The Persons I Wish I Had Known

William Hazlitt wrote an essay on persons one would wish to have seen. I would like to ask you this question “Who are the persons you would wish to have known?”

This past weekend I posed this question as a foundation for two separate dinner conversations with people I greatly respect. The answers were fascinating to say the least.

Here are two people (out of many) I would love to have join me for an intimate coffee, a beer, or dinner conversation.

1) Socrates—The philosopher remains, as he was in his lifetime (469–399 B.C.),[1] an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every age.

2.) C.S. Lewis—I really want an opportunity to invite “Jack” to McCreary’s Pub in Franklin and gather a few friends around a pint or two and discuss our latest thinking and writings. Oh my goodness! Wouldn’t that be “Narnian?”

What about you?

Who is a person you would wish to have known?

**A couple of ground rules for the conversation. Let’s not include Jesus nor any other Bible personality. We all know we want to talk to them. Let’s think a little wider, shall we?

As the conversation progresses in the comments, I’ll reveal the dinner conversations, the personalities and their choices.

Let the conversation begin!

Bonus points for naming the person in the picture.

150 Responses to “The Persons I Wish I Had Known”

  1. Octavia Elliott, a Southerner who built the home my parents live in in 1854. She was a young war bride during the time the home was occupied by first the Yankee command then the Southern….she was said to have gone to the 3rd floor balcony and told them that they could have their skirmishes later, but 1-3 was nap time for her children, and for the next 10 days all shooting stopped during that time. When her father doubted a suitors ring, she used its diamond to scratch her name in the windowpanes in her father’s study…which is still there today. She lived a fascinating life traveling the world in the 1800’s.

  2. Do they have to be dead already?

    • @Suzy, No, they can be alive. One person that is alive that I wouldlove to know is author David McCullough. Now, you’ve got me curious!!

  3. My father came from an home broken by three generations of alcoholism, abuse, and divorce. He lived a hard life full of failures and disappointments due to his own alcoholism. He is now an empty broken shell of a man.

    I wish I could have known the man my father was meant to be, the man God intended him to be. I am sure he is a beautiful man. There would be so many unanswered questions in my life that would be resolved, if I knew that man. Oh how I long for that.

  4. I wish I had known Jack Kerouac. His book The Dharma Bums changed the course and context of my life. In reading his work, his journals and his letters, in addition to biographies and documentaries on him, I feel like we’re kindred spirits. Silly, I know. But I think some understand what I mean.

    Honorable mentions would include Duke Ellington, Brother Lawrence and Audrey Hepburn.

    And I’ll vote William Shakespeare in the photo.

    • @Keith Jennings, Keith, Kudos!!! You are correct on the photo. It is the bard who has permeated the wallpaper of our lives.

      Now I have another book to add to my long list of must reads. It sounds incredible!

  5. I say William Shakespeare in the pic above.
    I would love to have dinner conversation with Ronald and Nancy Reagan!

    I would really love to have known my husband’s Grandfather…he died the year before we began dating. Thanks to his love of the Lord and the ministry given him, my own daughter is able to attend Bible college with a full tuition scholarship!

    • @bluegoose, You are correct on the photo as well. Kudos!!

      Someone in our artist mentoring group this morning also chose Ronald Reagan. And what a legacy left by your husband’s grandfather. wow!

  6. Good topic. I’ll go with two, one alive and one dead.

    1. Richard Winters – Former United States Army Officer. If you’ve ever seen ‘Band of Brothers’ then you know who Dick Winters is. If you haven’t seen it, you should (AND read the book). Winters is the kind of man I think almost any many would aspire to be like. He was honest, tough, a natural leader, but also humble. I’ve read so much about those men and movies often have a way of making somebody appear to be more ‘heroic’ than they actually are but all the men who served with Winters would tell he was the real deal. (About the only thing Winters didn’t like about the miniseries was the part was he was supposedly ‘haunted’ after shooting and killing a young SS soldier, something he strongly denied).

    2. John Locke – I am major proponent of property rights and derive much of my thinking on the issue from Locke’s writings. I just think it would be fascinating to discuss these issues with him and also find out what he thinks about the Supreme Court decision in Kelo.

    • @Jay, Jay, thanks for joining the conversation!

      I have meant to watch “Band of Brothers” for a long time. Wondering if it is on Apple TV or Netflix?

      And I am also a major proponent of property rights. I’m also wondering is this where the “John Locke” name derived on LOST?


  7. Mine may sound silly in comparision to some of these — excellent names, but I’ve always wanted to meet Emmett Kelly. I studied clowing under one his protoge’s named Barry DeChant, and he would tell amazing stories about their days together. Emmett loved children, and he used to be a happy clown (also known as Auguste)– but there was a fire in the circus tent one day — and children died. He became a hobo (sad faced) clown that day in memory of those kids. He was a gifted communicator and a talented artist. For me, I’d want to meet him.

