David Rubenstein says it's time to give Americans a proper education in history

David Rubenstein says it's time to give Americans a proper history education

Last Updated Dec 1, 2019 9:50 AM EST

David Rubenstein is on a mission to educate America and Congress through a lesson in history.

"We don't really educate Americans as much about history as we should. We don't teach history as much as we used to. We don't teach civics as much as we used to," he told CBS News' John Dickerson in a wide-ranging interview for "Face the Nation."

It's an issue the billionaire patriotic philanthropist puts at the forefront of his latest book, "The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians" — a retelling of the great American story through revealing conversations with some of the nation's greatest historians. Rubenstein argues that while the country is rightly concerned about inspiring young minds to be more adept at math and science, "we shouldn't ignore history and civics."

"Forty-nine out of 50 states, the majority of citizens cannot pass, native-born citizens, the basic citizenship test that naturalized citizens have to pass. And 91% of naturalized citizen candidates pass that test," Rubenstein said. "I think that's important for all citizens."

It's a charge that Rubenstein says is equally important for not only America's youth but the nation's leaders as well, including members of Congress. From that very idea spawned a modern-day salon of sorts. 

"I thought about six years ago, it would be a good idea to get members of Congress that know a little bit more about history than they already know, and they do know a fair bit. So once a month, I have a dinner at the library Congress for members of Congress to educate them a little bit about history by interviewing a great author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Jon Meacham and the members like it," Rubenstein explained. 

Around 250-300 people, including 150 members of Congress, attend the monthly bipartisan fete for an evening of civility, a departure from the typical bickering on Capitol Hill. 

David Rubenstein on his monthly bipartisan dinner

"Members of Congress come together and it's like an era of good feelings when the dinners occur," Rubenstein described. 

"Members from the opposite parties sit together. Members in the opposite house sit together. And it's you wouldn't know how rancorous the atmosphere is in other parts of Washington, but it's like a time where they put a truce down and they come together."

Rubenstein says that the lawmakers who attend his functions feel "if they don't understand how presidents live before or great members of Congress, they aren't really doing the job that they should be doing." 

"They really want to know history," Rubenstein maintains, a lesson he hopes all Americans, not just the elected few, can take to heart. 


Catch more of Rubenstein's interview with John Dickerson for a special Thanksgiving episode of "Face the Nation" this Sunday.

Rubenstein's book, "The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians" , is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS Corp.

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    Emily Tillett is the digital producer at "Face the Nation"