due to performing for diverse groups.
  • Dive into personal stories from Mark and Gary that reveal their youthful misadventures and learning curves.
  • Discover how growing up in Oakland during turbulent times shaped much of his perspective on making mistakes—and learning from them collectively rather than individually.
  • Stories about playing golf—including an enlightening moment with an older golfer—Mark draws parallels between sportsmanship, business ethics, integrity, and personal improvement.

Quotations:

“If you’re young, you’ve got a ton of energy for something. When you get old, you’ve got a ton of experience for something.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“Golf and lovemaking are a metaphor for everything in life.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“You can’t hide for 18 holes. You finish 18 holes, you know whether you would ever play with that person again, do business with them, introduce them to your family, tell them anything intimate. So it’s a very, very good finding out.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“If I do really well, then I’ll put pressure on myself.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“I’m not afraid to fail and failure is really mental anyway.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“And so the road will tell you who you are, who you’re not, and who you are today.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“Comedy has a fine edge to it where you know too much you cut something; it’s like a scalpel too much you cut somebody deep just the right amount you cut just deep enough to get them to do their work.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“I am disappointed if I don’t do as well as I could have, would have, should have because this is what I do for a profession. So if I don’t do well, I know now. If I’m an eight on a 10 scale, I’m okay. Anything less than an eight on a 10, I feel like I should give some of the money back.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“Anger is a human emotion. Anger is one of the greatest tools I have because I’ve discovered that anger becomes a passion to change something.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“So dysfunctional can mean I wasn’t informed very well. Turns out misinformed sometimes leads to mistreatment.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“So the simple twist is trauma is a teacher or it’s a perpetrator. Sometimes a perpetrator starts out as a teacher.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“If what you don’t forgive, you will become.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“People are real insecure when it comes to you doing their job too. So what I learned from that is I could forgive them and say, well, okay, or I can become them and beat the crap out of the next person I work with.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“So know your place. And I don’t mean that in a demeaning way, but I know my place. I’m very happy with my little niche corner of the comedy market. Nobody does what I do better than me, but nobody else is me. I’m the only one of me that’s ever gonna be in this universe just like you. And people are listening. There’s never gonna be another you in this universe.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“Funny and smart, they were like two bullets in a gun that only had two chambers for bullets, you know, boom, and I’m done.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“High IQ equals more failure for some of us because I’m going to rely on my intelligence instead of my experience or my ears. Smart people don’t listen as, as well as we should.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“Trauma is a teacher, disappointment is a teacher, poor example is a teacher.” ~ Mark Lundholm

“When the truth shows up, the excuses disappear. When the truth shows up, the denial is lessened because if enough people are telling you something, it’s probably got a relative amount of truth to it.” ~ Mark Lundholm

Bio:

Mark Lundholm is a comedian, author, mentor, sponsor, father, and ex-husband. He has been performing stand-up comedy focused on the challenges, struggles, and experiences of those struggling with addiction for more than 30 years.

Soon after attaining sobriety, Mark began professionally entertaining others with his irreverent and spot-on humor about life, relationships, perceptions, and challenges as someone who grew up in a dysfunctional, traumatic home environment. Before long, his popular comedy performances created national and international demand, and Mark continued to grow his audience. As of 2019, Mark has performed in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries and has presented his stand-up comedy for Presidents and other heads of state, world-renowned musicians, and Fortune 500 companies, from audiences of less than a dozen to more than 20,000 people.

In addition to his work in stand-up comedy, Mark has written and performed his own one-man show off-Broadway, achieving critical acclaim from the New York Times and Chicago Sun Times among many others, and has also appeared on Comedy Central, A&E, CBS, and NBC.

From the beginning, Mark performed his stand-up comedy in jails and prisons, addiction treatment centers, homeless shelters, and recovery conferences, and this work helped to cultivate his capacity for working with individuals in early recovery. This work eventually evolved into day-long workshops at leading addiction treatment centers, where Mark works with groups in early recovery, ranging in size from a dozen up to more than a hundred clients in early recovery. Mark’s skill at reading and working with the audience has enabled him to help clients identify and hone in on challenges that prevent individuals from achieving their goals, and work to overcome those challenges to long-term recovery.

More recently, Mark continues to perform stand-up comedy at theaters, clubs, and special events worldwide, while also developing materials for professionals. These tools are designed to assist in using humor to enhance recovery and enable counselors and therapists to more effectively reach their clients and help them to attain and maintain long-term sobriety and recovery. Whether it is his clinical stand-up comedy products (“Humor in Treatment, the 90-minute clinical comedy series that has sold over 5,000 copies, or “Family in Treatment”, the six-hour video set of interventions, interactions, psychoeducation, and tools to help families and primary clients more effectively understand each other), his clinical products for professionals (“Recovery 101”, a comprehensive curriculum utilizing humor to address the common underlying issues contributing to addiction; “Recovery Bingo”, a clinical game that fosters understanding and openness; “Doing Good Group”, a video and written guide to more effective group facilitation strategies, injected with humor), or his practical psychoeducational tools (the forthcoming “Shortcuts”), Mark possess a rare gift for identifying challenging issues, helping others to see them and to learn effective strategies for improving their lives and achieving long-term sobriety and recovery.