  8. I know Band of Brothers is available on Netflix but not for streaming. Not sure about Apple TV. Either way, it’s definitely worth the time to watch. It’s not very long. 10 parts with each one running an hour. Also be sure to check out the book by Stephen Ambrose. Has a lot more information and I love the way Ambrose writes. He makes biographies read like novels.

    As for the Locke tie in with Lost, there is one specifically. John Locke, the philosopher, met the English politician, Anthony Cooper, in 1666 at Oxford. Locke persuaded Cooper to get an operation on an infection in his liver. It saved his life. John Locke in Lost donated his kidney to his father to save his life. His father’s name? Anthony Cooper.

  9. I wish I had known Patrick Henry…to better understand the fiery passion that burned in his belly and to explore his thoughts on liberty.

  10. So, since breakfast, I’ve revised my list. I’ll give you one historic figure and one modern.

    Historic: William Bentley ( He’s a relatively unknown figure in history BUT I am a direct descendant of him on my father’s side (my grandmother was a Bentley who). He was a scholar, a minister, a writer, a thinker, a diarist (today we’d call him a post-modernist blogger). I like knowing I have some of his DNA. From Wikipedia:

    Bentley graduated from Harvard University in 1777, and worked as a schoolteacher and then a tutor of Latin and Greek at Harvard. On September 24, 1783, he was ordained as a minister and became pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Salem, known as the East Church, where he remained until his death in 1819. Bentley was well liked by his parishioners because of his philosophy of emphasizing good works over rigid doctrine. He himself lived modestly, and gave almost half his salary to help the poorer members of his congregation. He often shared the East Church pulpit with pastors of other sects. Bentley spoke 21 languages, 7 fluently, and was an inexhaustible reader and book collector. He eventually amassed a library of over 4,000 volumes, one of the largest private libraries in America at the time. In addition to classic Latin and Greek works, Bentley’s collection included books on language, philosophy, the sciences, and early Christianity. From 1797 to 1817, Bentley wrote columns twice weekly for the Salem Gazette and Salem Register, discussing American and foreign news and politics on current topics such as the China trade, slavery, and the French Revolution, and often reflecting Bentley’s Jeffersonian outlook. He twice declined Thomas Jefferson’s offers of prominent positions, first as chaplain of the United States Congress, and then as first president of the University of Virginia. Bentley kept a detailed diary recording not only current events in Salem and the world, but also his own thoughts on a broad range of topics. The diary fills nearly 32 volumes; an abridged 11-volume version was published in 1905.

    My modern person of choice would be Steve Martin. Brilliant, hilarious, creative…so much more than the two-dimensional comedian from the late 70s/early 80s.

    That’s it.

    • @Randy (the other), Randy, since you are one of the most well-read people I know as well as a student of history and culture—it is fun to watch you process this question.

      Bentley was quite an amazing man!! 21 languages, oh my gosh. I have yet to master English.

      And Steve Martin is an amazing choice. What a fascinating time that would be!

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  11. This was such a great question when you asked it at dinner. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

    My five would be:

    King David
    St. Athanasius
    Daniel Defoe
    Abraham Lincoln
    Winston Churchill

  12. My five would be:

    Nelson Mandela
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Apostle Paul
    Abraham Lincoln
    Mother Teresa

    • @Matt Wade, Yes, a great list. Martin Luther King, Jr. was @gailhyatt ‘s choice as well. And Mother Teresa would provide a humbling but extraordianary spiritual experience.

      Thanks, Matt for joining the conversation.

  13. I’m going to answer this in a different direction. I really wish my daughter could have known my grandparents. I think they would have just loved her, especially my mom’s parents. She’s definitely cut from their cloth.

  14. Randy, outstanding question. Socrates is a great choice of course, but I am more of the opinion that Socrates was a character devised by the brilliant Plato as a way of putting out his own theories in the intellectual conversation style Plato was so good at it.

    My choices would be:

    Meister Eckhart,
    Dante Alighieri,
    Emanuel Swedenborg,
    Benjamin Franklin.

    and of course Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who taught his sons this legacy –

    Thanks again Randy great discussion and am picking up a few leads for books to read from your guests comments.

    • @James Cohen, Ah, great point about Plato. You have given me research to do as well.

      I loved Pressfield’s take on Socrates in “Tides of War.” But now you have me thinking.


      • @Randy Elrod,

        So agree Randy, Tides of war is a fabulous read. I like Karl Jaspers book Socrates, Buddha, Confucius and Jesus – it moves some way to my point of view but overall I get the distinct idea of Socrates as Plato’s creation from Plato, Plotinus and other writers from the Neo-Platonist movement. Happy Hunting, hope you do a follow up and would be very happy to contribute.

  15. Charlene Anaïs August 31, 2010 at 13:34

    My five — Jesus. Shakespeare. Van Gogh. Galileo. MLK Jr.

  16. The person I would have wanted to meet in history would probably be Adolf Hitler, despite the fact that he was one of the most horrible men in the history of the world. His intelligence and views on life would be interesting to experience first hand. To hear from the man himself why one man thought he could rule the entire world and glorify himself to the level of God would be an interesting explanation. (P.S. I, under no circumstances agree with or condone any of what Hitler did or stood for)

    Another would probably be Franklin Roosevelt. To do what no other President in United States history has done is incredibly fascinating. To see what his thoughts were on the Depression and WWII and on the fore-mentioned person on my list.

