After Dallas shooting, President Barack Obama will once again be consoler-in-chief

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: July 11, 2016

President Barack Obama, consoler-in-chief.

The title rang through in the raw emotion he showed after the Sandy Hook shooting. Again when he cheered on a city after the Boston bombings for showing the country how to “finish the race.” Yet again when he leaned on Scripture to comfort in the wake of the West explosion.

And at a memorial service Tuesday in Dallas for the police shooting victims, Obama will reprise the all-too-familiar role of guiding the nation through troubled and uncertain times.

Though he’s a veteran of such mourning, Obama faces no less difficult of a challenge. He must speak directly to those affected by profound loss — in Dallas and beyond — in the midst of lingering questions over the polarizing issues of gun violence and race relations.

Aides on Monday declined to preview the precise message Obama will bring to Dallas. That’s even as White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stressed concerns about racial disparities in policing and repeated Obama’s frustration that he’s been unable to curb access to guns.

But given the gravity of the Dallas attack — which the president described Monday as a “hate crime” in a meeting with police-association officials, Politico reported — political experts and elected officials predicted that Obama would focus first and foremost on grieving and unity.

“It’s important for a president to speak to the better angels of our nation,” said Karen Hughes, a longtime adviser to former President George W. Bush. “To bring us together. To give voice to our grief. To give thanks to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Obama comes to Dallas at the invitation of Mayor Mike Rawlings, who has spearheaded the city’s response after a gunman last week ambushed five police officers at a downtown march.

The president will speak at an interfaith ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center to an audience of elected officials and law enforcement – including officers from Dallas police and DART police. He will also meet with the injured and the families of the slain.

It’s a gut-wrenching act that Obama went through just last month after the Orlando shooting. And signaling the poignancy of these moments, Obama has often turned to the Bible: 2 Corinthians 4:16 in Newtown, Conn.; Hebrews 12:1 in Boston;Psalm 66:10 in West.

The burden is also an inherent element of the presidency — one that’s come even more into the public view in the cable TV news era, experts said.

Obama won’t need to look far Tuesday for reminders of that fact, given that he will be joined by Bush, his Republican predecessor. The former president — a Dallas resident who will give brief remarks — was thrust into similar scenarios after 9/11 and other difficult times.

“Everything a president does, by definition, is political,” said Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. “But there are these moments, of course, when they need to rise above that.” READ MORE

History professor helped organize St. Petersburg conference on lessons of Russian revolution

SMU NEWS

Originally Posted: July 11, 2016

DALLAS (SMU)One hundred years ago, a world that had long known monarchy, empire, and briefly democracy and a republic, was introduced to a new form of government: Communism, which rose to power with the fall of Tsarist Russia.

On the centennial anniversary of the Russian Revolution, a gathering of the world’s leading historians of Russia met at the European University St. Petersburg, Russia, from June 9-11 for a conference co-organized by Southern Methodist University (SMU) history professor Daniel Orlovsky with colleagues from The EurDaniel-T-Orlovskyopean University and the Institute of History, Russian Academy of Sciences. The international colloquium was titled “The Epoch of War and Revolution, 1914-1922.”

“There’s a new round of confrontation and diplomatic conflict between Russia and the west,” Orlovsky says. “The real question is how official Russia, the government, Putin, the media and the academic establishment in general will treat this centennial, and how this may manifest itself in our sessions among participants or from the audience, which will be large,” Orlovsky adds.

While contemporary interpretations of the centennial may vary, the impact of Russia’s revolution on the past century is undeniable.

“The Russian Revolution was actually two revolutions, the collapse of Tsarism in February and the rise of the Bolsheviks in October,” says Orlovsky, who helped fund the conference with a prestigious grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“The February revolution is a model of revolutions that collapse authoritarian regimes and attempt to build a liberal or socialist world, but often don’t work and lead to new authoritarian regimes,” Orlovsky adds. “It’s an important question: Why does a regime fall apart, and why do more liberal successors fail?”

The Russian story has been echoed in other idealistic revolutions in the 100 years since – most recently in the color revolutions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and in the Middle East.

Studying where Russia’s revolution went off the democracy rails is important, says Orlovsky, because in many ways the modern world has similarities to 1916.

“Nationalism is still a big issue, ethnic problems persist, the threat of domestic upheaval and terrorism were there then as they’re here now,” Orlovsky says. “The Russian Revolution itself has endured as a powerful model for people, but outcomes differ. The biggest controversy of the conference will be over the larger questions: What did the revolution means for Russia and the world, what is its significance for today and is it a model for change around the world?”

