Videos of our past events are available to view on the pages listed below.
Spring 2023 Events
Presidential History in Real Time: Insights to the White House from Inside from Inside Washington
March 7, 2023
Two of the countries premier journalists, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, speak on the ways that many Americans engage in the White House and Washington.
SMU’s Center for Presidential History is entering our second decade. Not surprisingly, we begin by looking back, and by looking at the way most Americans engage the White House and Washington in our 21st century: through the eyes, thoughts, and words of the journalists who follow the president every day. Join Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, Chief White House Correspondent for the New York Times and a Staff Writer at the New Yorker respectively, as they reveal and discuss the changes in presidential engagement with the media since CPH’s founding.
The Third Reconstruction: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century
February 9, 2023
One of our preeminent historians of race and democracy, Peniel E. Joseph (University of Texas, Austin), argues that the period since 2008 has marked nothing less than America’s Third Reconstruction.
The racial reckoning that unfolded in 2020, he argues, marked the climax of a Third Reconstruction: a new struggle for citizenship and dignity for Black Americans, just as momentous as the movements that arose after the Civil War and during the civil rights era. Joseph draws revealing connections and insights across centuries as he traces this Third Reconstruction from the election of Barack Obama to the rise of Black Lives Matter to the failed assault on the Capitol.
Euromissiles: The Nuclear Weapons That Nearly Destroy
January 10, 2023
Susan Colbourn (Duke University) discusses her new book which tells the story of the height of nuclear crisis and the remarkable waning of the fear that gripped the globe.
Euromissiles is a history of diplomacy and alliances, social movements and strategy, nuclear weapons and nagging fears, and politics. To tell that history, Colbourn takes a long view of the strategic crisis—from the emerging dilemmas of allied defense in the early 1950s through the aftermath of the INF Treaty thirty-five years later. The result is a dramatic and sweeping tale that changes the way we think about the Cold War and its culmination.
Fall 2022 Events
Ideology in U.S. Foreign Relations: New Histories
December 1, 2022
Christopher McKnight Nichols (The Ohio State University) discusses his new book which explores the ideological landscape of international relations from the colonial era to the present.
Ideology drives American foreign policy in ways seen and unseen. Racialized notions of subjecthood and civilization underlay the political revolution of eighteenth-century white colonizers; neoconservatism, neoliberalism, and unilateralism propelled the post–Cold War United States to unleash catastrophe in the Middle East. Ideologies order and explain the world, project the illusion of controllable outcomes, and often explain success and failure. How does the history of U.S. foreign relations appear differently when viewed through the lens of ideology?
Framing Reconstruction: Presidents, Popular Sentiment, and the Idea of a Lost Moment of Racial Accommodation
November 17, 2022
Gary W. Gallaghers, University of Virginia, and Joan Waugh, UCLA, discuss Reconstruction president, how Union war aims shaped the postwar political landscape, and modern perceptions of the postwar years.
This program explores how the four Reconstruction presidents have been assessed, how Union war aims shaped the postwar political landscape, and how modern perceptions often ignore attitudes and political realities in the postwar years. It suggests that an appreciation of wartime goals and of American traditions regarding a peacetime professional military establishment render the story of Reconstruction not only understandable but also predictable.
Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s
October 13, 2022
Nicole Hemmer of Vanderbilt University offers a bold, new history of modern conservatism that finds its origins in the populist, right-wing politics of the 1990s.
Historian Nicole Hemmer reveals, in her new book Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s, the Reagan coalition was short-lived; it fell apart as soon as its charismatic leader left office. In the 1990s — a decade that has yet to be recognized as the breeding ground for today’s polarizing politics — changing demographics and the emergence of a new political-entertainment media fueled the rise of combative far-right politicians and pundits.
Unsettled Land: From Revolution to Republic, the Struggle
September 21, 2022
Historian Sam Haynes presents a bold new history of the origins and aftermath of the Texas Revolution, revealing how Indians, Mexican, and Americans battled for survival in one of the continent’s most diverse regions.
The Texas Revolution has long been cast as an epic episode in the origins of the American West. As the story goes, larger-than-life figures like Sam Houston, David Crockett, and William Barret Travis fought to free Texas from repressive Mexican rule. In Unsettled Land (Basic, 2022), historian Sam Haynes reveals the reality beneath this powerful creation myth.
Red, Blue, and Brown: Tejano History, Politics, and the 2022 Election
September 15, 2022
Historian Max Krochmal and senior editor Jack Herrera discuss the complex and critical role of Tejano politics, in history and today.
