Lifelong learners show an intense drive to understand their world and all the myriad elements that impact on their lives and their society. Their character is, at least in part, defined by a deep and innate curiosity. I have been inspired by several lifelong learners – Fritz Hollings, Sarah Leverette and Warren Irvin.
Even as a senior U.S. Senator, with the incredibly busy schedule that position entailed, Hollings made time for serious reading. He began each day, often while being driven to his office in Washington’s Russell Senate Office Building, with a variety of newspapers. He ended each day with books on topics that interested him. I well remember one Christmas in the late 1990s when I asked what he was reading over his holiday. He had three books – two on contemporary Mexican-American affairs and one book on world finance. Time has proven that he was prescient in his concern over our relationship with Mexico.
Hollings viewed travel as a remarkable opportunity to learn about foreign cultures. On his return from a Codel or other trip, Sen. Hollings would share what he had seen and offer his impressions about the people he had met and the conditions under which they lived. And his travel often informed his votes and legislation he was writing.
In retirement, and particularly in his last months, Senator Hollings continued to read as a way to enrich himself. Thanks to the generosity of the Hollings family, a small selection from his vast library is now available in the Dorothy Smith Reading Room. About forty volumes include a favorite he reread during his final months – a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt – and the book I intend to read soon, The Statesman and the Storyteller: John Hay, Mark Twain, and the Rise of American Imperialism.
On your next visit to the Reading Room, perhaps, like me, you will be inspired to read a book enjoyed by the Senator.
By Herb Hartsook