2012 Archives

Inaugural event for SMU Center for Presidential History
featured Pulitzer Prize finalist H.W. Brands

W. H. Brands
H. W. Brands

November 30, 2012

DALLAS (SMU) – Pulitzer Prize-nominated historian H.W. Brands spoke Nov. 30 on “Don’t Dare to Be Great: The Paradoxes of Presidential History” at the inaugural public forum presented by SMU’s Center for Presidential History.

Brands discussed the perils of presidents trying to establish their legacies, posing questions such as, “Why should presidents not run for reelection?” and “Why should presidents not strive to be the next Lincoln or FDR?”

“SMU’s Center for Presidential History is dedicated to bringing to life, and to Dallas, the long and detailed history of our nation’s chief executives,” said Jeffrey A. Engel, the Center’s founding director.  “We will be bringing the world’s foremost presidential scholars to campus, while simultaneously supporting our own faculty’s research into the most powerful office in the world. We could not be more thrilled than to begin with H.W. Brands, one of the nation’s leading biographers and scholars of the American presidency, and a proud naturalized Texan to boot!”

Brands is the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of more than 30 books, including his recent, The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace (Doubleday, 2012). He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, and for Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Engel said the Center would continue to host conferences, symposium, books and lectures.

Upcoming Center Events

November 30, 2012 – The Paradoxes of Presidential History, featuring Dr. H.W. Brands, Professor of History and Pulitzer-Prize finalist.  This event is free, but seating is limited.  Register now.

February 1, 2013 – Memoirs and History: The (Evolving) Story of the George W. Bush Administration, featuring Dr. Melvyn Leffler, Professor of History at the University of Virginia.  Part of our ongoing series “Presidential Histories and Memoirs” (in conjunction with the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum).

February 19, 2013 – JFK, History, and Memory. In conjunction with The Sixth Floor Museum, featuring Director Jeffrey Engel, Ed Linenthal, and Timothy Naftali, this event will kick off a year of remembering President Kennedy, and the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

March 6, 2013 – Coolidge, featuring award-winning author Amity Shlaes, and the publication of her much-anticipated biography of President Calvin Coolidge. Part of our ongoing series “Presidential Histories and Memoirs” (in conjunction with the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum).”

November 2013 – FDR and the Four Freedoms, an exploration of the diplomatic and human-rights legacy of FDR’s famous 1941 State of the Union address. Featuring Drs. Frank Costigliola (UConn), Linda Eads (SMU), Jeffrey Engel (SMU), Matthew Jones (Nottingham), Andrew Preston (Cambridge), and Tisa Wenger (Yale).

“For example, Professor Melvyn Leffler of the University of Virginia, arguably the nation’s leading diplomatic historian, will offer on Feb. 1 his analysis of the various, varied and often contradictory memoirs produced by veterans of the George W. Bush Administration,” Engel said.  “On Feb. 19 we team up with SMU's John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to explore the politics of memory as we begin the 50th anniversary year of John Kennedy’s untimely death.”

The Center will host prize-winning scholar Amity Shlaes March 6 as she presents her new biography of Calvin Coolidge, Engel said.

“Be on the lookout in November when we present our first major conference exploring the impact and evolution of Franklin Roosevelt’s famed “Four Freedoms,” and the impact of America’s drive for freedom at home and abroad since 1941.

In addition to hosting lectures, conferences and other events, the Center will produce presidential oral history projects, recording and archiving interviews with members of presidential administrations, as well as both public officials and private citizens who played important roles during those administrations. 

The Center’s first oral history project will explore the administration of President George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States.  Key subjects this project explores include, but are not limited to, American diplomacy and ambassadorial experiences; perceptions of Islam in American culture and policymaking; post-9/11 issues of civil rights and national security at the Department of Justice; and the evolution of the national intelligence community.

Jeffrey A. EngelJeffrey A. Engel, founding director of SMU’s Center for Presidential History, is an award-winning historian of American foreign policy and the presidency.  Author and editor of six books on American foreign policy, he has worked with President George H.W. Bush as editor of the latter’s China Diary, and is currently writing Seeking Monsters to Destroy: American Language and War from Jefferson to Obama, and When the World Seemed New: American Foreign Policy in the Age of George H.W. Bush. Engel is editor of the just-released volume, Into the Desert: Reflections on the Gulf War (Oxford University Press, 2012). 

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