Brian Kilmeade, host of Fox & Friends and Kilmeade & Friends, is such an incredible guy. So knowledgeable, always has an opinion on politics, sports...anything! I had the pleasure of appearing on his show and want to let you know know about his new book, "Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History," which just launched today. I recently interviewed him about the book and what it can teach us about America today.
I hope you enjoy.
Brandon Steiner: Who is this book for and why did you write this book?
Brian Kilmeade: This is a book for any American who has a passion for great Patriots from our past- unsung heroes. In fact, most of us know the founding fathers but as they would be the first to tell you- our country was formed on the backs of so called "everyday" Americans who do great things at the most important times.
BS: You note that, “the challenges we face today are not so different from Jefferson’s.” Through your writing process, what have you learned about how we can make this country better?
BK: Our number one enemy remains Islamic Extremists but many of us think it all started on 9/11/01. It actually started in 1784. The Pirates I discussed are the Al Qaeda/ISIS of today.
What I learned is that force and strength is the only thing that kept America safe and our merchant ships secure. John Adams and George Washington paid for peace and got nowhere. Jefferson took them on and sent the world a message: when challenged WE fight.
BS: If there were just two things that someone reading your book has to learn from reading it, what would they be?
BK: I hope readers walk away knowing that America doesn't always do everything right but we are virtually the only nation who tries to. Number two: that you will conclude, like today, we are the force for good in the world and history shows us when we don't act the whole world pays a price.
BS: I’m sure there was an intense research process for this book. How do you approach a historical project like this? How did you start your fact-finding mission?
BK: I didn’t want another historical project, but after the success of "George Washington's Secret Six" Don and I were pushed by our teams to come up with another project that would highlight under-appreciated and underreported periods in our past. By the way-I think we found it in and around the Barbary Wars.
My process: I first read everything I could and asked myself, is there anything I do not know? Do we still have questions? The answer to both was, “Yes!”
So, thanks to Dr. Larry Sabato, Anna Berkes at Jefferson Library and the Historians at the Marines Historical Center. We believe we did a complete and fast-moving book that you may believe is a novel but its 100% true. I am just amazed how our fight against militant Islam then is the same as the one today...by examining not only Jefferson, but also John Adams and James Madison I think we tell a complete story.
BS: What inspired you when you were younger to pursue a career in media and also write books about history?
BK: I always liked telling stories being in the eye of the storm, where the action is not only in news, but first and foremost in sports. Up until the year 2000 most of my career was sports, but as much as I loved it and wrote two books on it I always felt the big pull to news. I also loved being in front of people but had no interest in acting- just wanted to be myself and see where the chips fell and I have been so lucky since graduating in 1986. The big break came when I joined Fox News in 1997.
BS: Since I’m a sports guy, I feel compelled to also ask you about some of your other books: The Games Do Count and It’s How You Play the Game. How have sports affected your life and from a historical perspective, what can we learn about the progression of sports relative to the progression of American society?
BK: I am also a sports guy, an average athlete who wanted to be great and was not. My vehicle was soccer and although I played 4 years of Division II soccer, and played on incredible club teams, I was far from incredible myself. I was a blue-collar midfielder and outside back and graduated feeling for a while like I failed.
I soon realized that my lessons and struggles to star among stars helped me in this profession. I sent out over 500 resumes, blitzed markets without job openings, networked relentlessly and never dreamed of quitting while others threw in the towel- perhaps with more talent. When all looked grim I just doubled down because I just spent my life doing the same on the soccer field. However, in this job I think I have the skills to be a star and have no interest in anyone who says differently. This is why I wrote two sports books, which examine 73 and 92 former athletes, respectively, about the moments in sports that shaped who they are today. Every person featured is impressive and accomplished and their sports careers chronicled humanizes and I hope inspires our next generations of athletes. I am immensely proud of "The Games Do Count" and "It's How You Play the Game.”
BS: I have had the pleasure of joining you on your radio show, (which was a great time) and of course over the years you have interviewed presidents, actors, athletes, supermodels…you name it! Which guest was your favorite of all-time and which surprised you the most?
BK: Brandon you are among the most impactful. You just outworked out hustled everyone and there was no silver spoon waiting for you after college. You have won the respect of the most impactful athletes and executives and agents in the world by the company you formed and execute for your clients daily.
Among athletes my guy, after Ali of course, was Fran Tarkenton. I just interviewed him this past summer. As a kid I hated that he was traded because I am a Giants guy, but to watch him scramble and ad-lib with the Vikes rather then take a sack when there was not such thing as a running QB…why did he do that? Because failure wasn't an option. I found this mindset inspiring. He was too small and his arm wasn't too strong, but he just won. When he told me he learned more in life from his three Super Bowl losses then all his wins I knew he could still be leading me by example today.
One of the real thrills about this job has been getting to know so many impressive military members, especially General Stanley McChrystal. After reading his book and interviewing him six times I am convinced he's one of this nation’s finest leaders. Yes, he got a raw deal and in turn America is worse off because of it. However, he is not bitter. He formed his own company and is thriving in our world today.
BS: What’s next? What is the next big challenge you want to tackle?
BK: I would like to work hard and expose this book to the public and see if America will take to this book like they did the last - then push to makes them both movies. Perhaps another book, but most of all make sure I am a great husband and parent and if I fall short in either area it won't be for lack of trying
I do one thing everyday- I try.
BS: Thank you, Brian.
BK: Thanks so much for the opportunity!