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Brian Kilmeade’s Love of America and Defense of Its History

“History, to me, is so easy to sell,” said Brian Kilmeade. “If it’s done with passion, you can’t say that it’s boring and uninteresting.”

Most people know Mr. Kilmeade as co-host of the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends.” He’ll be the first to tell you he loves his job. But his passion is history. Mr. Kilmeade is the author of eight books, all related in some way to American history. His first two, written more than 15 years ago, are sports-related. His last six, however, discuss more serious historical matters.

Mr. Kilmeade has written about George Washington’s spy ring, Thomas Jefferson’s war against the Barbary pirates, Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution, the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and, most recently, the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington. Although the first four focused on American military history, the tune changes slightly in his last two offerings. He suggests that the change is more incidental than predetermined.

“I’m just trying to move through time, and I got to the Civil War,” he said. “It was really about [Lincoln and Douglass] and how they got through that rough time together. Their partnership was way too short, but very effective. Then we had Reconstruction, then the falling apart of Reconstruction, then the 20th century, and then in comes Jim Crow, and I thought how do I move through time and tell the story between two people.”

Mr. Kilmeade said he had read Washington’s autobiography “Up from Slavery” before he settled on writing about Lincoln and Douglass. The book captivated him, and then he learned that Theodore Roosevelt had been just as taken by Washington’s writing.

Theodore Roosevelt speaking at National Business League. (Public Domain)

Roosevelt and Washington: Self-Made Men

“After Teddy Roosevelt did what I did (that’s my only comparison with Teddy Roosevelt, I promise) and read ‘Up from Slavery,’ [he] gave it to his wife, who couldn’t put it down. And she said, ‘We have to meet this guy,’” Mr. Kilmeade said. “The first time they met was April 1, 1901. They immediately knew they could help each other.”

Roosevelt and Washington, despite growing up in vastly different environments, had something important in common, Mr. Kilmeade explained. They were both self-made men.

Washington, as his autobiography suggests, was born a slave nine years before the end of the Civil War. After emancipation, his family moved to West Virginia, where he worked in a salt furnace and a coal mine. Desiring an education, he traveled, mainly on foot, to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in 1872. He was provided a job as a janitor to pay his room and board, and a benefactor paid for his education. After graduating in 1875, he went back to West Virginia to teach for two years. He returned to university for eight months at Wayland Seminary in the nation’s capital. He joined the staff at Hampton, but he was soon selected to lead a new school in Alabama: the Tuskegee Normal School (now Tuskegee University), an institution to train African American teachers. Under his guidance, the school grew exponentially. Washington went on to write 40 books, became a prolific speaker, and assembled a network of some of the nation’s most powerful people, including Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was born to an uncertain fate. Plagued by illness, including asthma, the future president was not expected to live very long. His father advised him, “You have the mind but you have not the body. You must make your body.” Roosevelt began a lifelong undertaking of sporting challenges, including hunting, hiking, boxing, and exploration. Roosevelt, along with his speeches, wrote 45 books, and he became one of the most influential politicians in American history.

A portrait of Booker T. Washington photographed by Christopher Ethelbert Cheyne in 1903. (Public Domain)

Keeping the Path

Seven months after their first meeting, Washington was invited to dine with Roosevelt and his family at the White House. It was the first time a black person had ever dined at the White House, and the only time for a long period afterward due to political and social backlash. This backlash came primarily from the Southern press and politicians.

“In their case, they changed their strategy, but they didn’t change their relationship,” Mr. Kilmeade said. “Roosevelt was totally shocked by it. But they kept their path together. They would have done more if they thought America was ready for it.”

Mr. Kilmeade explained that both Roosevelt and Washington continued to help each other’s causes. Whether it was Roosevelt assisting Washington’s pursuit for educational progress within the black community, or Washington assisting Roosevelt in obtaining the black vote for reelection, the two forged a bond that, as Mr. Kilmeade’s book suggests, cleared a path for racial equality.

The topic of Mr. Kilmeade’s two latest books is the idea of racial equality. He believes the topic is timely for a moment where “we seem to be more obsessed with race in this country, now more than ever.”

(This is a short preview of a story from the May Issue, Volume 4.)

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Features American Success Entrepreneurs

NASA Commander Shares What’s in Store for the Next Moon Mission and Future of Space Exploration

On December 14, 1972, surrounded by darkness and light and standing where only 11 others had ever stood before, Gene Cernan became the last person to walk on the moon. As he prepared to depart, he announced over the radio, “As we leave the moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”

Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 mission, died in 2017 and never got to witness another return to the moon. That hope of returning, however, remains very much alive at NASA, and with the Artemis missions, mankind will once again take that giant leap to the moon. 

Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. (NASA)

The Artemis Missions

The first of the Artemis missions took place on November 16, 2022, with the unmanned Orion spacecraft traveling more than 1.4 million miles over the course of 25 days. The spacecraft traveled thousands of miles beyond and around the moon before it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at nearly 25,000 miles per hour, finally splashing down into the Pacific Ocean. 

The next mission, Artemis II, is scheduled for a 10-day flight around the moon in November 2024 with a crew of four: mission commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover, mission specialist Christina Koch, and the Canadian Space Agency’s mission specialist Jeremy Hansen. For the Americans, it will be a return to space, but even for them, humanity has never gone this far away from Earth before. The Artemis II mission could break the record for distance traveled during a manned space flight.

(NASA)

“It will depend on where the Earth-moon system is when we launch,” said Mr. Wiseman, who has been a NASA astronaut since 2009. Apollo 13 currently holds the record, at 249,205 miles from Earth; Artemis II could end up reaching 10,000 miles farther. “Hopefully a year later, we will eclipse it again, and a year after that we will eclipse it again,” he said of future NASA missions.

The Artemis II mission is the beginning of what is expected to be not just a return to the moon, but eventually, the establishment of a base camp on the lunar surface, and a future trip to Mars. NASA’s goals are lofty, and Wiseman believes that those goals are not just achievable, but inevitable.

“I think we are definitely looking at humankind living on the moon, living on Mars, getting out into the solar system,” he said. “If you look back at what humans have done on Earth, we can’t sit still as a group of beings. We are restless and we are very inquisitive. I think we will always look at the moon and want to go there. And for those of us who find Mars in the night sky, we want to go there. I would love to go to the moons of Saturn and wake up in my living room and see the rings of Saturn in the morning. I think that is just where we are headed. We are never going to quit.”

(This is a short preview of a story from the Dec. Issue, Volume 3.)

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Features Food

Up Close With America’s Favorite Italian Chef Lidia Bastianich

At her home in Queens, New York, Lidia Bastianich cooks with a view of the water. Opposite her sprawling kitchen and dining table, wall-to-wall windows look out over her garden to the idyllic Little Neck Bay, where sailboats bob serenely under blue skies. 

Here is where the Italian refugee turned James Beard and Emmy Award-winning chef, restaurateur, TV personality, and author raised her children and her grandchildren; where she taught Julia Child how to make risotto; where she filmed the PBS shows that introduced millions of Americans to traditional Italian home cooking, inviting them around her table with her signature phrase: “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” “Everyone to the table to eat!”

“I feel very American, and I feel very Italian here,” Ms. Bastianich told American Essence on a recent visit. There’s the proximity to the water, what drew her to buy the house in the first place 38 years ago—“since I came from the Adriatic, my dream was always water,” she said—and the garden lined with Italian fig and lemon trees, rosemary and wild fennel, grape trellises, and potted tomatoes—all echoes of the Mediterranean. “And at the same time,” she said, “I see the Empire State Building from my house.”

A perfectly ripe fig from Ms. Bastianich’s backyard. (Samira Bouaou for American Essence)

It’s a dual identity that she’s embraced from a young age. When she was 10, she and her family fled their home in communist-occupied Istria, a peninsula in northeastern Italy handed over to Yugoslavia in the aftermath of World War II. They waited two years in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy, before finding freedom in America in 1958.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Ms. Bastianich harvests her homegrown fennel. (Samira Bouaou for American Essence)

American Essence: What are your strongest food memories associated with the different places in your life’s journey—from your birthplace of Pola, Istria [now Pula, Croatia], to the refugee camp in Trieste, and finally, to America? 

Lidia Bastianich: I have to go back to when I was born: 1947, after the war. The Paris Treaty was in the same month, February, and the border came down: Trieste was given to Italy, and Istria and Dalmatia were given to the newly formed communist Yugoslavia.

We grew up in a country of radical change. Once the communists came, you could not speak Italian, they changed our name, we couldn’t go to church. My mother was a schoolteacher; my father was a mechanic, and he had two trucks. They took the trucks and deemed him a capitalist; they put him in jail for it. So life wasn’t that easy. Even food was scarce. My grandmother, who was in a little town, Busoler, outside of Pola, she raised food and animals to feed the whole family, so my mother took my brother and me out of the city and put us with Grandma. And I think that’s where my first basic food connections happened.