  17. Off the top, here are the first five people I wish I had known…well enough to share a bottle of wine with:

    Leonardo Da Vinci
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Gertrude Stein
    Nicola Tesla
    Siddhartha Gautama

    Thanks for this question! It made me examine what I really value in the people I surround myself with: Creativity, compassion, intelligence, wit.

  18. Great Question!

    Here are my five:

    1. Cleopas (Road to Emmaus- (Luke 24:13-35)
    2. St. Juan Diego (Mexico City, 1531)
    3. Mother Theresa
    4. Jose Marti
    5. El Cid

    • @Raymond Rodriguez-Torres, Thanks, Raymond!

      El Cid. Now there is a fascinating choice!! Not that your others aren’t. I don’t think I know Jose Marti.

      Here goes Google again.

      It seems many of us cannot bear the guideline of no Bible characters. Maybe I should not have specified that. Too constricting, perhaps.

  19. I’d say Shakespeare is the man in the photo, but was beaten to it!

    My people:

    J.R.R.Tolkien – my eternal mentor
    Clark Gable – the most debonair actor ever
    Teddy Roosevelt – I’d imagine the conversations being hilarious
    Norman Rockwell – I’d hope to pick up a few tips
    Leonardo di Vinci – I’d hope to steal a few idea.

  20. What a great dinner question!

    John Calvin –
    Jacobus Arminius –
    Would love to explore the debate between these two.

    Benjamin Franklin –
    What wasn’t Ben involved with? A statesmen, inventor, author, publisher, founding father…

    Ronald Reagan –
    What an amazing life well lived

    My grandfather who died in WWII when my mom was a toddler

  21. forgot about my other three choices:

    William Shakespeare – what informed his seemingly perfect discernment of human nature that still stands today?
    Emily Dickinson – I’d like to think I’d want to ask her about poetry, but I’d probably just want to get her outside and go get a burger.
    Edward Kennedy – what drove such a privileged man to fight so hard for those without it? Genuine concern? Catholic guilt? Insincere posturing? I’m very interested in knowing what drove him.

  22. Such a great question…

    I’d love to buy a drink and have a long chat into the night with the men who have had the greatest influence on who I have become:

    1) C.S. Lewis
    2) MLK Jr.
    3) Bono
    4) A.W. Tozer
    5) William Wilberforce

    In their own way, each of these men have had an enormous impact on my thinking, my career, my passions, and my spiritual journey. I look forward to meeting each of them someday on the other side.

  23. I’d have to say Thomas Edison. He’s quoted as saying, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”

    His life, and creative output, are a direct result of that idea.

    • @JB Lynn, Yes, what a conversation to gather Edison and Tesla (one of the choices in a previous comment) in the same room for a conversation. I suppose there would be “fireworks!”

      I love that quote!!! “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”

      Thanks, JB.

  24. I didn’t choose Bono b/c you said “no Bible characters.” ;)

  25. Abigail Adams
    Martha Washington
    Golda Meir
    The Buddha

    • @Pat, Ah yes, at one of our dinner conversation, Golda Meir was chosen. What a fascinating woman!

      I love it that most of your list are great women!

      Thanks, Pat.

  26. What I wouldn’t pay for one more day with my dad, to go deeper than football and work, to really talk as father and son…

  27. Helen Keller – a brilliant woman to not only learn finger spelling to communicate (graduating college with honors having had every word finger-spelled into her hand), but to be able to put her hand to your mouth and ‘lip read’, put her hand on your throat and know what part of the country you came from. The woman was amazing!

    And I know you said one, but I don’t follow directions well *g* C.S. Lewis and Walt Disney.

    • @Diana Fraser, Almost everyone has found it difficult to stay with just one, and i suspect if we had a day or so to ponder, the list would grow far beyond our dreams.

      Helen Keller would be a mesmerizing person to spend time with and get to know.

      I already talked about Lewis myself and you are the first to say what many of us were thinking—Walt Disney.

      Thanks, Diana!

  28. Wow! All those replies. I had to think very deep because I never thought about this before. First I thought I already had and have people in my life who inspire me and are a rollmodel for me. But when I kept thinking about it I found two Dutch people who’s book I love to read and would have loved to meet:

    Corrie ten Boom and Henri Nouwen.

    But now I keep thinking about it. There was a time I thought about my brother. How he would be like and what he would have advised me about a certain situation. My brother always took care of me and was very wise for his age. Yes, I would have loved to meet my brother now. Wherever my brother would enter there was joy. He was a joy himself. With him life was joyful even when it wasn’t . Now, when I’m thinking about him food, drink, movies, laughter comes into mind. Oh, and there was a salvation army officer: Major Alida Bosshardt. She was amazing. She wasn’t a major but was called that way. The whole country loved her because of her honesty and her work with the prostitutes. Yes, I would have loved to meet her and it would have been amazing. She was hilarious.

