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Rethinking America (Washington, D.C.)

May 07, 2017 9:30 AM – 1:15 PM

schedule

9:30 AM - 10:35 AM
The Mind of Abraham Lincoln

Louis Masur / Rutgers University

Any thinking American is drawn to Abraham Lincoln. His story invites us to marvel at how this poor, self-educated, frontier lawyer transformed himself into a political leader who defended democracy, preserved the nation, and abolished slavery. As late as 1859, when asked to provide an autobiographical sketch, he mused there was not much to say because "there is not much of me." If not much then, there would be plenty ahead.

To understand Lincoln, we must read him. This class provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in Lincoln's writings and to explore his ideas in seminar fashion, as we might in an advanced undergraduate course. Professor Lou Masur will provide biographical information and analysis.

Louis Masur / Rutgers University
Louis Masur is a Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University. He received outstanding teaching awards from Rutgers, Trinity College, and the City College of New York, and won the Clive Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard University. He is the author of many books including "Lincoln's Last Speech," which was inspired by a talk he presented at One Day University. His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and Chicago Tribune. He is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and serves on the Historians' Council of the Gettysburg Foundation.

10:50 AM - 11:55 AM
What Would the Founding Fathers Think of America Today?

Wendy Schiller / Brown University

Over the past eight years, the United States has endured a stark economic crisis, fierce partisan political battles, and historic changes in the global political environment. The president, Congress, and the Supreme Court have taken actions that profoundly affect the scope of federal power and individual rights in our political and economic system. During this time there has been a great deal of debate as to whether these actions are in line with the U.S. Constitution and the intent of those who founded our nation.

In this class, we will address these debates with a specific focus on the writings of key founders such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and our first president, George Washington. What would these men say about the federal auto and bank bailouts, Obamacare, the Federal Reserve, illegal immigration, the size of the national debt, same-sex marriage, gun violence, and U.S. involvement in conflicts on foreign soil? We will discuss the nature of federal power in the economic and social lives of citizens at home and abroad; the role of political parties, ideology, and diversity in a democracy; and the expected versus actual power of each of the branches of government vis-a-vis each other. We will also examine the nature of the federal-state relationship, with a focus on what founders believed should be the appropriate boundaries between national and state governments, and whether the reality of 21st century American life makes those boundaries obsolete.

Wendy Schiller / Brown University
Wendy Schiller is a the Chair of the Brown Political Science Department at Brown University. She is an expert in the field of the U.S. Congress and political representation, and the recent recipient of a National Science Foundation grant to study party conflict and factionalism in the U.S. Senate. Professor Schiller has been a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a six-time recipient of the Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award at Brown.

12:10 PM - 1:15 PM
The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence: A Contrary View

Kermit Roosevelt III / University of Pennsylvania

There's a story we like to tell about what makes us Americans. Centuries ago, great men enshrined noble principles of liberty and equality in the Declaration of Independence. They wrote the Constitution to carry those principles into execution. And for over two hundred years, that Constitution has served us well. It is the bedrock of our American society, it establishes our core values, it tells us who we are.

It's a nice story, but what if it's wrong? In this lecture, Professor Kermit Roosevelt will explain how the principles of the Declaration are not what we think they are, how the original Constitution fell to pieces, how the story of America is actually one of repeated crisis, struggle, and even failure—and how despite that, the Constitution remains a vehicle for the advancement and articulation of American ideals.

U Penn Law Professor Kermit Roosevelt III is the great-great-grandson of United States President Theodore Roosevelt and the cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Kermit Roosevelt III / University of Pennsylvania
Kermit Roosevelt is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. His novels include "Allegiance and In the Shadow of the Law," and his nonfiction includes "The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions and Conflict of Laws." Professor Roosevelt's law review articles have been cited twice by the Supreme Court. In 2014 he was selected as the Reporter for the Third Restatement of Conflict of Laws. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, and is the great great grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as well as a 4th cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt! For more information please visit www.kermitroosevelt.net.

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