Great stories often start with great questions. And great questions are usually simple ones: What if? How about? or I wonder?
Last Saturday, Wil Haygood, author of The Butler, sat at a table outside the gift shop at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History autographing the book that became the movie.
I stalked him over Kermit t-shirts for a few moments, and then decided I’d regret it if I didn’t say hi. Plus, the pressure was building from my family to go up and speak to him. Things were getting loud. I did. Haygood was warm and gracious and shared how he came up with the idea of the book that traces the life and work of one butler through American history, working in the White House. Haygood was attending a Barack Obama rally and noticed four white girls crying in the crowd. He approached them and asked why they cried. They said that their fathers weren’t speaking to them anymore because they were going to vote for Obama. Haygood, an award-winning Washington Post writer (and author of other critically acclaimed biographies) knew that Obama would win, and that something even bigger was at play in American history.
He went back to the newsroom and spoke with his editor. He wondered if there was a White House employee that he could speak to, a back stage kind of person who had worked there for years. He found him. Now we have The Butler.
Here is the 2008 Washington Post article that came before the movie, but after the question: I wonder?