Spirited debate took place at the conference over the parameters of the Revolution, its periodization, the role of such factors as ethnicity, leadership cults, foreign policy, the role of language and symbols, gender, the nature of power, emotions, etc. The concluding discussion praised the renewal of scholarly interest in Revolution as an enduring script in historical memory. READ MORE

Why President Obama is not saying “Radical Islam”

FOX 4

Political Historian Jeffrey Engel looks at President Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islam” and the political heat he is taking for it. He also talked about the politics of gun control in the wake of the Orlando slayings. WATCH

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SMU alumnus John Culberson, saving NASA is the new space rescue mission

Houston Chronicle

Originally Posted: July 6, 2016

Adrift- Part 7
The new space rescue mission: Saving NASA

The legendary Christopher Columbus Kraft, who lived up to his namesake by leading NASA to the moon, has grown old.

Severe lines crease his face, and Kraft’s fingers have gnarled. Earlier this year, just before his 90th birthday, sciatica forced him to adopt a cane and, more gallingly, to give up golf.

Still, he can accept what time has done to him. It’s harder to make peace with what’s become of NASA.

In the 1960s, President Kennedy gave Kraft, the agency’s first flight director, and NASA’s other leaders a blank check and told them to boldly go. They did. The Apollo guys chomped cigars and called the shots.

Those in charge today no longer sit behind flight control consoles, conquering space. They’re at desks in Washington, D.C., politicians and bureaucrats who micromanage the agency’s budget and repeatedly move the goalposts.

Kraft feels his modern-day counterparts at Johnson Space Center have been “victimized.”

“They’ve been forced to accept a lot of things they know damn well won’t work.” READ MORE

Thomas Knock, History, interviewed about his book Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern

New Books Network

Originally Posted: June 19, 2016

51luk8ax3RL._SL160_George McGovern is largely remembered today for his dramatic loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential campaign, yet he enjoyed a long career characterized by many remarkable achievements. In Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern (Princeton UP, 2016), the first in a projected two-volume biography of the senator and Democratic Party presidential nominee, Thomas Knock chronicles McGovern’s life and career from his Depression-era upbringing in South Dakota to his 1968 reelection campaign and emergence as a presidential contender. Knock describes McGovern’s transformation from a shy young boy into a confident debater who, after America went to war in 1941, volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps as a B-24 bomber pilot and flew 35 combat missions over Germany and Austria. Upon returning home, he embarked on a path that took him from the ministry to a Ph.D. in history and then the college classroom before he settled upon a career in politics. After serving two terms in the House of Representatives and as Director of Food for Peace in the Kennedy administration, in 1962 McGovern won a seat in the United States Senate, where he emerged as a prescient critic of America’s descent into the Vietnam War. In detailing his opposition to that expanding conflict, Knock not only shows how McGovern emerged as a national leader, but also demonstrates the relevance of his vision to the challenges our nation faces today. LISTEN

Thinking of Double Majoring?

SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Originally Posted: June 1, 2016

Below is an excerpt from an SMU Meadows School of the Arts news article that highlights six student experts that have majors in Meadows, Dedman College and Cox. READ MORE

5 Tips on How to Double Major
Double majoring is on the rise. Is it right for you?

Students thinking about double majoring want to know: How do students study for two degrees and still have a life? How do they handle it all? At SMU Meadows School of the Arts, over 35 percent of the students double major in combinations such as dance and economics, film and finance, public relations and marketing and more.

Below, six Meadows double majors give straight-up advice on how to succeed at pursuing two degrees at once.

#1: Black Belt Time Management

When you’re in college, there are always more things you want to do than you have time for. To help tame an overloaded schedule or keep procrastination at bay, our double majors’ secret weapon is the planner.

“I keep a physical planner that I am constantly updating and taking notes in,” says Elainy Lopez (B.F.A. Art, B.A. Anthropology ’16). “When the day or week appears to be a full one I make a list and work my way down it as best I can.” For those times when she can’t quite get through the list, Elainy reminds herself to not stress out and instead re-orders her list based on priorities. “When things start to get unbalanced it is usually due to procrastination or poor planning,” she says. “I just get back on track by focusing and starting the work, which is usually the hardest step.”

Even with a champion planner, procrastination can be a siren call. As a performing arts student who is also deep into coding and computer science, Zach Biehl (B.F.A. Dance, B.A. Creative Computing ’17) knows firsthand how the combo of rehearsals, coursework, parties, movie nights and exams can tempt him to put things off. “I’m my own worst enemy in terms of procrastinating because I work well and thrive under pressure, but I would say, yes, buy a planner,” he says. “The semesters I haven’t had a planner have felt much more panicked than those when I’ve had one. With the planner, everything feels much more logical.”

Many double majors also use the “Semester-at-a-Glance” calendar available free of charge from A-LEC, the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center located in the Ford Stadium building on the northeast corner of campus. With the calendar, they can see their entire semester on one page. READ MORE

Voters may like the past but their minds are on the future

Fox 4

Originally Posted: June 9, 2016

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Campaign rhetoric may dwell on achievements of the past but voters are thinking about the future when they go to into ballot boxes, said SMU Professor Jeffrey Engel, director of SMU’s Center for Presidential History. “When we have an election where one candidate says, ‘I’m talking about the future’ and the other candidate says, ‘I’m talking about the past,’ the future candidate almost always wins,” Engel said.