Election seasons have always been filled with political and partisan appeals to various groups of people: special interest groups, religious organizations, ethnic voting blocs, and more. One group which has received a dramatic increase in political and journalistic attention over the last few years are Tejanos: Texans of Mexican or Hispanic descent. Much digital ink has been spilled over Tejano voting history and practice: will they vote Democratic blue? Are Republican red numbers increasing since the Trump presidency? But while it can be tempting to presume that so-called interest groups like Tejanos will vote one way or the other—red or blue—it is not so simple. And it never has been.
Spring 2022 Events
Dewey Defeats Truman: The 1948 Election and the Battle for America’s Soul
April 27, 2022
New York Times best-selling author A. J. BAIME tells the thrilling tale of the 1948 presidential election, one of the greatest election stories of all time, as Truman mounted a history-making comeback and staked a claim for a new course for America.
On the eve of the 1948 election, America was a fractured country. Racism was rampant, foreign relations were fraught, and political parties were more divided than ever. Americans were certain that President Harry S. Truman’s political career was over. Truman’s own wife, Bess, did not believe he could win. The only man in the world confident that Truman would win was Mr. Truman himself. And win he did.
A Politics For the Many: American Feminists and the Global Fight for Democratic Equality
March 7, 2022
Drawing on her acclaimed new book, For the Many: American Feminists and the Global Fight for Democratic Equality, Dorothy Sue Cobble will discuss how American women moved the nation and the world toward inclusion and equality.
For the Many: American Feminists and the Global Fight for Democratic Equality presents an inspiring look at how U.S. women and their global allies pushed the nation and the world toward justice and greater equality for all. Reclaiming social democracy as one of the central threads of American feminism, Dorothy Sue Cobble offers a bold rewriting of twentieth-century feminist history and documents how forces, peoples, and ideas worldwide shaped American politics.
The Walls Within: The Politics of Immigration in Modern America
February 7, 2022
Historian Sarah Coleman recounts the numerous battles over US immigrants’ rights since 1965―and how these conflicts reshaped access to education, employment, civil liberties, and more.
The 1965 Hart-Celler Act transformed the American immigration system by abolishing national quotas in favor of a seemingly egalitarian approach. But subsequent demographic shifts resulted in a backlash over the social contract and the rights of citizens versus noncitizens….
Fall 2021 Events
LIVE! Finale – Presidential Crises Podcast
November 11, 2021
The LIVE FINALE of “Presidential Crises,” season 2 of our podcast “The Past, the Promise, the Presidency.”
With political gridlock in Washington DC at an all time high, government shutdowns–or the threat of them–have become a routine occurrence. National parks close. Federal paychecks stop going out. The National Institute of Health stops admitting new patients. How did we get to the point where it has become normal for the US Government to halt in its tracks? The history, in this case, is quite recent….
Paper Trails: The U.S. Post and the Making of the American West
November 11, 2021
A groundbreaking history of how the U.S. Post made the nineteenth-century American West.
Historian Cameron Blevins discusses his latest book, Paper Trails: The U.S. Post and the Making of the American West, on the pivotal role of the U.S. postal service during the country’s expansion west….
Good Americans: Asian Americans and Politics in the 20th Century USA
October 14, 2021
The critical role of Asian Americans in 20th century American politics is explored.
Asian Americans – Documentary Screening
October 8, 2021
The Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute Asian Studies & Asian American Experiences Research Cluster and the Center for Presidential History present a documentary screening and open discussion of the award-winning documentary Asian Americans.
The screening featured guest speaker Dr. Scott Kurashige, Chair of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas Christian University and moderated by Dr. Crista J. DeLuzio, associate professor of history at SMU.
Charlie Brown’s America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts
October 7, 2021
Historian Blake Scott Ball takes on the politics of the age-old Peanuts comics, which are at the center of his latest book, Charlie Brown’s America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts.
Despite—or because of—its huge popular culture status, Peanuts enabled cartoonist Charles Schulz to offer political commentary on the most controversial topics of postwar American culture through the voices of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang….
Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassin, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom
February 7, 2022
Author and historian Spencer McBride discusses one of the most important elections in American history and the focus of his latest book, Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassin, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom.
By the election year of 1844, Joseph Smith, the controversial founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had amassed a national following of some 25,000 believers. In less than twenty years, Joseph Smith had transformed the American religious landscape and grown his own political power substantially. Still, the political standing of the Mormon people remained unstable….
Summer 2021 Events
The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H.W. Bush’s Post-Presidency
June 7, 2021
Jean Becker, President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff (1994-2018), in conversation with Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and Chris Buckley, American author and political satirist.
When Jean Becker closed up President Bush’s Houston office in 2019 after his death, she told the Houston Chronicle, “What a pleasure. What a journey.” In The Man I Knew, the former chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush shares an intimate look into the post-presidency of one of America’s most influential one-term presidents.
