Money Talks: How the Rockefellers Redefined America

University of Texas

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 LBJ School of Public Affairs. The author and editor of eleven books on politics and foreign policy, his most recent is entitled: Civil War by Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy. His other books include: The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest OfficeLiberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama; Henry Kissinger and the American Century; and Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente. A popular public lecturer and frequent news commentator, his writings appear in The New York Times, the Washington PostWall Street Journal, CNN.com, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Time, and other media. Professor Suri’s writing and teaching have received numerous prizes, including the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas and the Pro Bene Meritis Award for Contributions to the Liberal Arts. Professor Suri hosts the weekly podcast, “This is Democracy.”

 

Overview

This lecture will examine the rise of the Rockefeller family and its role in shaping modern America. We will explore the creation of the oil industry, the flowering of twentieth century philanthropy, and the emergence of Rockefeller influence in politics and banking.

John David Rockefeller became the richest man in American in the late nineteenth century, and he created the largest monopoly in the nation, with a virtual stranglehold on the national economy. He combined his wealth with a strong religious sensibility which influenced his public persona and the future activities of his sons, all of whom became major political, business, and philanthropic actors in twentieth-century America. More than any other family, the Rockefellers defined America’s growing global and economic power in the twentieth century.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. How did John D. Rockefeller, Sr. reconcile his wealth with his religious convictions?

2. Was the break-up of Standard Oil good for the American economy?

3. Would Nelson Rockefeller have been a great president?

4. What is the Rockefeller legacy today?

 

 

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