    Okay, I have to admit you challenged me here, Randy. I bet the conversations were amazing. I could use this with my friends. Thanks for sharing and challenging. Bye bye.

    • @Ani, Thanks, Ani. You have chosen one of my heroes: Henri Nouwen. His writings have helped me more the past four years than I am able to express.

      I didn’t realize that both he and Corrie Ten-Boom were Dutch.

      A great heritage for your nation.

  29. 1) Bono
    It seems to be the sexy pic of any young church goer, but I truly would love to chat with him. He seems to be on another page then me and always has different ways to think about life.

    2) Henri Nouwen
    His books have changed the way I think about God and grace

    3) Abraham Lincoln
    After I read a book called Lincoln on Leadership he became one of my heros.

    I love this question

  30. Randy, great question.

    1. Jesus. I would particularly like to sit with him as he contemplated what he was about to do for all mankind. Maybe someday I’ll get to ask him, although it probably won’t matter then.
    2. Abraham Lincoln. I would love to have been traveling with him as he rode to Gettysburg to speak. Having visited this past November, the place and the speech hold a special place in my heart.
    3. George Washington. I would love to ask him what kept him going when is army was in rags and the winter was setting in. Understand the bravery that it took to cross the Potomac in those conditions. As a former Marine Corps sergeant, that amazes me.
    4. My father. As he sits in a nursing home now battling dementia, and not having known him the majority of my life, I would love to talk with him as a young man, before marriage, kids, divorce, to see the man he could have been, and might have been.
    5. My grandfather. While I had time with him as a young man, it was not until I was much older that I began to realize the value that he held for me. As I approach becoming a grandfather myself for the first time, I realize that he was always teaching me, even though I wasn’t always learning, and that he loved me much more than I knew.

    Thanks for the question!

    • @Mike, Powerful, Mike. If I’m not mistaken, you are the first to name George Washington. McCullough’s 1776 helped me realize what an incredible man and leader he was.

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  31. Well, perhaps I’m not as spiritual as I should be because here would be my top 5:

    Andy Kaufman

    Lenny Bruce

    Orson Welles

    C. S. Lewis

    Ken Davis

    Kaufman, Bruce and Wells because of their creativity and fearlessness. Lewis because he was (and is) brilliant and Ken Davis because I want to be a professional speaker reaching people for Christ through humor and thought.

    I know the latter may happen someday as I’ve spoken with him on the phone. But we haven’t sat down for dinner so I included him. :)

    • @Jason, Thanks, Jason. Yes, I count it as an incredible honor to call Ken Davis one of my closest and dearest friends. He has mentored me in countless ways.

      Also, you are the first to mention Orson Welles. The creator of what has been called the greatest movie of all time. What a conversation that would be!

  32. Way to many to name and surely move than five are allowed and in no particular order:

    Robert Boyle
    Antoine Lavoisier
    Johann Kepler
    Leonard Bernstein
    Rudyard Kipling
    C.S. Lewis
    Eugene O’Neill
    Mother Teresa
    early Roman physician-Galen
    Robert E Lee
    Abe Lincoln
    George and Martha Washington
    John and Abigail Adams
    William Shakespeare
    Pancho Villa
    Any modern day mexican drug king pin and any and all of their associates
    Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha fictional fame
    the pre-teen dude that mooned my mother while she was going down the Interstate near her apartment one day several years ago..
    Lew Wallace of Ben Hur, A Tale Of Christ

    All of my forefathers and foremothers going back to at least A.D. 1000 and in particular those of my Cherokee ancestry.

    I know it’s a big list but it’s a big world.

  33. Queen Eizabeth I

    She was such a strong woman in a time when women were not very respected. She was a world leader. We will never know the many sacrifices she made to accept what she felt was her calling.

  34. Let’s see… few of mine would have to be:
    1. John Mott
    2. George Whitefield
    3. William Wallace

  35. Not only am I without words, you’ve brought me to tears. My father abandoned us when I was 14. I too, would love to know the man that God had in mind when he created him. I believe one day we will.

  36. I wish I would have known either of my grandfathers. They both died when I was 2 years old.
    Both, from what I’ve been told, had very strong (but very different) personalities. I’ve always wanted to know what they were like for myself.

  37. Hmmm…

    1. Tom Hanks
    2. Tony Blair
    3. Ronald Reagan
    4. Pope John Paul II
    5. Joan of Arc
    6. Ringo

  38. oooh that’s a tough one…I have a hard time talking to people anyway, let alone ones that I am in awe of, or whose brains I would like to pick… we go….5 seems to be the number…
    1. Scarlett O’Hara – I know she is’t real, but wow she was sassy LOL
    2. Miles Franklin – an Australian writer from a hundred years or so ago who wrote about my local area
    3. Mother Theresa – her humility and focus!
    4. Randy Elrod – no I’m not blowing smoke up your skirt, but you are the first creative I’ve come across who is willing to explore spirituality from a different angle to anyone I’ve ever encountered
    5. Edith Piaf – romantic notions of Paris and smokey bars fuel this one :)

    the list will probably change in an hour as I think more about it…what a great question!

