The Rise and Decline of The American Presidency

Jeremi Suri
Jeremi Suri
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 Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. The author and editor of nine books on contemporary politics and foreign policy, his most recent is entitled: The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Office. 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.

Overview

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.

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