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250 Years of American Politics (in just a few hours) - NYC

February 09, 2019 9:30 AM – 1:15 PM

schedule

9:30 AM - 10:35 AM
What The Founding Fathers Were Really Like (and what we can still learn from them today)

Carol Berkin / Baruch College

Most of us know that America's Founding Fathers attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia and drafted the Constitution of the United States. The delegates decided to replace the Articles of Confederation with a document that strengthened the federal government, with the most contentious issue being  legislative representation. Eventually, a compromise established the bicameral Congress to ensure both equal and proportional representation. But a lot more happened as well - much of it underreported or misunderstood. That's the focus of this insider's look at the birth of American Government as we know it today.

The fact is, the Founding Fathers were ambitious. Also grouchy, scared, and hopeful. They told jokes. They fought. They schemed. They gossiped. They improvised. Occasionally, they killed each other (sorry, Alexander Hamilton). Only by seeing the Founders as real people -not icons- can we appreciate the full story of the nation's founding with all of its drama, humor, and significance intact.

Carol Berkin / Baruch College
Carol Berkin is Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY. She has worked as a consultant on several PBS and History Channel documentaries, including, The "Scottsboro Boys," which was nominated for an Academy Award. She has also appeared as a commentator on screen in the PBS series by Ric Burns, "New York," the Middlemarch series "Benjamin Franklin" and "Alexander Hamilton" on PBS, and the MPH series, "The Founding Fathers." She serves on the Board of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Board of the National Council for History Education.

10:50 AM - 11:55 AM
When Congress Broke The First Time (And How That Led To Civil War)

Joanne Freeman / Yale University

So, you think Congress is dysfunctional? There was a time when it literally ran with blood — a time so polarized that politics generated a cycle of violence, in Congress and out of it, that led to the deadliest war in the nation’s history. This class uncovers the brawls, stabbings, pummelings and duel threats that occurred among United States congressmen during the decades just before the Civil War.

Distinguished Yale University history professor Joanne Freeman notes that the violence in Congress was often like a spectator sport. Men and women crowded the congressional galleries with the expectation of seeing entertaining outbreaks, much the way fans of professional wrestling or hockey do today. But often the fighting in Congress was far more than a sport. It was part of the ever-escalating tensions over slavery. Throughout much of the period, Southern congressmen were the aggressors, and Northerners, who at first disdained violence, were considered timid or cowardly. Over time, however, all that changed, and the North’s backbone stiffened quite a bit. Like other One Day University historical classes, this one casts fresh light on the period it examines while leading us to think about our own time. There truly are explicit comparisons between then and now. A crippled Congress. Opposing political sides that don’t communicate meaningfully with each other. A seemingly unbridgeable cultural divide. Sound familiar?

Joanne Freeman / Yale University
Joanne B. Freeman, an award-winning professor of history and American studies at Yale University, is one of the nation's leading experts on "dirty nasty politics," and the author of The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War. Freeman has commented on history and politics -- past and present -- on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, and PBS, as well as in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Her award-winning history, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic, was declared one of the year's "Best Books" by The Atlantic magazine. A co-host of the popular history podcast BackStory, Freeman appears frequently in documentaries on PBS and the History Channel, appearing most recently in PBS's Great Performances documentary "Hamilton's America." Her online course, The American Revolution, has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people in homes and classrooms around the world.

12:10 PM - 1:15 PM
The Changing Face of Politics: Approaching 2020

Sam Potolicchio / Georgetown University

As is well known, America's founding political commitments were to democracy and the rule of law. Some have described them as the soul and spirit of our nation. And over the generations, citizens have given their lives to preserve those commitments. But over time it appears that their meanings have changed and settled "truths" are open to new interpretations. Could it be this is be a symptom rather than a cause of what some see as our current crisis? Does America face an erosion of public faith in long taken-for-granted aspects of our political life?

This class will address those questions through the lens of next year's presidential primaries and general election. Currently over 20 candidates are vying for an opportunity to challenge President Trump. Professor Potolicchio will discuss leading candidates and access their strengths and weaknesses in the context of the party convention and platform, personality, organization, and fundraising.

Sam Potolicchio / Georgetown University
Sam Potolicchio is Director of Global and Custom Education at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is also a Distinguished University Professor, Department Chairman and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Political Science at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and the President of the Preparing Global Leaders Forum. He was named one of "America's Best Professors" by the Princeton Review, Future Leader of American Higher Education by the Association of Colleges and Universities, and winner of the OZY Educator Award as one of the six outstanding American educators. He created and designed the first undergraduate degree in Global Governance and Leadership in English in the Russian Federation where he serves as Academic Director. Professor Potolicchio has also been a visiting professor at New York University.

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