    • @Michelle George, Ah, yes. Edith Piaf. I’m thinking I would love to meet you and talk as well!

      And you are the first to introduce a mythical character. Ah, Scah-lett!! I love it. That says a lot about you!

      Thanks, Michelle.

  39. Jillanne Johnson August 31, 2010 at 17:42

    First, I knew but would always love to know better my great-grandparents. With the global community we have now not everyone has the grounding of a strong family tree and I know I am so blessed to have generations of grace to guide me.

    Second, I would love to truly know the people who pass through my life. Really to have vision to leave the mark God made me to make in their lives and to be open to be influenced by them each in the way that God made them to influence me. Life can be so hectic and I feel like I don’t get to focus on each person and truly develop true relationship as we were made to have.

  40. I’m sure the minute after I submit this comment I’ll think of someone else I’d wish I’d have written instead of these two. Oh well. Here are two that come to mind now:

    Wolfgang A. Mozart…because of his genius in just 35 short years. The music he composed at such a young age—the maturity and creativity of that music—is almost supernatural.

    J.S. Bach…a cantata every week. He worked at a church and still found time to write a ridiculous amount of history-changing music. I’d love to hear first-hand how he managed his time, writing all that music while he had ten children at home (twenty total between his two wives, but only ten children made it past infancy).

    Once again, awesome question, Randy. Way to provoke some interesting conversations! I’ll be using this one over dinner soon.

  41. Rocco, I feel your pain.

  42. You know that prophet from the Bible – Daniel? I find him to be fascinating and I would have really liked to have known him during his time. Better yet, I would love to have known one of those lions from the den he got thrown into. If lions could speak, it would be cool to find out what really went on in that den that day.

  43. What a great topic for some insightful conversations. Here are a few people I would have liked to have been in the presence of:

    Tecumseh (Shawnee Warrior)


    Sigmund Freud

    Ernest Hemmingway

    Vincent Van Gogh

    • @Lisa, A fascinating list. By some odd twist of fate, ove rthe past years, I have followed the path of Hemingway across the ends of the earth. A fascinating human being and I feel he would definitely NOT be boring! Four of your answers bring new persoanlities to this conversation. Thanks, Lisa!

  44. Johnna Bigelow August 31, 2010 at 22:39

    No deep explanations for the following people I wish I had known. (Disclaimer: I’m not sure I’d want them all in the room at the same time, either.)

    Mark Twain (Pure brilliance and a wicked witt.)

    Harper Lee (Would love to be one of the few to “really” get to know her.)

    Rob Reiner (Responsible for some of my favorite movies of all time.)

    Amelia Earhart (What really happened to you?)

    Jonah Lehrer (fascinating insights on a variety of topics.)

    Amy Grant (Because I have grown up with her and loved her ever since I heard “My Father’s Eyes” long, long ago.)

    Thanks for the mental exercise!



    • @Johnna Bigelow, What a list! Just watched the CBS special on Rob Reiner-amazing! and Jonah Lehrer is a speaker I would love to have at my recreate conference in 2012 along with Philip Yancey (who is already confirmed).

  45. 1. Princess Diana ( I loved her ability to love)
    2. Jimmy Carter ( Amazing man of faith and how he continues to champion freedom.)
    3. Johnny Cash (He was so edgy and so far ahead of his time…there will never be another Johnny)
    4. Robert Mondavi (Just to talk to him about that moment he realized that Napa Valley would be the place that wine would grow best and how hard it was to take that chance… what made him do it….)
    5. My grandmother Tilly ( She loved so unconditionally. I only had 8 years with her… I miss her so.)

    • @Robin, Mondavi. Now you’re talking. His dreams for wine and Napa were boundless. What a conversation that would be!! Not to mention, the man in black!

  46. One of my life heroes was definitely Ronald Regan. Regan not only lead the nation to what he knew was right in the face of vigorous opposition; both in the press and in the establishment, but he inspired a nation to be proud of themselves. He was the kind of leader that when you saw him at a press conference or at a speech, you would stand just a little taller, and be proud of this great country. He foresaw the falling of the Soviet Union, even when the politcal opposition urged him to just live and let live. And because he stood firm, millions of lives were changed for the better.

  47. Kurt Cobain


    Fidel Castro

    Abraham Lincoln

    Andrew Murray

    • @Gary Schneider, Ah, Gary, you have brought Kurt Cobain and Fidel Castro and Andrew Murray anew to our gathering. What a diverse group!!

      • @Randy, Really enjoying the list. One word for the first four on my list, four words for Andrew: Kurt – Why? Ghandi – How? Fidel – Why? Ab – How? Andrew – Teach me to abide. I highly recommend HBO’s Band of Brothers, I’m getting Ambrose’s book today – thanks @Jay.

  48. Joseph Beuys because of his philosophy that everyone is an artist and his belief that if we embraced that we would see positive social change.