To Bigotry No Sanction
June 2, 2021
A historic musical performance featuring members of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
The Center for Presidential History is proud to partner with Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in their presentation of To Bigotry No Sanction – a new cantata based on George Washington’s historic 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI, composed by Jonathan Comisar and featuring members of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Spring 2021 Events
Rethinking American Grand Strategy
May 6, 2021
A wide-ranging rethinking of the many factors that comprise the making of American Grand Strategy.
What is grand strategy? What does it aim to achieve? And what differentiates it from normal strategic thought–what, in other words, makes it “grand”? In answering these questions, most scholars have focused on diplomacy and warfare, so much so that “grand strategy” has become almost an equivalent of “military history.”
Cold War in Chinatown: Fighting for Chinese American Rights in the 1950s
April 28, 2021
In the 1950s, the US government not only called the new People’s Republic of China an enemy of the “free world” but also supported the Chinese Nationalist regime on Taiwan. In response, PRC leader Mao Zedong derided the United States as a “paper tiger” and promised to help defeat American aggression. The resulting international tensions both shaped and limited the politics of Chinese American communities…
The Cigarette: A Political History
April 22, 2021
The untold political story of the most controversial consumer product in American history.
Tobacco is the quintessential American product. From Jamestown to the Marlboro Man, the plant occupied the heart of the nation’s economy and expressed its enduring myths. But today smoking rates have declined and smokers are exiled from many public spaces. The story of tobacco’s fortunes may seem straightforward: science triumphed over our addictive habits and the cynical machinations of tobacco executives. Yet the reality is more complicated…
Season Finale: The Past, the Promise, the Presidency
April 15, 2021
Join us LIVE for the season 1 finale of “The Past, the Promise, the Presidency: Race & the American Legacy,” the CPH’s inaugural podcast season. If you’ve been with us from the start, or for any period of time since then, we’re sure you’ve got questions! And comments. Critiques and thoughts.
Stranger Danger: Family Values, Childhood, and the American Carceral State
April 8, 2021
Beginning with Etan Patz’s disappearance in Manhattan in 1979, a spate of high-profile cases of missing and murdered children stoked anxieties about the threats of child kidnapping and exploitation. Publicized through an emerging twenty-four-hour news cycle, these cases supplied evidence of what some commentators dubbed “a national epidemic” of child abductions…
Engaging the Evil Empire: Washington, Moscow, and the Beginning of the End of the Cold War
March 22, 2021
In a narrative-redefining approach, Engaging the Evil Empire dramatically alters how we look at the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Tracking key events in US-Soviet relations across the years between 1980 and 1985, Simon Miles shows that covert engagement gave way to overt conversation as both superpowers determined that open diplomacy was the best means of furthering their own, primarily competitive, goals…
Sorting Out the Mixed Economy: The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Developmental States in the Americas
March 18, 2021
The untold story of how welfare and development programs in the United States and Latin America produced the instruments of their own destruction
In the years after 1945, a flood of U.S. advisors swept into Latin America with dreams of building a new economic order and lifting the Third World out of poverty. These businessmen, economists, community workers, and architects went south with the gospel of the New Deal on their lips, but Latin American realities soon revealed unexpected possibilities within the New Deal itself.
Discussing Race, Settler Colonialism, and Healthcare in the Age of COVID-19
February 25, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed major, sometimes fatal shortcomings in the U.S. healthcare system. Through a conversation about the recent history of healthcare, historians George Aumoithe and Maria K. John will shed light on today’s crisis…
Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America
February 11, 2021
From civil rights to Ferguson, Franchise reveals the untold history of how fast food became one of the greatest generators of black wealth in America.
Often blamed for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes among black Americans, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s have long symbolized capitalism’s villainous effects on our nation’s most vulnerable communities…
You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
February 10, 2021
A new biography published about George Washington is unlike any other. Described as “form-shattering and myth-crushing,” “keen and savage,” as well as “spirited and engaging,” historian Alexis Coe’s “You Never Forget Your First” chronicles the life of our first president from a 21st century and “decidedly feminist” perspective. Coe says, “I set out to write a book that was true, and different, and that added any kind of diversity in approach, perspective, and, of course, author. I set out to take a giant leap away from hagiography and great man history—and really mean it…
Unprecedented (Again): Historical Perspectives on the Election of 2020 and Beyond
January 19, 2021
How will the election of 2020 be remembered by history? What, if any, are its historical antecedents, and to what degree is it unprecedented? And, as we look ahead to Inauguration Day, what can history tell us about the next four years?
Join us as we welcome presidential historian Thomas Balcerski for an evening of wide-ranging conversation about the election of 2020 in historical perspective…
A Teach-In on President Trump & the Current Constitutional Crisis
January 15, 2021
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, two things are clear: we are in an unprecedented constitutional crisis, and President Trump is at the center of it.
In the middle of this crisis, you (like most Americans) may find yourself asking questions you don’t know the answer to…