Junior Charles McCaslin has been named a student Presidential Fellow to the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington, D.C.
The history and political science major in Dedman College is one of 85 students from across the country invited to the center’s weekend conferences on leadership and governance in Fall 2010 and Spring 2011. There, McCaslin will have the opportunity to interact with high-level government officials involved in the policy-making process. He also will develop and present a research paper with the guidance of an SMU mentor as well as a mentor provided by the nonprofit, nonpartisan center.
McCaslin, a Hunt Leadership Scholar, plans to study the 1966 and 1968 elections that took place in his home state of Oregon, when three candidates with differing views of the Vietnam War competed for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats.
“The Vietnam War was the most divisive issue in the state at the time, with most Oregonians supporting it,” McCaslin says. He adds that in spite of that majority support, voters elected anti-war Republican Mark Hatfield in 1966. And, in 1968 the electorate ousted the anti-war incumbent, Democrat Wayne Morse, in favor of pro-war Republican State Representative Robert Packwood.
The Portland, Oregon, native and member of the Oregon Historical Society will examine how his home state reflected the national political atmosphere and attitudes toward the war, and to what extent it was acceptable to oppose a wartime president’s policies.
McCaslin is an executive board member of the SMU College Republicans, a mentor for the University Honors Program and a member of the Student Foundation and the Dedman College Ambassadors.
He says this fellowship presents an intriguing opportunity for primary research on one of his favorite topics, electoral politics. For this research project, McCaslin plans to peruse the papers of Senators Hatfield and Morse and personally interview Senator Packwood, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1995.
Thomas Knock, an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of History, is advising McCaslin on his project and says, “Charlie is an outstanding student, and we are delighted for him. His proposal was among the strongest and most original that has ever come before SMU’s selection committee for the fellowship. We expect that he will flourish at the center’s conferences.”