Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
Jack Henneman’s love of history began with his father, who was a medieval French history professor at the University of Iowa. His extensive background as a former corporate lawyer and life sciences CFO helped to hone his talents as a writer, resulting in a successful blog. Today, he’s putting his passion for history combined with his gift of writing to good use, writing and narrating a comprehensive podcast on American history called, “The History of Americans”. With a firm belief that history needs to be accessible and interesting, Jack aims to depoliticize American history.
On the podcast, Jack shares his experiences climbing the corporate ladder, which fueled his affinity for high-speed writing. Join us as he shares why private school was harder than Princeton and why history should not be cast onto the stage of good vs. evil. Most significantly, Jack highlights the importance of making history fun!
(02:19) History always begins in the middle of something
(04:22) From road trip to podcast
(10:10) Harder than Princeton
(11:21) Act 1: Corporate Law
(12:53) Jewish religious law: Gentile General Counsel
(20:23) Act 2: From CFO to CFO
(22:21) Act 3: An incomplete history of America
(26:02) A decline in interest in history
(29:10) Living out our parents’ legacy
(34:03) History needs to be exciting
To learn more about Jack’s unique perspective, connect with his podcast, “The History of the Americans”, or dive into one of his favorite books, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577-1580. Listen to more stories of people who pursued their passions in the third act of their life on Liz Tinkham’s Third Act podcast at thirdactpodcast.com. If you liked the episode, please leave a review at https://ratethispodcast.com/thirdact!
Liz Tinkham (00:13):
Hi, this is Liz Tinkham, and welcome to season two of Third Act — a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The Third Act begins when your script ends, but your show is not finished.
Liz Tinkham (00:34):
Hello, and welcome to Third Act. On today’s episode, I talk with Jack Henneman, the American Historian. Jack is a former corporate lawyer and life sciences CFO who always loved history. He grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, reading the stacks of French history books laying around his house, as his dad taught medieval French history at the University of Iowa.
Liz Tinkham (00:55):
His schooling and corporate law career taught him to be a good writer, and he dabbled in writing throughout his corporate career, publishing a very well-read blog for many years. But it took a pandemic-inspired road trip to realize that he wanted to return to his love of history. Today, he is reading and writing what he calls the American History, using his podcast, the History of the Americans, to tell the story. So Jack, welcome to Third Act.
Jack Henneman (01:26):
Well, thank you Liz, for having me. It’s a great pleasure. I haven’t even thought that this might be a Third Act, so this is wonderful to explore it this way.
Liz Tinkham (01:36):
Well, you’re a fellow podcaster, so I always love to have fellow podcasters on, another member of the craft, so to speak. But I just wanted to mention that I don’t script my show. So hopefully, we can go a bit off script if you’re okay with that.
Jack Henneman (01:49):
Sure thing. Sure thing.
Liz Tinkham (01:51):
All right. So I am going to mix up my normal format for the show, because normally, I start with the first act. But your third act to me, is so interesting. And I think it really sets the stage for what you did in acts one and two. So you told me that you’re sort of third act and this might be your fifth act or whatever, but what you’re doing now is to read American history from the beginning. So, what does that mean and where does one start with that?
Jack Henneman (02:19):
Well, that’s an outstanding question. So somebody much smarter than me, and I wish I could say who right now, said that, “History always begins in the middle of something.” So it’s possible to tell American history from 1776. It’s possible to tell American history from 1607, when Jamestown was founded. It’s possible to talk about American history from the Middle Ages, because threads in Europe and elsewhere in the world drove exploration.
Jack Henneman (03:02):
I decided all of this, belatedly. When I had the idea, I began by reading books on Jamestown and the Mayflower. This was all before I figured out actually how to podcast. And then, it hit me that I was starting in the wrong middle, if you will. So I decided to start with 1491 and then I did a long series on Columbus.
Liz Tinkham (03:29):
Was it based on the book, 1491, or based on your own reading?
Jack Henneman (03:33):
Both. The book, 1491, was kind of the backbone of it. But what I usually do is I find a book on the topic that I’m interested in, and then I use the notes from the book to work my way back into other sources that sometimes, are easy for me to access. And I find little nuggets that are interesting to listeners, or at least interesting to me.
Liz Tinkham (04:01):
So this, you wanting to read and write the American history, you told me it came to you during a pandemic road trip. And I was describing this to my husband, who’s a friend of yours, and I said, “When I’m on a road trip, I’m thinking about things like where I’m going to get the best shake on the road, or new sandals or something like that.” How did you think about this?