    Siddartha Guatama who was I believe, from my limited knowledge, the Buddah. I would want to hear his perspective on wrestling with the question what is the purpose of life? And hearing his journey toward enlightenment and freedom.

    Frederick Buechner because the man is real about his faith…imperfectly, even hauntingly real and that gives me hope for myself.

    Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori for their teaching/educational philosophies and their boldness as women to dare to question the status quo.

    Dorthea Lange because she traveled and told stories of the realities and hardships of peoples lives (through photography).

  49. I’m loving this conversation. Here are mine.

    1. George Muller – He’s faith in every day life and needs inspire me as well as his passion.
    2. Corrie Ten Boom – She touched my heart and challenged me as I was growing up.
    3. Laura Ingalls Wilder – Every girl would want a day with Laura.
    4. Esther – I can only hope that God can use me in such as time as this as he did with Esther.
    5. Mary – What was it like to raise the Son of God?

    • @Carol Asher, Yes, the conversation is fascinating!! I read Muller bio and it was amazing! Also, you bring a new and worthy woman to the table. Laura Ingalls Wilder has impacted so many. She would be a wonderful acquaintance. Thanks, Carol.

  50. Techumseh – To learn to fight for what I believe in.

    JIm Henson – To learn to bring joy to millions.

    Jackie Robinson – To learn to stay strong, when everyone is against me.

    Fred Rogers – To remind me that it is okay to make-believe.

    Marco Polo – To teach me how to make every day an adventure.

    Thanks for making me think, and thanks ^ Mandy for sending me here.

    • @Gary, Every person in your list is new to this conversation and very intriguing to me. What a list—and what wonderful explanations!!

      I had the pleasure to walk the Silk Road in Central Asia and study Marco Polo. What a man’s man and adventurer!! Thanks so much, Gary!

  51. Wow! I didn’t read yours before I put Techumseh as my top pick. I’m glad to see that there is someone out there that feels the same way I do about him.

  52. C.S. Lewis would also be on my list.

    * Mother Teresa – That kind of love is remarkable.
    * Thomas Edison – I quote him all of the time.
    * Nelson Mandela – He led his country with humility and hard work.
    * Michael Hyatt – I follow his blog/tweets and am impressed w/ his ideologies.
    * Oprah Winfrey – She obviously knows a thing or two about influence.

  53. Winston Churchill – hero for his character
    J. S. Bach – hero for his musical brilliance
    Allan Bloom – hero for his mind
    G. K. Chesterton – so good with ideas and language
    Oscar Wilde – anti-hero. I think the conversation would be fascinating.

    • @Mark Warnock, Thanks, Mark for joining the conversation. You are sending me to Google again to look up Allan Bloom. And you are the first to pick Chesterton, who would definitely be on my list, and oh my, would Oscar Wilde be intriguing…great list.

  54. Queen Victoria, Eleanor Roosevelt, Isak Dinensen (author of Out of Africa); women of strength, influence and perseverance. And all would enjoy a cup of tea.

  55. I was actually relieved to see that the question is phrased “Who is a person”, meaning just one. Because as soon as I read it, one person came to mind, and despite all the others that I read in the replies, still, none compared to this one.

    I’d like to invite my father to a dinner like that.

    My dad died when I was 17 in a car accident, and it was devestating for me. You see, my parents had separated by the time I was 6, so I spent most of my life apart from him. I got to see him at Christmas and for a month every summer, and on special occasions here and there, but for the most part, my dad didn’t have the time with me that either of us wanted. Not only that, the last summer I had with him he sacrificed. My great-grandmother died that summer, and he gave up the time we had together so that I could go be with my mom’s family for the funeral. He told me that this would likely be the last time I saw many of them outside of weddings and funerals.

    As I’ve become an adult, I’ve learned to see the world through different eyes, to appreciate the relationships in my life differently. I love to sit with my aunts and uncles and visit with them as adults, to talk to them and appreciate them parents of my cousins, to recognize the maturity in myself that I’ve seen in them… and being surprised by that recognition, because I’d not seen them in that role, specifically, before. They were my aunts & uncles, and those were my cousins… but to see the love they have for their children, to see the way they parent, that’s beautiful. To see them with my nieces and nephew, and know that the same love that fills their features when they look at these ones I adore… that it was on their faces when they looked at me… it’s amazing. It gives me a new appreciation for these people that I’ve always known as adults.

    I was only beginning to discover that with my father when he died. I had only begun to explore the depth of what our relationship could have been. I’d love to sit down to a dinner with him and talk. Ask him all the things about his family that we never discussed. Ask him all the things about his childhood he never talked about. Ask him how he met my mom, and when he knew it was over. I want to get to know him, to find out who he was. I wear his face, and he inhabits a large chunk of my heart. I wish I didn’t have to wait until eternity to find out more.

    • @Heather, Okay, Heather. Tears cloud my eyes as I finish your comment.

      Thanks for your transparency and for your very introspective and very meaningful words.And for allowing us to peak into your heart.