Guest Contact Info:

Website: https://marklundholm.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marklundholm/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marklundholm/

X: https://twitter.com/marklundholm

Sean A Mirski

By Author, Politics No Comments

This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, our host Gary Scott Thomas had a fascinating conversation with Sean A Mirski, a lawyer, historian, U.S. foreign policy scholar, and author of the monumental book “We May Dominate the World: Ambition, Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus.” Sean shares how he spent eight years crafting his book while juggling a demanding law career. His book unpacks nearly 100 years of complex policy across the entire Western Hemisphere with gripping storytelling as we deeply dive into the pivotal moments that shaped our nation’s destiny.

So if you’re up for a historical exploration filled with drama, strategy, and lessons for our times, tune in now and be ready to geek out!

This episode is sponsored by:

(Be sure to use code “Gary20” to get 20% off your order!)

In this Episode:

  • Explore how Sean’s time at the University of Chicago shaped him and touch upon his role as a visiting scholar.
  • Sean shares insights into his writing process and rigorous research involving primary sources, from dusty archives to Library of Congress documents.
  • The discussion delves deep into understanding history through human stories rather than dry facts.
  • Sean reflects on the importance of presenting balanced perspectives that respect historical complexities instead of one-sided narratives.
  • Sean emphasizes meticulous documentation and how easy it is to distort history without proper context or verification.
  • Impactful historical events involve political figures like President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant, Secretary William H. Seward, President Theodore Roosevelt, Republican politician James G. Blaine, Major General Smedley Butler, and President James Monroe.

Quotations:

“There is kind of a rhythm to the story that helped me sort of keep it all in my head.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“There’s a secret thrill that I feel when I’m in the archives that I’m reading through these documents and sort of just the feeling of having one of these, you know, memoranda or messages in your hand and knowing sort of the historical weight that ended up, being attributed to it and the kind of consequences that it had. There’s just something fun about that for me that I really, I can’t, I guess, fully explain.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“There are a mix of both where there’s really kind of, I think, shades of gray and a lot of complexity because that’s just how we are as human beings, we’re messy.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“Human beings being the mortal creatures that we are, it just didn’t always pan out that way. There were always sort of indirect consequences. There were always things that sort of ended up backfiring or having perversions, you know, incentives that led to bad things happening.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“I think for every generation, it’s worth sort of revisiting the stories of the past because there’s always going to be things that you sort of discover and new insights you glean by virtue of the fact that you’re kind of looking at this history through a new lens that, you know, previous generations didn’t, didn’t have because they were just stuck in a different moment in time.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“It obviously leads to sort of sense of humility, I think, among historians to know that. There are always going to be other ways of telling the story.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“But one of the sort of lessons I at least took away from writing this book is that you’re never going to have a definitive answer to history, because even once you have all the documents in front of you, and even when you tell a story that’s entirely consistent with them, uh, there’s always going to be different ways of telling that story.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“And so I offer my book not in the spirit of this is right and no one can challenge it, but as this is one way to look at it that I hope is consistent with the historical materials, but there are other ways of looking at the same events and sort of coming to, you know, slightly different conclusions.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“One lesson I learned in sort of writing this and it certainly sort of affected the way I now read other history books is sort of never being a definitive yes or no, but always being more of a sort of here’s one version of the story that we can tell.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“That’s the main reason I wrote the book to sort of look at the example of the United States and say, well, Are there any lessons we can draw, right?” ~ Sean A Mirski

Bio:

Sean A. Mirski is a lawyer, historian, and U.S. foreign policy scholar who has worked on national security issues across multiple U.S. presidential administrations. A term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he currently practices national security, foreign relations, and appellate law at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, and is also a Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He previously served in the U.S. Department of Defense under both Republican and Democratic administrations as Special Counsel to the General Counsel, where he earned the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. He has written extensively on American history, international relations, law, and politics, including as author of We May Dominate the World: Ambition, Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus (Public Affairs 2023), and as editor of the book Crux of Asia: China, India, and the Emerging Global Order (CEIP 2013). Earlier in his career, he clerked for Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. on the U.S. Supreme Court and then-Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and served as a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30,” he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago.

Guest Contact Info:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-mirski-06779222/
“We May Dominate The World: Ambition, Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus” Book Link: Amazon