Timothy Egan seemed perplexed when his political comments opposing Republican fund raiser and strategist Karl Rove drew cheers and loud applause from an ample crowd in the Jordan Ballroom of the Student Union Building.
“I never thought that would get an applause here,” Egan said. “Am I really in Idaho?”
He then grinned enthusiastically and proceeded to scathingly review the recent election, and breakdown Republican political
“Mitt Romney was a Mad Men candidate, in a Modern Family world,” Egan said in his address as guest speaker at the Cecil D. Andrus Lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Egan is an award-winning writer for the New York Times, as well as the author of three books.
Audience members also seemed surprised a liberal- leaning speaker drew such crowds in a largely Republican state.
“Well, he is a pretty brave man to come into the state of Idaho and give a talk about politics and be so positive about what happened,” said Louis Maley, a Boise resident who attended the event with her husband, Terry. “It was really encouraging to hear that and to hear the audience respond in such a positive way.”
Her husband also commented on how republicans may have disagreed with Egan’s political message.
“I thought it was a little more liberal than I expected. I am a liberal myself, but I can see how a Republican in the audience might not have been pleased,” Maley said.
Egan was asked to speak at the first of many planned lectures presented by the Cecil D. Andrus Center for Public Policy located on campus.
The Cecil D. Andrus Center was named in honor of the four -term former Idaho governor, bipartisan legislator and proponent of land advocacy.
Though many individuals may have been willing to speak at the university, Egan seemed a solid choice by Andrus Center officials.
“We wanted to find a very distinguished observer of American politics and Tim Egan’s name was the first one on our list,” said David Adler, director of the Cecil D. Andrus Center. “You can see that he is a widely read, wildly popular, here in Idaho and throughout the west, and we knew that there would be a very strong, positive public response to the selection of Egan.”
Many people attended the event and such a large crowd seemed to surprise Boise State staff, who opened additional sections of the Jordan Ballroom and set up chairs to accommodate guests.
After offering his political opinions regarding the recent elections and state of politics, Egan explained the subject of his latest book, ‘Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis”, which chronicles the life and achievements of photographer and Native American documenter, Edward Curtis.
“His life story itself is extraordinary because he achieved the greatest heights that any artist, any pacific northwesterner could ever achieve, and then he died completely forgotten and lost,” Egan said.
Egan explained Curtis’s rise to artistic prominence, and desire to capture fading Native American tribes.
“I want to talk about the subject of Curtis’s great masterpieces, the Native Americans,” Egan said. “Because they have been so long stereotyped, and so long ignored, and Curtis came along and was one of the first people to see them as human beings.”
Curtis had become famous for his portrait photography work, even photographing then president Teddy Roosevelt.
After tiring of the traditional portrait business, and with the backing of the wealthiest man in the country at the turn of the nineteenth century, J.P. Morgan, Curtis set out to document nearly 10,000 audio recordings and 20 volumes of Native American pictures.
“He launches in 1900 what becomes the greatest photographic odyssey in American history, he says ‘I want to photograph all American tribes, all of them, that are still living somewhat by the old ways,’” Egan said.
As Egan explained, Curtis spent 30 years traveling the country documenting Native Americans through natural light photographs and Edison Cylinders, the first field recorders of their time, in an exhaustive effort to document the cultural practices of declining peoples.
Curtis finished his volumes on the native people, but was forgotten in the midst of a great depression.
“The great treasure trove of Curtis’s masterpieces went into a Boston bookstore basement, and there they sat for 40 years,” Egan said.
Curtis’s volumes were rediscovered in the 1970’s, and today a complete volume of his work sells for roughly two million at auction, Egan said.
Despite the large turnout for the event, few students appeared to be in attendance.