Arts and Culture
More from Google
Add by RSS Feed
Get the Android app
Get the iOS app
Episodes - The Past, the Promise, the Presidency
Episodes - The Past, the Promise, the Presidency
Apr 22, 2021
Episode 29: LIVE Season Finale
After 28 episodes covering the presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump, as well as two emergency response episodes, we’ve learned so, so much and we hope you have too. We decided to close out the season with a live season finale so that you, our fantastic listeners, could participate and shape the conversation. On Thursday, April 15, we gathered for this live event and recorded it to share here with you. Our sound is going to be a little different because it was a live event, but hopefully you will enjoy the unique format. Thank you all for participating in the season and the conversation, be sure to stay tuned to the end for a sneak peek of season 2!
Apr 15, 2021
Episode 28: Donald Trump
Today’s episode is all about Donald John Trump, the 45th president of the United States. So, so much to say. And yet, Trump’s presidency is also so fresh, what could we say in an introduction that you’d not already know? The only president ever impeached twice by the House of Representatives; he was also the first in more than a century to voluntarily refuse to attend his successor’s inauguration. He was also one of only five presidents to have won the Electoral College vote without also winning the popular vote. Trump’s time in office was…unusual. That was its point: to break away from the tired and worn in order to “make America great again.” The word “great” in that slogan naturally draws the eye. America must have been great before, and Trump’s policies sought a return. Great again. When precisely? And for whom? These were the central questions of his time in office, and also seem likely the central questions for historians still to come. As we’ve seen over the course of this inaugural podcast season, the promise of America was never fully available to all, and indeed, there were some moments in American history when the long arc of progress on issues of citizenship and racial equality seemed to take a step or two back, rather than forward.
Apr 8, 2021
Episode 27: Barack Obama
Today’s episode is all about Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States. Also, the first in more than two centuries who didn’t identify as white. Obama’s tenure remains fresh, yet hard to fully evaluate given the tumult that followed in his wake—and to some minds, the tumult that arose in direct response to his presidency. If we were taping this podcast a decade ago, in 2010 or 2011 during Obama’s first term, we might well have talked about his presidency as a culmination, a victory in the long march of progress towards a more equitable and free American society that has with every generation expanded the bounds of liberty and citizenship. Imagine what Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, or even Ronald Reagan would say to know that a black man had become president. The Whig interpretation of American history is right, we’d have said. Ours is a story of progress. Well, it isn’t 2011. It’s 2021, and as we’ve been discussing all season, that feel-good narrative of struggle leading to inevitable progress doesn’t quite jive with America’s actual history. Or, its present. Obama came to office in 2009, frankly, at an awful moment in American history. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on, and the economy had tanked. It became known as the Great Recession, with foreclosures on housing and unemployment on the rise, and the roster of huge banks dwindle. Things didn’t feel as desperate as in 1933 when FDR took office. But the problems appeared so huge and arguably insolvable that it was worth asking, was it 1930? The satirical magazine, the Onion, perhaps captured the mood of his election, and its historic nature, with the following headline: “America gives worst job in country to black man.”
Apr 1, 2021
Episode 26: George W. Bush
Today’s episode is all about George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States. Full disclosure for those who don’t know, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum resides on SMU’s campus, about a mile as the crow flies from our offices here at the CPH. Here’s your brief primer on George W. Bush. Perhaps unnecessary to say given that you’ve already met his father, but yes, W was born to wealth and privilege, and spent his first years in Connecticut while his father finished up at Yale after World War II. He grew up in a tight family, and one that knew tragedy, too. His younger sister, Robyn, passed away when she was only three from childhood leukemia, and young George remembers having to comfort his own mother from her grief. His father, in truth, was on the road a lot, building a business and then political career. “I got my daddy’s eyes, and my mother’s mouth,” he still jokes to this day, and his mother’s words typically had a bit more bite. The partying didn’t stop there, and indeed Bush has been open about the reckless drinking and carousing that characterized his first decades. He gave up drinking at age forty, and subsequently found god. It influenced his daily life, and his policies, best epitomized by his call for a “compassionate conservatism.” It wasn’t a smooth path to the presidency. Twice elected Governor of Texas, he came to office in 2000 by the narrowest of margins. Bush took office in 2001 planning to focus on education, tax-reform (he was a Republican after all), and immigration. Then, the world changed.
