September 8, 2000

Memo to the People of the Future

Stories of people who are engaged in something that's both difficult and probably futile: Trying to control how they'll be seen by generations to come.


Host Ira Glass tells the story of a time capsule project designed to document our lives so that people a thousand years from now can know what we were like. Ira explains that when a friend of his got involved in the time capsule, Ira realized that he hates the people of the future. But lots of people don't. Lots of people worry about how they'll be remembered. This show is about that sad, sad lot. (4 minutes)
Act One

Dewey Decimal Beats Truman

Sarah Vowell visits four Presidential libraries on a fact-finding tour for...President Clinton. Not that he asked her. But she wanted to offer a little advice about what should and should not be in the Presidential library he'll soon be building in Arkansas. Rejected titles for this act of our show: "Can You Direct Me to the Dick Morris Exhibit?," "The Last and Longest Press Conference," "How a Bill Becomes an Archive," "All the President's Pens," "It's the Eternity, Stupid," and "If This Library Be A Rockin, Don't Come a Knockin." (25 minutes)
Act Two

One And One Don't Make Two

What if you're remembered in ways that you don't like? What if you're remembered for something someone else did? In this act, we consider the case of Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1965 she spent three days with reporter Jean Stafford, who wrote about Mrs. Oswald for McCall's magazine and later in a book called A Mother in History. This American Life producer Susan Burton tracked down the tapes of the interview to the University of Colorado in Boulder. According to the librarians in the Special Collections there, this is the first time the tapes have been played publicly—possibly the first time the tapes have ever been heard by anyone but Jean Stafford and Mrs. Oswald herself. On the tapes, Marguerite Oswald defends her parenting skills against the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report. (13 minutes)
Act Three

You Don't Have To Be An Einstein

After he died, Albert Einstein became a figure of international kitsch: Appearing in computer and Pepsi ads, showing up a comic character in movies with Meg Ryan, and until very recently his brain was on the loose without his family's consent...in the unauthorized possession of the doctor who did the autopsy, a man named Thomas Harvey. Mike Paterniti took a cross-country roadtrip with Dr Harvey and the brain. At one point, in search of the global epicenter of those who've attached themselves to Einstein after the physicist's death, Mike headed to Japan. He reads an excerpt from his book Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain. (14 minutes)