Event Video

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  • There was more to General George Custer than Little Bighorn. In a discussion of his new book, Pulitzer winner T.J. Stiles reveals a complex man who helped lead the U.S. into a more modern age and then struggled to cope with that change.
    Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America - T.J. Stiles
    Monday, November 9, 2015
    Plaza Branch

    Many, if not most, Americans’ understanding of Gen. George Armstrong Custer begins and ends with his demise at Little Bighorn. But that belies the complexity of a historic figure who was capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, and an individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years).

  • In a discussion of his book Chief Executive to Chief Justice: Taft Betwixt the White House and Supreme Court, historian Lewis L. Gould examines William Howard Taft’s rise from ignominious defeat in his 1912 bid for re-election as president.
    William Howard Taft - Lewis L. Gould
    Thursday, October 15, 2015
    Plaza Branch

    As our 27th president from 1909-1913 and then as chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1921-1930, William Howard Taft was the only man ever to head two of America’s three governing branches. But between these two well-documented periods in office lies an eight-year patch of largely unexplored political wilderness — a time when Taft somehow rose from ignominious defeat in the 1912 presidential election to leadership of the nation’s highest court.

    Monmouth College historian Lewis L. Gould delivers the first in-depth look at this interval in Taft’s singular career in a discussion of his book Chief Executive to Chief Justice: Taft Betwixt the White House and Supreme Court.

  • Historian Tim Rives discusses Dwight Eisenhower’s view of the extinction of the American frontier – declared in 1890, the year of Ike’s birth – as the beginning of a new, progressive era of American history.
    The Significance of the Frontier in Eisenhower History - Tim Rives
    Tuesday, October 13, 2015
    Central Library

    2015 commemorates not only the 125th anniversary of the birth of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but also the U.S. Census Bureau’s declaration that the American frontier had closed. As historian Tim Rives explains, these two events are not unrelated.

    Like other progressives of his generation, Eisenhower saw the extinction of the frontier as the end of the first phase of American history, and the beginning of a new age in which the federal government would replace the lost reservoir of free land and abundant resources with economic cooperation and individual security through social programs. More than any other single factor, Eisenhower’s interpretation of the vanished frontier is what distinguishes his “Middle Way” political philosophy from the conservative wing of the Republican Party he led through two terms as a president.

    Tim Rives is the deputy director and supervisory archivist of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kansas.

  • Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich worries that the economic recovery is bypassing most Americans. Reich examines how the economic system that helped make our country strong is now failing us. And he lays out what’s needed to fix it.
    Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few - Robert B. Reich
    Monday, October 5, 2015
    Plaza Branch

    Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich worries that America’s economic recovery is bypassing most Americans. Adjusted for inflation, median hourly and weekly pay has dropped over the past year. Since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, median household income has fallen nearly 4.5 percent. Well-funded special interests have been allowed to tilt the market to their benefit, shrinking the middle class and creating the greatest income inequality and wealth disparity in 80 years.

    In a discussion of his new book, Reich examines how the economic system that helped make our country strong is now failing us. And he lays out what’s needed to fix it. Many of today’s workers aren’t paid what they’re worth. A higher minimum wage doesn’t equal fewer jobs. And corporations needn’t serve shareholders before employees.

  • In a discussion of his new book, Florida State University’s Wayne A. Wiegand – widely considered the “dean of American library historians” – explains why libraries remain a beloved cultural institution, defying predictions of doom.
    Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library
    Tuesday, September 22, 2015
    Central Library

    Defying dire predictions that they would not survive the turn of the millennium, public libraries continue to thrive. Two out of three Americans visit one at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers.

    In a discussion of his new book, Wayne A. Wiegand, an emeritus professor at Florida State University widely considered the “dean of American library historians,” explains why libraries remain one of the country’s most beloved cultural institutions. Not only are they places for accessing information, they’re also valued as social spaces for promoting and maintaining community. For many including Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, their impact has been transformative.

