Saturday, June 06, 2020 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Jeremi Suri / University of Texas
The American presidency is the most powerful political office in the world. Surprisingly, most contemporary presidents have found themselves severely constrained in their ability to pursue their chosen agendas for domestic and foreign policy change. This lecture will explain why, focusing on the nature of government bureaucracy, the range of American challenges and commitments, and the development of the modern media.
We will begin with the founding vision of the U.S. presidency and the actions of its first occupant, George Washington. Then, we’ll examine the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and the most recent office-holders. We will focus on how the power of the presidency has changed over time and what that has meant for American society. The lecture will close with reflections for how we can improve presidential leadership in future years.
David Helfand / Columbia University
All the colors of the rainbow are but a tiny fraction of the "colors" of light the Universe sends us. Over the past 75 years, astronomers have been busy opening new windows on the cosmos by building telescopes and cameras that allow us to see all of these colors, revealing new phenomena previously unimagined. Very recently, we have opened entirely new channels of information by detecting gravity waves and by seeing the unseeable: directly imaging black holes. All of these messengers from the cosmos travel at the velocity of light, but even at this enormous speed, they take millions, or even billions of years to reach us. As a consequence, we are always seeing the past. Far from being a disadvantage, however, this allows us to read our history directly by looking out to objects at different distances.
We can watch stars being born, living out their lives, and then dying in spectacular explosions that produce the elements from which we are made as well as neutron stars and black holes. We can watch how galaxies form and grow by gobbling up their neighbors. And we can map the nearest million galaxies and trace them back to the tiny fluctuations in the early Universe from which they emerged. Replete with colliding galaxies and a fly-through of the Universe set to the Blue Danube waltz, this lecture provides one-stop shopping for a comprehensive tour of all of space and time — or at least of the whole 4% we actually understand.
Marcia Chatelain / Georgetown University
When does the civil rights movement start? 1954? 1964? How about 1864? Our understanding of the long struggle for racial justice is a matter of how we frame the past. Many people are familiar with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s oratory, Rosa Parks's defiance, and Muhammad Ali's conscientious objection. Yet, fewer are aware of the ways that Georgia Gilmore's sandwiches, Charlotte Counts's grace, and Mose Wright's courage also advanced the cause of civil rights.
In this lecture, Dr. Chatelain will present different ways of looking at protests, boycotts, marches, and social change by shifting the lens on civil rights. By highlighting the role of women, children, and people not seen as leaders—cooks, maids, and farmers—we find some hidden stories of the critical moments in the transformation of our nation's history. From college students in Spokane, Washington to rabbis in Miami, Florida, Dr. Chatelain will introduce you to an array of unsung heroes.