Ms. Bastianich around age 5. (Courtesy of Lidia Bastianich)

With my grandmother, we had chickens, we had ducks, we had geese, we had rabbits, we had goats, we had pigs, we had pigeons. Now and then it was a chicken that went into the pot, then it was a rabbit, then it was a pigeon. I would be feeding these animals. In the springtime, the rabbits loved clover, so I would go and harvest clover in the woods. We would milk the goats, make ricotta. We had two pigs every year, and slaughter was in November, so you had to feed them to get them nice and fat. After the slaughter, we made the sausages, the prosciutto, the bacon. 

RECIPE: PORK CHOPS WITH MUSHROOMS AND PICKLED PEPERONCINI

(This is a short preview of a story from the Nov. Issue, Volume 3.)

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Features

Get to Know Delilah, the Woman Behind the Popular Radio Show

Delilah’s warmth emanates from her voice—a voice that is familiar with over 8 million radio listeners who tune in to her popular evening show weekly, making it one of the country’s most-listened-to programs. For several hours each night, Delilah listens as people turn to her about their love problems, requesting a song to reminisce about a long-lost lover or to console their broken hearts. Many share their tales of triumph and loss, and Delilah listens carefully, offering a dose of positivity and encouragement. She has been on air from the Seattle, Washington, area since her show started in October 1984.

In a world of chaos and uncertainty, Delilah’s words are like a salve, reminding us that there is still hope. It is remarkable that in spite of her personal tragedies—having lost two sons and her stepson in the span of several years—she still exudes an unbridled verve for life. Her 15 children, many of whom she adopted or fostered, are her reasons for living, she said. She never worried about how to take on the responsibilities of being a mother, only assured that she’ll take things one step at a time. “I was not born with the fear factor—it’s just not in my DNA.” She encourages everyone to embrace the same attitude in life. “When you realize that there’s very little we can control, then you can realize, why am I worrying about it? Why am I not just enjoying the minutes? Most fear is your imagination picturing the worst possible scenario, right? Why not use your imagination to picture the best possible scenario?”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

(Courtesy of Delilah)

American Essence: Did you always know that you liked connecting with people?

Delilah: Oh yeah. My mom says I used to walk up to people in grocery stores and start talking to them and ask them if they had children. And could I play with them?

There are very few people that I dislike. When I do, that’s on me. Because what I’m looking at is their behavior instead of their heart. What I’m doing is, I’m judging their behaviors instead of looking at their heart and looking at why they have those behaviors.

If we would all do that, there would not be the problems that exist in the world now. There would not be the divisiveness and the division that exists now, because 99 percent of the divisiveness exists because it’s an “us against them” mentality. It’s “I’m better than them. I’m smarter than you. My political party or my political affiliation is better than yours. My religious beliefs are better than yours.” Or even worse than [that] is, “I’m afraid of you. I’m fearful of you.” And if we could just realize that we’re all eternal beings having a human experience, and get past that “us against them” mentality—I try to make it happen.

AE: Do you feel the hardships you’ve been through have helped you provide listeners with perspective?

Delilah: I don’t know that it gives people perspective, but it certainly taught me to shut my mouth more and listen more. Because I thought I knew what grief was. I thought I knew what hardship was. I don’t have a clue. And going through the stuff that I’ve gone through has made me realize that when people are really hurting, when their life has just been completely shattered, they don’t need my advice. They don’t need my pearls of wisdom. They don’t need me quoting Scripture. They don’t need me telling them things are going to get better. They need me to listen, and to honor them, and to hold space for them. That was the best change in my soul, going through the grief that I’ve gone through.

(Courtesy of Delilah)

AE: Many listeners turn to you with their worries. What are your tips on giving good advice?

Delilah: Most of the time when we’re chatting with our friends, they don’t want advice. They want somebody to listen. And honestly, when people call me looking for advice, most of the time, I would say 90 percent of the time, they already have their answers. They just need validation, and a push in the right direction.

A gal called me last night. The scenario was, she’s been involved with a guy for a couple of years. She’s asked him if there’s a future. He said, “No, I just want to have fun. Stop asking me about that. I don’t see us settling down anytime soon.” And she’s like, “So what do I do?” And I said, “You already know what to do. Why are you asking me this? You know exactly what you have to do.” And she’s like, “Yeah, but I love him.” I said, “So what you’re asking is, is there a way to manipulate him? And change him into the kind of committed man you want and need?” No, there’s not. But you already know what you have to do. You want a long-term forever committed partner. He wants to have fun. There’s a big difference between the two. Okay, well, if all you want to do is be used, stay right where you are. If you want to have a long-term committed relationship, don’t partner with somebody who has clearly told you in his own words that that is not on his agenda.

Delilah lives on a 55- acre farm with her adopted children and many animals. (Courtesy of Delilah)

AE: Have your listeners’ stories offered you a unique perspective?