  56. 1. My paternal grandfather – I never met him. He was born in China in the 1880s, had a concubine, lived through war(s)… I know nothing about him besides that.

    2. My maternal grandfather – I never met him either. A great man of faith who lived out west when the west was still a toddler.

    3/4. Christopher and Peter Hitchens – with no cameras around

    5. Charles Darwin – who was the man?

    • @David Kuo, David, So honored that you join our conversation. I miss you.

      Your grandfathers would be amazing to spend time with.

      And, as to #3&4, I would really, really like to be in on that conversation.

      Thanks for bringing 5 totally new people to the list.

  57. Man, tough one… under the right circumstances (let’s say, in ’69, immediately following a show – before he really lost his mind), I would love to hang with Syd Barrett… for very different reasons, I’d love to pick Jonathan Edward’s mind for a few hours!

  58. Ok, so, where did it say we had to have five?

    1. (See my original comment – or –

    2. The bartender at “The Eagle and Child” (<- Google it. Think of all the combined wisdom that guy has!)

    3. Craig McConnell (Former pastor, now with Ransomed Heart Ministries. I love this man's heart)

    4. Watchman Nee. (Don't know why, but I like China.)

    5. You Randy. (Seriously. It would be cool to sit and have a great conversation over a good bottle of wine with you. Especially since I am in a metamorphosis stage of life, finding myself leaving the world of math, science, and technology, and entering into the world of art, creativity, and the heart.)


    • @Rocco, Ha! Yes, Rocco, it seemed to morph into five. I think Michael Hyatt started it way back up there in the teens of comments.

      I have sat in the worn down seat at the Eagle & child and tried to imagine how it would have been. But I have never thought of the bartender’s perspective. Yes, hopefully, he sensed the magic that was happening each week as the Inklings gathered.

      as for #5: I’m honored and all I can say is come to Franklin and we’ll sit on the deck at Red Pony over a great wine and I would love to have that conversation. You name it.

      • @Randy Elrod, Awesome!

        I also should have stated “The bartender from the late 30’s to early 60’s.” Not that the current one doesn’t have any wisdom to share, but yeah, we’re talking Inklings here! :)

  59. Mozart … brilliant, yet troubled.
    Henry Ford … I mean, this guy revolutionized industry as we know it … and his process was simple, yet profound.
    John Kennedy … something about this man inspired people beyond words.
    Martin Luther King, Jr … obvious reasons, what a pioneer
    Abraham Lincoln …

    and one more, since none of those are really inspired from a faith-filled perspective …
    John G Lake … I don’t know if we’d agree completely, but if only I had a speck of the faith he had.

  60. I had avoided posting earlier because I couldn’t really decide on an answer until I read Heather’s comment.

    Now I know. It would be my great grandmother (my mom’s maternal grandma). My grammy speaks often of her mother and how she wishes I had met her. My grammy also tells me often how much I remind her of her mom.

    She was an amazing woman in a very normal sense. She was a beautiful wife and loving mother to 13 children. Her husband was a farmer, so I have no doubt about her toughness and work ethic. She was also a fantastic cook and I have prepared several of her recipes myself.

    I think I would most like to find out from her how to maintain a sense of self when you’re immersed in the day to day of life. How to continue cooking and cleaning and raising godly children while still being confident in who God created you to be.

    Thanks for this. Would not have thought of this until just now. It was a blessing.
    Thank you.

  61. Well, I could probably choose one of those great philosophers or geniuses to have dinner with, but as much as I would be intrigued, I would also (most likely) leave dumbfounded and perplexed ;)

    So as woman…

    1. Princess Diana…She was so overexposed and very misunderstood…She was smart and not to be underestimated…She knew how to play to the media without being overbearing, so to speak….Yet, even in her strength, she was shy and soft-spoken…Her heart was that of compassion (evident in her relationship with her children and that of the organizations she participated in)…Her beauty was stunning…Both inside and out..An example of a lady

  62. This post brought BIG TEARS to my eyes because…
    Like Heather, I too would invite my father to dinner…I too experienced the separation and divorce of my parents at an early age (5 yrs old for me)…I too lost my father in a tragic accident as a teenager (I was 13 and he died in a fire…3rd degree burns over 60% of his body…)…I too wear his face and he inhabits a large chunk of my heart <3
    I only know him from the stories that others in my family have told me and somehow I have a sense of him through the few pictures that I have seen of him, and from close family members. My grandmother kept him alive in many ways through her stories but they are not nearly enough for me to know…I think of him often and wonder what life would be like for him, for my mom, and for my family if he were here. What would he be doing? Would he approve of my husband? Would they get along, golf together, build together? Would he and I share the same faith? How would he interact with me and my children…would he be proud of me?
    I never truly knew him…and never really got the chance to know him since he lived too far away…
    …and this leads me to wonder about the people in my life that I have had the opportunity to get to know but perhaps have missed it! Praying that I take the time to really listen and get to know the people that God has allowed me to encounter :)
    …and like Heather, looking forward to knowing my father in eternity!