Jack Henneman (04:22):
I live in Austin, Texas, and most of my family, including my beloved mother are on the East Coast. And so in late September, I took a COVID test. Negative. Got in my car, bubbled up and drove. Over three weeks, I drove four and a half thousand miles to visit various people.
Liz Tinkham (04:42):
Jack Henneman (04:43):
And during that time, I loved listening to podcasts, when I drive alone, especially. And a friend recommended David Crowder’s History of England podcast, which started 10 years ago. And it’s still only gotten to about 1,600. He’s moving even slower than I am, I guess.
Liz Tinkham (05:01):
Jack Henneman (05:01):
But it was really good. And as I was doing it, I thought, “Hey, this would be a great project.” And so I started looking around and seeing what else there was. And there are some people trying things a little bit akin to this, but not the way I defined it and all the rest of it. So it was an evolving process that I sort of cooked up in my mind on this road trip. And then I really didn’t launch my first episode until January.
Liz Tinkham (05:29):
Why a podcast versus writing a book or teaching a course?
Jack Henneman (05:33):
I had always had an ambition to read American history in a really detailed and structured way, but I had a day job and a family and all the rest of it. And so I would read history, but I’ve never felt like I had the complete architecture of it. So, that was always a project that I wanted to do. And then I thought, “Hey, I could do this project.” And having a podcast would force me through it. It would make it an external commitment that would bind to me a little bit to doing what I wanted to do.
Jack Henneman (06:07):
So in a way, it’s synergistic. Writing a book is a solitary exercise. There are so many spectacular history books written. I’m not a professional historian. I’m at best, a popularizer. So the podcast seemed like a way to do it with some advantage, some edge that maybe others wouldn’t have, if I could do it well or reasonably well, or just fine.
Liz Tinkham (06:38):
Yeah. Well, it is good, History of the American. So you’ve always loved history. And why?
Jack Henneman (06:46):
Well, I suppose I come by it naturally. My father was professor of history at the University of Iowa and elsewhere. But during my formative years, the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Liz Tinkham (06:56):
Okay. Fellow Hawkeye.
Jack Henneman (06:58):
Fellow Hawkeye. Absolutely. And so our family, our house was sort of mid 2000 history books lining the shelves, which I know because I had to help get rid of them when he passed in 1998. And so I grew up in this environment. Now, his specialty was the Middle Ages, the late Middle Ages, but he loved history per se. History. He was a big believer in popular history. A lot of academic historians don’t much approve of popular history, but he had helped Barbara Tuchman on one of her books.
Liz Tinkham (07:42):
What do you mean by popular history? What does that mean?
Jack Henneman (07:45):
Well, historians are professionals. They have a standard of practice that is defined by commitment to primary sources. They’re professionals. They’re like anyone else.
Liz Tinkham (08:01):
Jack Henneman (08:02):
And popularizers are not professionals, by and large. There are some academic historians who write books for a popular audience, but guys like Neil Ferguson or H.W. Brands at the University of Texas …
Liz Tinkham (08:18):
Jack Henneman (08:19):
David McCullough. Well, David McCullough is not a professional historian, you know. He’s coming at it the other way, but he’s an example of a popularizer.
Liz Tinkham (08:28):
Okay. And your dad believed in that style as well?
Jack Henneman (08:33):
My dad believed that anything that got more people interested in history was great. Barbara Tuchman’s book, A Distant Mirror, relied heavily on a group of sources called The Chroniclers, who wrote long, contemporaneous histories for the benefit of kings and so forth. And The Chroniclers at the time, were professional medievalists.
Jack Henneman (08:57):
I have a lot of issues with the accuracy if you will, in The Chroniclers, but they brought together the late 14th century and France for Barbara Tuchman in a way that was extremely useful. And she was a phenomenal writer. A Distant Mirror is a great book. Yeah. So there was some argument among academic medievalists about whether A Distant Mirror was any good. And my dad thought it was great because it got a lot of people interested in the Middle Ages. That’s the sort of psychological point I’m making.
Liz Tinkham (09:26):
Got it. So I love Iowa City. You obviously, probably learned to love Iowa City as well. It’s a beautiful place. But you escaped. You went to Lawrenceville Academy and then to Princeton. And why did you end up going to New Jersey for high school?
Jack Henneman (09:42):
Well, that’s a fraught question, I suppose. I …
Liz Tinkham (09:45):
Jack Henneman (09:46):
So my parents were New Yorkers. They’d both gone to prep school. And I think my parents were open-minded that the schools in Iowa City would be fine. And they’re good schools, but I wasn’t challenged. And so my parents felt that I really needed to be pressed. When I went to Lawrenceville back in 1977, we had classes six days a week.
