When Robert McNamara co-authored Wilson’s Ghost, he intended the book as an apology—his “political last will and testament”—for misguided policies he had advanced in the Vietnam War. And when General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. led the fabled Tuskegee Airmen in the skies of Europe in World War II, he saw that as a second front in a war for dignity that black aviators were already fighting.

These are but two of the candid, deeply personal, revelations in this collection of conversations from dialogue, a weekly radio and television series of extensive interviews (each originally half an hour long) coming from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. dialogue is broadcast by about 150 U.S. radio stations, the MHz WORLDVIEW channel and MHz NETWORKS, National Public Radio Worldwide, and Armed Forces Radio Network, and the ichannel in Canada, for a weekly listenership/viewership in the hundreds of thousands if not millions in the U.S. and around the world.

Whether the guests are celebrities like Bill Bradley or Shelby Foote, or lesser-known scholars, poets, diplomats, officials, and authors, the conversations are uniformly gripping and thoughtful. Presented as “conversations about ideas,” the broad range of topics is emblematic of the scope of human endeavor in the arts, sciences, history and culture. The 24 interviews selected for The Art of Conversation are favorites from among the 900 broadcast over the past twenty years.

Guided by host George Liston Seay, the guests uniformly display “the joy of people who take each other seriously.” In solid, plainspoken fashion, they demonstrate that there is an art of conversation and that even in this fragmented video age, it still flourishes.




Part I: The United States and the World
1. Lee H. Hamilton, U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changing World
2. Robert S. McNamara, Wilson’s Ghost: The Moral Imperative to Learn from Our Mistakes
3. Roméo Dallaire, Advancing Humanity by Transforming Peacekeeping Operations
4. Alma Guillermoprieto, Latin America’s Rebels—Old and Young
5. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Human Rights in Egypt
6. Nayereh Tohidi, Lilia Labidi, and Haleh Esfandiari, Feminism in Islam
7. Joaquim Chissano, A Culture of Peace for Mozambique and Beyond
8. Jared Diamond, The Environment in Contemporary Crises
9. George Kennan, Improving Communication between the United States and Russia

Part II: American Leaders, Prophets, and Critics
10. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., A Tuskegee Airman on Service, Leadership, and Tenacity
11. Bill Bradley, Race in America: A Call for “Straight Talk” and Open Dialogue
12. Kathleen Dalton, Getting to the Interior of Theodore Roosevelt
13. Kristie Miller, The Enterprising Politics of Isabella Greenway
14. Godfrey Hodgson, American Conservatism and Its Many Faces
15. Joan Biskupic, An Insider’s View of the U.S. Supreme Court
16. James MacGregor Burns, From Transactional to Transformational Leadership
17. Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism—How Different Are We?

Part III: Thinkers, Poets, and Playwrights
18. Walter Reich, Understanding Evil: Psychological and Sociological Approaches
19. Edward P. Jones, Unlocking the Complexities of Slavery: The Known World
20. Shelby Foote, The Search for Authenticity: Writing the Civil War
21. Kathleen Norris, Revisiting Church, Reinterpreting Language: Amazing Grace
22. Ann Darr, How Poetry Saved My Live: Confessions of a Skewed Romantic
23. Arthur Golden, Thinking Outside the Culture: Memoirs of a Geisha
24. Norman Corwin, A Conversation with Radio’s Poet Laureate

Appendix: List of dialogue Staff, 1988–2007


“This volume features down-to-earth talks with lofty intellectuals. As the title implies, the tone is conversation, and that helps personalize both the interview subjects and the subject matter … many ‘genius’ moments in this book.”—John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine

The Art of Conversation is brimming with life lessons.”—Centerpoint

“A compilation of twenty four favorite interviews presented in a neat, easy to read format.… Highly recommended to American history collections in general and any one who enjoys prime information right from the people themselves.”—Midwest Book Review

“The broadly read and widely travelled Seay never lets his ego get in the way of the interview.”—Studies in American Culture