  • Dowling College historian Yanek Mieczkowski, the author of Eisenhower's Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige, discusses Ike’s calm, effective response to the Soviet Union’s inauguration of the Space Age in 1957.
    Understanding Ike: Four Key Eisenhower Traits and Their Role in the Space Race - Yanek Mieczkowski
    Thursday, September 17, 2015
    Central Library

    The Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, was a critical Cold War moment for Dwight D. Eisenhower. What he called “a small ball” became a source of Soviet pride and propaganda and wounded him politically as critics charged the American president with responding sluggishly to the challenge of space exploration.

    Dowling College historian Yanek Mieczkowski, the author of Eisenhower's Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige, argues otherwise. Eisenhower stayed calm and moved effectively in guiding the U.S. into the Space Age.

  • In a discussion of his new book, University of Kansas history professor Paul Kelton reveals the full story of how North America’s indigenous peoples were devastated by smallpox and other European-introduced diseases.
    Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs - Paul Kelton
    Thursday, September 10, 2015
    Central Library

    Historians have long pointed to the devastation of smallpox and other European-introduced diseases in tracing the demise of North America’s indigenous peoples. Lacking antibodies, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans died. Control of the New World swung to its white colonists.

    But that’s a convenient and incomplete story, says University of Kansas history professor Paul Kelton. Yes, there were epidemics. But in a discussion of his new book Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs: An Indigenous Nation’s Fight against Smallpox, 1518–1824, he maintains that scholars have overlooked how colonialism’s violence set the stage for Natives’ depopulation, curtailing their ability to protect themselves from infection, impeding recovery, and exacerbating mortality.

  • Historian Jo Ann Trogdon discusses her new book, the first offering evidence that explorer William Clark – of Lewis and Clark fame – may have been involved in a series of treasonous plots dubbed the “Spanish Conspiracy.”
    The Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William Clark
    Wednesday, August 5, 2015
    Central Library

    History books cast William Clark as a wilderness-braving, 1800s action hero, a partner with Meriwether Lewis in the nearly two-and-a-half-year exploratory expedition that cleared the way for America’s westward expansion. But his ledger entries reveal another, less gallant side.

    In a discussion of her new book, historian Jo Ann Trogdon examines Clark’s activities more than five years before his epic journey and presents evidence—gleaned from her examination of his leather-trimmed journal—that links him to a series of treasonous plots dubbed the “Spanish Conspiracy.” It involved corrupt officials who sought to line their pockets with Spanish money and convince American frontier settlers along the Mississippi River to break away from the U.S.

  • Myths persist about the 1952 presidential race, starting with the notion that both Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson ran reluctantly. Historian John Robert Greene sets the record straight, examining two adversaries who coveted the White House and shrewdly pursued it.
    Liking Ike and Adlai: New Thoughts on the 1952 Presidential Election - John Robert Greene
    Tuesday, August 4, 2015
    Plaza Branch

    Presidential races are the stuff of myth, sometimes literally. Like the 1952 contest between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, both purportedly reluctant candidates who were somewhat out of touch with their campaigns.

    Cazenovia College history professor and presidential scholar John Robert Greene, author of The Crusade: The Presidential Election of 1952, sets the record straight in a discussion of the race ultimately won decisively by Eisenhower. The myth makers, he maintains, underrate the political shrewdness of the two men, each of whom wanted to win and recognized that voters were more receptive to a candidate who was “above politics.”

  • In a discussion of his new book, Jack Cashill documents what he calls an unfortunate mutation in America's liberal tradition, namely the unholy rise of neo-puritanism. Its adherents show less interest in celebrating the many colors of the multicultural rainbow than they do in condemning those who resist the celebration.
    Scarlet Letters: The Ever Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism
    Thursday, July 30, 2015
    Central Library

    Author Jack Cashill discusses his new book, Scarlet Letters: The Ever Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism and documents what he calls an unfortunate mutation in America's liberal tradition, namely the unholy rise of neo-puritanism.

    Cashill argues that progressive neo-puritans show less interest in celebrating the many colors of the multicultural rainbow than they do in condemning those who resist the celebration. The accusers insist, he says, that resistance is born out of hatred – of blacks, of gays, of immigrants, of Muslims, of women, of poor people, even, yes, of mother earth. “Hate” stands as the umbrella sin for all dissenters.

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