Jack Henneman (10:10):
My very first class was AP American history. There were eight or nine of us around a table, and the teacher who taught it, just knew everything as far as I could tell that age. And I realized the game had totally changed. So I was a long way from home and there was no real way to call your parents except on the payphone.
Liz Tinkham (10:36):
Yeah. Down the hall, right?
Jack Henneman (10:38):
Down the hall.
Liz Tinkham (10:38):
Stand in line. Stand in line, yeah.
Jack Henneman (10:39):
But it was great. It was a great education.
Liz Tinkham (10:45):
John told me that you said Lawrenceville was harder than Princeton.
Jack Henneman (10:50):
Lawrenceville was harder for me than Princeton because I entered Lawrenceville never having really been pushed academically. And Lawrenceville was really demanding. And so I worked harder those two years at Lawrenceville than I did at Princeton, or at least most of the time. And I worked harder at Princeton than I did in law school. So most people, it gets worse as things go along, but I found school to get easier.
Liz Tinkham (11:21):
So you ended up going to the University of Michigan, to law school, which I won’t hold against you as a Ohio State Buckeye. And then you started at Latham & Watkins in Chicago, a big law firm. And you ended up working in New York City. What ended up bringing you from New Jersey and Chicago back out to the New York area?
Jack Henneman (11:39):
I actually worked just outside New York, in Rockland County. Basically, what happened was I thought Latham & Watkins was great training. I learned a huge amount, but the structure of large law firm practice pushes one to become a specialist. And you really do pretty much the same thing over and over in most big law firm practices. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, we don’t need to go into, but I concluded that I was temperamentally a generalist.
Jack Henneman (12:15):
So I started looking around for other things to do. And I ended up taking a job at a startup company in medical technology that I really had stumbled across through college friends of mine, very serendipitously. And it changed the arc of my career. And I was after that, doing healthcare technology of one sort or another, my whole career.
Liz Tinkham (12:41):
I think you told me, when we were prepping, that you ended up going to work for, and I don’t know if this is the same company that was run by Orthodox Jews. Can you say anything more about that?
Jack Henneman (12:53):
Yeah. So I was the Gentile General Counsel of a company run under a Jewish religious law.
Liz Tinkham (13:01):
How did you get that job, as a Gentile? Did you know anything about Jewish religious law?
Jack Henneman (13:08):
No, but I was a good corporate lawyer.
Liz Tinkham (13:12):
Jack Henneman (13:12):
And that’s what they needed. And I had met the CEO, again, spontaneously. It’s too long a story for this, but I had met him spontaneously and we’d really hit it off. And I would say that it was in some ways, an extremely satisfying place to be an in-house lawyer, because Jewish religious training, it promotes the kind of thinking lawyers do.
Jack Henneman (13:47):
And I found that when I would articulate the principle behind why we needed to do something or not do something, it was very quickly understood by even rank and file employees. Like, well, under what circumstances do you put the patent number on a product label? And you could explain the concept and then you get a lot of very smart questions back, and off they’d go. So I really thought that the training that many of them had in their religion made it delightful to be the General Counsel of such a company.
Liz Tinkham (14:25):
And how long did you end up working there? And then what did you go on to do?
Jack Henneman (14:29):
I was there about four years. I got there at the beginning of 1994. In the summer of ’97, the board decided that the CEO ought to change, and I became interim CEO while they searched for a permanent one. And that was about six months. And late 1997, we hired a permanent guy. And at the same time, literally three, four days after the permanent guy came in and I was to help with the transition, I learned that my father had what was almost certainly terminal cancer. So I helped with the transition and then I took a few months, essentially leave.
Jack Henneman (15:12):
Technically, I was still employed, but it was essentially family leave. And my parents at that time, had moved to Princeton, which was about an hour’s drive away. And so I would go down there and visit them. And then I consulted for a good friend of mine who was the CEO of Integra LifeSciences, which is in Princeton. And so I’d go visit my mom and then I’d go over and help him with stuff, and the next thing you know, I ended up working for Integra, where I stayed for 16 years.
Liz Tinkham (15:42):
Wow. As the CFO and other?
Jack Henneman (15:47):
I came in as Chief Administrative Officer. And I had, I’ll say, all the paper pushing functions except finance. So law, HR, regulatory, business development, IT, a whole bunch of things like that. And then in 2007, I became the Chief Financial Officer.