Delilah: When I lost both my boys and my stepson, I was given so much comfort. People sent prayers, they sent pictures. When my son Sammy died, I can’t tell you how many millions of prayers went up for me and my family during those times. Prayers that sustain me, prayers that gave me the courage to get up every day. When you don’t want to get up, when you’ve lost somebody and you just can’t even breathe, it hurts so bad—those prayers sustain you. I appreciate my listeners. Somebody called last year on Zach’s birthday and said, “Our boys share the same birthday. And I just wanted you to know that I’m so grateful I got to share my son’s birthday this year. And I know you didn’t and I’m just calling to tell you I prayed for you.”

AE: We are living in an era of increased isolation and anxiety. How do we as a society overcome this?

Delilah: It doesn’t matter what the crisis is, or the turmoil that you’re facing; if you have faith, you can get through anything. When you believe in something greater than yourself, and you believe that there is a higher power at work, then you can know that you don’t need to be afraid, you don’t need to be anxious, you don’t need to be filled with fear and trepidation. You can just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter what the crisis is, or what the dilemma is; if you can hang on to even a mustard seed of faith, you can persevere and get through anything.

Because of the nature of my show, people call me with issues of the heart. And I have noticed for the last three years, certainly an uptick in loneliness. People are lonelier than I’ve ever heard them before, hungry for connection.

I had a gal call me last night to hear a song for a man she met 20 years ago, dated half a dozen times. And then he left for the military. And she’s not heard from him again. And she was just reminiscing of those beautiful moments they had together, that once-in-a-lifetime heart connection. And I said, “Honey, it doesn’t have to be once in a lifetime. You can open yourself up to love again.” So people are usually calling me and they want to share a story about a connection they have. Whatever the big emotion is that they’re feeling, they want to share that, and for whatever reason, they feel like I’m a close friend they want to share it with.

AE: What shapes your view of people and humanity in general?

Delilah: I believe that we are all miracles, that we are all eternal beings having a human experience, that every person that you encounter is a bazillion, gazillion, trillion miracles wrapped up in skin. And because we’re wrapped in skin and we’re having a human experience, we do human things and we make bonehead decisions. We’re not always the best version of ourselves. But the essence of our being remains in the image of the Almighty, the essence of our being is the Almighty. He created us and we were created for a purpose and for a reason. And when you know that, you can survive anything. Why aren’t we just in awe of every person we meet? Why aren’t we just like, “Oh my gosh, I want to get to know you. I want to know the essence of you, I want to get to know what makes you smile, makes you laugh, brings you joy.” And then I want to contribute to that joy. Everybody’s a miracle. And when you know that, you can look beyond the choice, beyond the circumstance, to the wonderful person in front of you.

(Courtesy of Delilah)

Fun Facts About Delilah

8.3 million listeners
tune in each week, on average

151 radio stations
air Delilah’s program

Florida, Texas, and New York
are the three states where Delilah gets the most calls from

Most requested songs 

“What a Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong

“Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers

“Wind Beneath My Wings,” Bette Midler

“I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston

How Delilah knows what songs to play for listeners

“You know how some people have sports statistics stuck in their head? I have song lyrics stuck in my head. Because I love so many different genres of music, I have millions of song lyrics that are in my head,” Delilah said. She notes that the special ability is partly passed down from her father, who loved to playfully sing lyrics to everyday questions posed to him.

When listeners tell Delilah their story, she takes notes and then types out the names of songs that she’s reminded of.

Delilah screens her own calls

Delilah herself takes all 30 to 50 calls out of the thousands of people who phone into her show each night. The show’s dynamics all depend on fate.

Delilah said she and her producer “have always prayed, ‘God, let whoever you want through to get through, whoever needs a touch from you, needs to be heard, let that person get through.’ That’s my call screening philosophy.”

Delilah doesn’t have a set routine

“Routine is not in my vocabulary. It’s so hard for me to get the kids out the door in the morning because I am so not a routine person. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person. Why plan ahead and miss out on all the excitement of the adventure? If you plan ahead, then there’s nothing like, ‘Oh dang, I forgot to put gas in the car,’” she joked.

How Delilah gets through her busy schedule

“I don’t need help getting through the day. I love my day. I hate when my day comes to an end. I loathe going to sleep at night. The frustrating thing for me is when I get off the air, and I’m done around midnight, and I’m like, ‘I’m so pumped up! I want to call somebody and talk about this.’”

Being a mother is Delilah’s greatest joy

“My motherhood is who I was meant to be. I was born to be a mama. It’s not like, ‘Okay, here’s my life. I’m a disc jockey. I’m a gardener. I’m an artist. I’m a mother.’ No, it’s, ‘I’m a mother.’ And then everything else comes after that.”

From July Issue, Volume 3