    • @Osann Heisner, That question: would we share the same faith? Oh, that was such a burden on my heart.

      I grew up going to church. Dad was a caretaker at a Methodist church for many years, so we went there in the summers and for VBS. Mom took us to churches (though I suspect her motive was often to get things from the people, being the single mom with 2 and then 3 young girls at home, and she’d move on when people started to ask questions). But my Mom’s side of the family is all Catholic… and my Dad’s side is all Mormon… and we were neither. So as I dealt with the loss of my father, I found myself wondering where my father would be spending his eternity. I knew that my eternity was assured; I’d accepted Christ myself, but I’d just taken for granted that he had, too… and then I was assaulted by guilt that, having grown up Mormon, maybe he’d taken for granted that he was already covered, and he wasn’t going to be there.

      Years later, I asked my mother about it. For some reason, while I find that I can’t believe almost anything she tells me, when she tells me that he walked the aisle of the Baptist church they were attending as newlyweds in North Carolina and accepted Christ, it gave me the peace I’d needed. I knew, then, that my father had heard the truth, and that the example he’d lived out to me had come from a faith we shared, even if we never talked about it. So I feel better now, and I’m pretty sure that when I get there, he’ll be at the Throne, worshiping our God.

    • @Osann Heisner, Oh my, Osann. I’m so thankful this has helped think about these painful but very important memories.

  63. isn’t that Will Shakespeare in the picture? i’m just guessing.

    wow, the big question at hand.

    my dream dinner, drink, coffee would have to include.

    Leonard Bernstein
    Stephen Sondheim
    Howard Hanson
    Paul Hindemith
    Gustav Holst
    Sir Malcolm Arnold
    Percy Grainger

    oh to pick the brains of these amazing composers and see what made them tick. find out how they got their inspiration. talk of music and art. enjoy amazing wine and food.

    i would have to have a seperate dinner with
    Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Wells

  64. I would pick Mark Twain and Merriweather Lewis.
    and for a perspective on the cold war who could better teach us than Ronald Regan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher?

  65. I would love to spend time with these individuals:

    Myles Munroe – awesome leadership material/books, world leader whose ministry is in Nassau, Bahamas

    Rabbi’s Ralph Messer and Daniel Lapin – men whose profound Jewish/Hebrew perspective of the bible is so full of wisdom and practicality that it blows my mind!

    Oprah Winfrey

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – writer/creator of Sherlock Holmes one of my favorite characters

    Agatha Christie – writer/creator of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot characters – also favorites

    Donald Miller – writer of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

    Og Mandino – writer of The God Memorandum and The Greatest…. series of powerfully inspiring books

    James Allen – As a Man Thinketh book and other writings

    Wallace D. Wattles – The Science of Getting Rich and other writings

    Langston Hughes – African American writer/poet

    Oh, and William Shakespeare too! :)

  66. This is a very difficult question to answer but I would have to say if I were only allowed one person, I would choose to have a lavish dinner with Marie Antoinette at Versailles. Absolutely my number 1 choice. I cannot imagine the stories she would be able to tell. I truly believe there are many things that have been said about her that are completely false. Oh, and it would be a MUST that we dress as they did back then at this event! Hehe!! What can I say, I’m an OLD soul!

  67. “The Person(s) I Wish I Had Known” ~ There’s quite a few inspiring people I’d have to list but I’ll keep it short. :-)
    #1. Maternal Grandfathers side: Bc of divorce when Mom was only 3, I never met his side of the family & know very little about them… thankfully for the web, I learned some about cousins – Liz & Lynn Anderson whom are talented singers. And Lynn’s daughter, Lisa Sutton whom is Graphic Designer (my favorite thing to do!!!).
    #2. Brent & Michelle Riggs, also Tom Davis: Have a heart of GOLD especially for children, very talented & intelligent, positive even thru hardships in life but oh so human!!!
    #3. Diane Dike: a lady of positivity in full of smiles even through pain (a real inspiration) since I also suffer chronic pain.
    #4. Randy & Chris Elrod & Spence Smith: Eloquent with words, art, cooking, relationships & DETERMINATION!!!
    #5. Chris Brogan: communications is very understanding for ppl with learning disabilities.
    #6. Josh Groban: What a positive character & awesome singer!!!

    OK so that’s more than 5 lol Sorry, since these are all real & alive ppl – had to mention the top ones w/o leaving someone off.

  68. Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Allen Poe. Both have pierced my heart since childhood for their seemingly haunted souls.

    Gustav Klimt, for his role in starting a movement in the world of art in Europe

    Mozart, for his irreverent ways, sheer genius, and complete confidence within both.

    John Denver, just to hear him talk about what mattered most to him


  1. I Wish I Had Known… « Rocco Capra - August 31, 2010

    […] he posted a new blog titled “The Persons I Wish I Had Known“. No real spiritual significance, or profound insight, just a post about a couple people he […]

  2. More Listening… | Messy Canvas - September 2, 2010

    […] through the interesting comments in a blog post by Randy Elrod about the people you wish you had known. For the first time in my life I’m […]

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