Liz Tinkham (16:10):
Okay. So somewhere along the way, given where you’re at today and talking about the reading and the writing of American history, I know you started writing and you wrote a blog under a pseudonym. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Jack Henneman (16:28):
I’ve always liked writing. I wrote for the school newspaper in Lawrenceville. In college, I wrote for a publication that started when I was there. It’s called the Nassau Weekly. And then I became a lawyer. And of course, you have a lot of professional writing. Then it sort of went by the wayside for quite a while.
Jack Henneman (16:54):
But when blogging came in, really at about the beginning of this century, I had a number of friends of mine who had read my tendentious emails on one topic or another, suggested probably so that I would stop sending them the tendentious emails, they suggested I take up blogging.
Liz Tinkham (17:15):
Tendentious? Okay. We might have to translate that term for all of our listeners. Keep going.
Jack Henneman (17:22):
So I did that, and I started in December of 2003. And it was pretty early on and it was sort of … I developed a pretty nice following and I remain friends with a fair number of people who are both either well-known, or have pseudonyms in the world that came out of that. So they’ve given me some encouragement and support on this project.
Liz Tinkham (17:56):
What did you learn from doing that, that you’re applying to this podcast?
Jack Henneman (18:02):
I can write fast. When I was blogging, I probably wrote, I think at one point, I figured out it was between one and a half and two million words over about 10 years.
Liz Tinkham (18:13):
Oh, my gosh. That’s amazing.
Jack Henneman (18:16):
I think I’ll eventually do some interviews for The History of the American’s podcast, but right now, 18 episodes along, I write between 3,800 and 5,000 words of script for each episode. So I’ve probably written 80,000 words since I started writing in November. And that’s not a long book, but it’s not a short book either.
Liz Tinkham (18:55):
So love brings you to Austin. So you move away from New Jersey and to another job change, and then you eventually retire. So, what was the last thing you did, and what got you there? How did you end up maybe a little bit more on how you got to Austin?
Jack Henneman (19:12):
I met my wife 11 years ago at a conference in Phoenix, and we were in the same industry at the time. And we were both separated about 18 months before, as we learned over lunch. And we were, I think quite … Well, I’ll speak for myself. I was taken with her from the beginning, and she was at least tolerant of that. And so we started dating long-distance.
Jack Henneman (19:44):
And then we each, sort of a Modern Family thing, so we each had a free weekend and weren’t having to spend time with our own kids, delightful as they all were, and are. We would go off and have a date weekend somewhere. And this went on for a while, and then I would say, it evolved into me flying out to Austin fairly often when I could. And then eventually, commuting back.
Liz Tinkham (20:13):
Back to New Jersey?
Jack Henneman (20:14):
Back to New Jersey, which was tiring. And so all four of our kids are now in Austin, and they’re all in their 20s.
Liz Tinkham (20:22):
Wow. That’s terrific.
Jack Henneman (20:23):
They’re doing great. Yeah. So I started commuting back and eventually, that got tiring. And I had a conversation with Integra about a transition, and they were very supportive of me. And that took another year. It’s hard to leave as CFO of a public company, so that took another year.
Jack Henneman (20:42):
And just as I was thinking I might be done, at that point, I got a call to be CFO of a biotech company, which was headquartered in Ames, Iowa. The headhunter, the executive search guy was very apologetic and had said, “I’m afraid the company is headquartered in Iowa.” And I sort of said, “You haven’t dug too deeply into my past, have you? Happy to fly back to Iowa from time to time.”
Liz Tinkham (21:11):
Happy to go back! Right.
Jack Henneman (21:11):
But they wanted to set up an Austin office and get a new CFO. And so I did that. That was hardcore biotech drug development, and I did that for four years. A couple of clinical trials failed and next thing you know, I decided I’m going to do something else.
Jack Henneman (21:29):
And I spent most of the first 15 months or so that I was “retired”, apart from sitting on boards and trying to line up various gigs to do in biotech and med tech, I partnered up with a local VC and we mentor first-time CEOs in medical technology and biotechnology.
Jack Henneman (21:52):
So I’ve got about eight or ten guys and women who we mentor, and all the rest. Some of them even pay us, others give us stock in their company and that kind of thing. So it’s fun to do that.
Liz Tinkham (22:09):
We have people who listen to this, who are aspiring med tech folks. So, they can find that in your LinkedIn, but what’s the name of your company that does that?
