Past Present Podcast: Truckers, NATO, and Spelling Bees

Spelling Bee

In this week’s episode of Past Present, Natalia, Neil, and Niki debate the decline of the long-haul trucker, the future of NATO, and the national spelling bee.


A New York Times article on long-haul truckers by Trip Gabriel detailed the declining status of truckers in American life. Niki commented the highpoint of truckers’ cultural cache in the 1970s, including popular cultural depictions like the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Neil cited Bruce Schulman’s argument in his book The Seventies about the “reddening” of America as another way of understanding truckers’ popularity in that decade. Natalia shared an essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books that observed what it called the “marginal characters” now attracted to the trucking profession.


In light of Donald Trump’s inconsistent statements on NATO, we discussed the history of the North American Treaty Organization.

Spelling Bees

Anayya Vinay recently won the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee by spelling “marocain.” Natalia commented on the historical evolution of spelling bees from educational experiences to competitions, demonstrated in part by ESPN’s broadcasting of the event. Niki noted that documentaries on spelling bees, including 2002’s Spellbound, focused on the obsessiveness of the pursuit. Natalia added that Sameer Pandya’s Atlantic article on Indian American domination of the spelling bee described the event as “America’s Great Racial Freaks-and-Geeks Show.”

What’s Making History

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