History offers needed perspective on today's "dangerous" times, David McCullough says

Last Updated Apr 16, 2017 12:02 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Today’s “dangerous” times look “so bleak and uncompromising” because Americans don’t know their history that well, presidential historian and author David McCullough said.

“Well, I think we’re living in what is clearly a dangerous time,” McCullough said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “Not just because of international tensions and clouds hanging over, but because we’re sort of groping with how to repair an engine that we don’t know how to even take apart.”

“And yes, we’ve had times where we wanted to change things,” McCullough added. “But we’ve also had times that have been more unsettling, more worrisome, more painful, more costly than what we’re going through now. And we think this is just so bleak and uncompromising, because we really don’t know what we’ve been through before and how we came through it.”

Americans got through an influenza epidemic that killed 500,000 people, the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars, he said. The key to making sense of today is learning from history, McCullough said. 

“I think we need to remember who we are and how we got to be where we are and how much we owe to those who went before us,” McCullough said. “And there’s much to be learned from them, much to be learned from history. We are not doing very well or not doing as well as we should in raising our oncoming generations with an appreciation of the story of their country.”