Jack Henneman (22:18):
Liz Tinkham (22:21):
SparkMed Advisors, in case you need help. All right. So you’re doing that, and then we’re now caught back up to the beginning of your trip during the pandemic. Is the history of America, is it incomplete in your sense?
Jack Henneman (22:37):
Well, I’m tempted to say, I certainly hope so.
Liz Tinkham (22:40):
Well, of course, I’m not saying going forward. But from what we read today and what people are, I guess, taught or what they’re able to learn.
Jack Henneman (22:50):
There’s a bunch of levels. So obviously, there are many historians who are engaged in sometimes very creative and important scholarship about various points in American history. So the first point is it remains a very fertile ground for academic work. I’d say there’s been a real change, and I talk about this a little bit in an introductory episode, which is about 10 minutes, to the podcast.
Liz Tinkham (23:17):
That’s episode zero. Everybody should listen to it, because it’s terrific.
Jack Henneman (23:21):
One of the things that’s happened really in the last 30 years or so, and I’m generalizing so that everyone will find a basis for quibbling, but generally speaking, the emphasis in American history has in the academic world, moved away from telling a national story per se. And the academic focus has moved toward cultural studies. It’s moved toward scholarship around oppressed peoples, all of which is of course, important and fine to do.
Jack Henneman (24:01):
But that has meant that we’ve very much fallen away from trying to think about and teach American history as a national story that binds us together. Every country needs a history. However, realistically, it’s taught. And I’m not arguing for triumphalist history, but everyone needs a history that they can be proud of. If they don’t have that, they don’t have a country. And that doesn’t mean you ignore bad things.
Jack Henneman (24:38):
It means that you discuss them resolutely in the context in which they occur. For my part, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. I’m not trying to do anything other than make American history fun and interesting. And my main rule is that I resolutely avoid, or try to resolutely avoid judging people in the past by the morality of the present. I think it is so much more educational if we say what they did in the context in which they did it.
Jack Henneman (25:19):
And I think allow listeners in the case of a podcast, readers in the case of a book, to develop their own moral sense of that. And when you try to turn the teaching of history into a morality play, or when you try to turn it into a device for shaping today’s politics, whether it’s triumphalism, as maybe very patriotic people would want, or whether it’s deeply critical and very negative history, these are all aimed at modern political objectives.
Jack Henneman (26:02):
And I think that that actually is playing a role in the massive decline in the interest in history, in our universities. The number of people majoring in history has fallen by 75% since you and I were in college. And it’s continuing to fall.
Liz Tinkham (26:22):
Do you attribute that also, somewhat to STEM, STEM, STEM? Just, it’s hard to figure out how you’re going to get a history degree and make money, right? Unless you go to law school?
Jack Henneman (26:31):
Well, I think there’s many explanations under the sun.
Liz Tinkham (26:38):
Jack Henneman (26:38):
And one of the things I very much object to in my podcast are people who look for a single explanation for any historical development. And that probably is equally true of the decline and the interest in learning history in colleges. I’m sure there’s many reasons.
Liz Tinkham (26:59):
Exactly. Interesting. So, what are you hearing from your listeners?
Jack Henneman (27:05):
Well, one is that I’m terrible at pronouncing Spanish names.
Liz Tinkham (27:11):
Okay. Those are hard.
Jack Henneman (27:13):
That will be temporary. There’ll be less and less of that required as the podcast moves along. I think everybody has their preferences. I think there are people who find that I’m a little too lecturey and didactic. I think they would prefer to have a chatty and interesting interview, or perhaps a different approach. So I get some criticisms along those lines.
Jack Henneman (27:42):
But also, I get a lot of positive feedback around interesting stuff that I insert and the humor, at least that I try to evoke around historical events, which of course, we could all take super, super seriously. But on the other hand, I’m prepared to laugh about an entire expedition of Spaniards dying 500 years ago, when you can see it coming and we know it’s going to happen.
Jack Henneman (28:15):
That to me, is something where we ought to be able to make a little bit of a joke and have people laugh about it. If you take all death every time, however many centuries ago it occurred as deeply serious, you probably don’t like what I have to offer.
Liz Tinkham (28:33):
Yeah. You had said you’ve got people whose kids are listening to it, which must be really rewarding.
Jack Henneman (28:39):
I’ve gotten several notes from people who are saying how they listen to it when they drive their kids to school, and stuff like that. And it’s a clean podcast. I think the worst word I’ve used is like cockeyed or something. There’s no bad words and so we’re a family podcast.
Liz Tinkham (29:06):
Great. So, what do you think your dad would think of the podcast?
