Saturday, March 30, 2019 9:00 am - 12:55 pm
Jeremi Suri / University of Texas
The United States is a nation of immigrants, a beacon of hope and liberty peoples around the world have struggled to reach. Yet Americans have not always welcomed new arrivals with open arms. From colonial days to the present, debates over immigration help define whom Americans are, what they believe their country has and should be, and reveal most of all each generation’s politics and priorities.
Do our the debates over immigration reform indicate the welcome mat has worn thin? What does it mean to hold out a beacon to the world's "tired, poor, huddled masses"? Do we welcome immigrants in because of or despite their economic impact on the United States?
Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a professor in the University’s Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Professor Suri is the author and editor of nine books on contemporary politics and foreign policy, most recently: “The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Office.” His research and teaching have received numerous prizes. In 2007 Smithsonian Magazine named him one of America’s “Top Young Innovators” in the Arts and Sciences. In 2018 Suri received the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas, and the Pro Bene Meritis Award for Public Contributions to the Liberal Arts.
Kara Cooney / UCLA
The Egyptian kings, who created long lived, god-given dynasties, never imagined ancient Egypt would ever fall. How could a civilization which built the Great Pyramids, capable of 3000 years of the same religious, political, economic, and social systems ever fall? But fall it did, losing autonomous rule around when it was taken into the Roman Empire, and losing its cultural identity in the 4th century AD when Christianity became the only accepted religion in the Roman Empire. Could they have survived? Ancient Greece was never united politically. Regions warred with each other until Alexander the Great conquered the whole Mediterranean, defeating the Persians and entering India. But just ten years later, in 323 BC, that great empire was already dead and Alexander himself was fevered and gaunt, expiring of typhoid or some other infectious disease. His chosen successor and his son were killed by rivals. The great warrior was so busy taking over the world that he never put any systems in place to keep the empire he had taken.
Of course, Rome's fall has been debated endlessly, and historians can’t even agree on the date, as numerous theories abound. In 285 AD when Diocletian divided the vast expanse into two halves? In 378 AD when Rome lost to the Goths at the disastrous Battle of Adrianople? In 380 AD when Christianity became the only accepted religion of the Roman Empire? Or as late as 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks? The question becomes: when wasn't Rome falling, and how did it even function as long as it did? What were the instigators of such constant distress? Historians are obsessed with the rise and fall of great civilizations of the past. Those same historians like to instruct us to learn from the past lest we repeat past mistakes. So…can Americans learn anything from the fall of Greece, Egypt and Rome that we can apply to our own modern world?
Kara Cooney is an Egyptologist and Professor at UCLA. In 2002, she was Kress Fellow at the National Gallery of Art and worked on the Cairo Museum exhibition “Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt.” In 2005, she acted as fellow curator for Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the LA County Museum of Art. She also worked on two Discovery Channel documentary series: “Out of Egypt” and “Egypt’s Lost Queen.”
Jennifer Keene / Chapman University
Most Americans possess only a hazy understanding of World War I or its significance for the United States. So why not leave it there? Why bother with this history lesson? How the nation responded to the challenge of fighting its first modern war re-made America, leading to female suffrage, the modern civil rights movement, the drive to protect civil liberties, new conceptions of military service, and an expanded role for the United States in the world.
There are striking parallels between the problems Americans faced a hundred years ago in 1917-18 and the challenges we face now. How do we balance protecting national security with civil liberties? Is it appropriate for Americans to continue to debate a war once the fighting has begun? Are immigrants importing terrorism? Do Americans have a responsibility to participate in global humanitarianism? Can soldiers ever convey to those at home the reality of what they’ve encountered on the battlefield? Can they ever leave the war behind? Americans grappled with these issues in World War I, and these are once again relevant questions for a society at war.
Jennifer Keene is a professor of history and dean of the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Chapman University. She has published several books and numerous articles on the American experience in the world wars, including “Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America”, “World War I: The American Soldier Experience”, and “World War II: Core Documents”. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, including Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards to France and Australia and Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship in International Studies. She has served as a historical consultant for exhibits and films, and was recently featured in the PBS documentary mini-series, “The Great War”.