Jack Henneman (29:10):
That’s a good question. My mom thinks my dad would think it was really cool. I don’t know if in fact, when he listened to it, he would like it or not. But we’re all—haunted is probably too negative a term, but we’re all influenced by our parents in ways that we can barely detect. And the fact that I’m doing this is definitely a topic of some humor in my extended family.
Liz Tinkham (29:43):
Mm-hmm, okay. I bet.
Jack Henneman (29:46):
Because my voice sounds something like his. And I’m sure that I have some of his expressions and some of his tone of voice and all the rest of it, just as many children have of their parents. So I think there’s an echo there. But I think he would like the mission. I think he would like the project. And I think he would really like the idea that as we say, “As often as we can, history should be fun and interesting.” And that’s my main thing, have fun with it, you know? And that’s what I’m trying to do.
Liz Tinkham (30:25):
Oh, it’s great. I think your dad would be very proud. And I wish my dad were still alive because he loved history. Loved it. And he was a history major at Iowa. So there you go. And I think he would love listening to the podcast.
Liz Tinkham (30:43):
Okay. So here’s what we’re going to go off script a little bit, and I’m going to ask you five or six different questions that are sort of lightning round. And just answer what comes top to mind. Okay? Ready?
Jack Henneman (30:54):
Liz Tinkham (30:55):
Favorite fiction book?
Jack Henneman (30:57):
Favorite fiction book? The Fountainhead.
Liz Tinkham (31:01):
Ah, you’re killing me. I love that book, too. Favorite history book?
Jack Henneman (31:06):
Favorite history book? Oh, that’s a tough one because I’ve read so many. Rather than doing that, if I could be lame, I will tell you a book I just finished, which was spectacular. It’s called The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577-1580.
Liz Tinkham (31:26):
All right. We’ll put it in the show notes.
Jack Henneman (31:29):
And Drake was an English explorer who tortured the Spanish, stole from them at every chance he got. But Queen Elizabeth sent him on a secret mission to find the Western end of a Northwest passage that, in principle, would go over North America and give the English a fast route to Asia.
Jack Henneman (31:50):
Drake “discovered” the West Coast, if you will. Always in air quotes, of course, because there were Indians there, but he discovered the West Coast for England. And the story of the secret mission, which was long buried as a state secret, is fascinating.
Liz Tinkham (32:08):
Okay. All right. If you could be a person in history, who would it be and why?
Jack Henneman (32:14):
Oh boy, I couldn’t live up to any of the people I would want to be. As an American, all right, I’ll throw one out. I think the coolest guy in American history, the person who I would most like to think I could be, even though there’s not a chance, is Benjamin Franklin. So he would be my pick.
Jack Henneman (32:35):
He had an enormous amount of fun in life. He was extremely good at what he did. He was the key point of transition between England and the English, and the new American sensibility. And he was by virtue of his scientific accomplishments, he was by far the most famous American before the American Revolution. So in the colonial days, the most famous American globally, was Benjamin Franklin.
Jack Henneman (33:11):
Any educated person in Europe knew who he was because of his scientific accomplishments. So when you look back at Americans, what they contributed, whether they were a good guy and whether they had fun in life, he certainly meets all the criteria.
Liz Tinkham (33:26):
If you could make one change in the teaching of broad US history in the United States, say high school, what would it be?
Jack Henneman (33:36):
I would say that the teaching of history in our public schools, my feeling, and I’m not an expert on this topic, but my feeling is that it has become terrifically politicized, really depending upon whether a state and the people setting these requirements in the state are, shall we say, red or blue.
Jack Henneman (34:03):
And I think that the idea that history should be used to indoctrinate one way or the other, is terribly misguided. And it’s probably yet another reason why by the time they get to college, so many people aren’t interested in learning more. It needs to be exciting.
Liz Tinkham (34:27):
Last question. Aside from The History of the Americans and Third Act with Liz Tinkham, what’s your favorite podcast? Oh, and the one about English history. What’s your favorite podcast?
Jack Henneman (34:37):
I would say that my favorite podcast is Sam Harris, Making Sense.
Liz Tinkham (34:43):
Well, Jack, thank you so much for your time and insights on history. We will put all the information about your podcast in the show notes and look forward to listening more. And I’m not a big history buff, so I’ve been listening to it and learning. And it’s just fascinating. So thank you for doing it.
Jack Henneman (35:00):
Well, thank you for saying so. And I very much appreciate the opportunity.
Liz Tinkham (35:06):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios, and more at thirdactpodcast.com. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.