Mar 25, 2021
Episode 25: William J. Clinton
Today’s episode is all about William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, the first baby boomer to hold the office, and indeed, the second youngest man ever elected president. Clinton’s legacy is ongoing and a work in progress even now nearly thirty years since he took office. Changing political winds, changes within the democratic party in particular, a changing sensibility over welfare and the war on crime, and let’s face it, a different sensibility of what constituted sexual harassment than was the case during the early 1990s have all changed how we view not only this period, but this man. And we’re going to get into all of it today, as we rush forward through the 1990s across the bridge to the 21st century, with Bill Clinton, a complicated, fascinating, conundrum of a man, whose political enemies and allies alike nearly universally agree was the greatest natural politician of his generation—with perhaps the greatest unfulfilled promise.
Mar 18, 2021
Episode 24: George H.W. Bush
Today’s episode is all about George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, and the man who came to the Oval Office arguably with the greatest pre-presidential resume of all. Ok, Eisenhower makes a good bid in this fight, but consider Bush’s credentials: he was a war hero, successful businessman, a congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, chief envoy to China, head of the Republican National Committee, head of the CIA, and then for eight years Ronald Reagan’s vice president. That’s a pretty darn impressive list, and Bush was a pretty darn impressive guy: tall, smart, confident, and friendly. But a long resume of loyal and competent service is not ultimately the same as long resume of leadership. Bush was a good soldier and loyal, but also modest—well, as modest as a politician could be—and wanted to be friends with everyone. A loyal subordinate throughout his career, voters were right to wonder what precisely Bush stood for in 1988 when he ran for president. A cover story in Newsweek perhaps put it best. Was Bush…a wimp? He’d followed orders and changed political positions so easily when prudence or politics required, did he actually have convictions of his own?
Mar 11, 2021
Episode 23: Ronald Reagan
Today’s episode is all about Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. It’s not too much a stretch to say we are living in the America Ronald Reagan envisioned, one in which market forces matter as much as morality in the formation of policy decisions, the American military is strong and taxes quite low by historical standards, and a Supreme Court with a noticeable conservative bent. The man who brought the conservative movement from its 1964 nadir until Barry Goldwater to triumph and the White House in 1980, remains to this day a hero to many in the Republican Party especially. Here in 2021 the meaning and legacy of the Reagan era is frankly up for grabs as at no time since the man they called the “gipper” left office in 1989. No single person left a greater impact on American politics during the last quarter of the 20th century. Will that impact last through the first quarter of the 21st? Time will tell. Which makes it a pretty good time for us to explore Reagan anew, his presidency, and the politics of race during his era.
Mar 4, 2021
Episode 22: Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter
Today’s episode is all about the 1970s. Which means we’re talking about two presidents today: Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. As you’ll soon hear, the 70s are hard. They were a time of transition, and historians often treat it as such, as a bridge between the raucous sixties of Vietnam and Nixon to the era of self-gratification and glitz that was the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. Now, that might not be fair to this decade, which historians are increasingly unpacking and exploring, seeing it as more than a bridge, but a destination itself. Albeit, let’s all agree from the start, a destination with some seriously mockable hair and fashion choices. We’re talking about two presidents this week, well in part because while every President deserves their due, the truth is Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter had the unfortunate fate of being positioned between two presidents of tremendous consequence. That’s a shame really because while both Ford and Carter are recalled for their less than stellar handling of truly intractable problems, they were also perhaps two of the most upstanding and admirable men to ever reside in the White House.
Feb 25, 2021
Episode 21: Richard Nixon
Today’s episode is all about Richard Milhouse Nixon, the 37th President of the United States. But the real question is…which Nixon?? Among the most mercurial of our presidents, some might say Machiavellian while others would reach for malevolent, Richard Nixon was a man who changed over the course of the more than quarter century he spent at the beating heart of American politics. Or, did he? He came of political age fighting communists, and left the White House with legal fights that would dog him the rest of his days. In one of our first episodes, Eric Foner told us that every president, and perhaps more importantly every historian, needs to ‘get right with Lincoln,’ in order to understand his era and our own. I’d argue that if you want to understand the America of 2021, you don’t have to get right with Nixon, but you do have to get your mind around him. Together our conversations brought out two themes: First, that Nixon’s positions on race always reflect the political realities of the moment and what was most likely to help him get ahead. Second, how Nixon helped reshape political parties, including catalyzing a new generation of African-American women political leaders.
Feb 18, 2021
Episode 20: Lyndon B. Johnson
Today’s episode is all about Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, and arguably its most consequential. Note we did not say best or greatest or anything overexuberant like that. But if you are talking about presidents who left their mark on American society, presidents from the past whose impact we still feel today in our daily lives, for good and for ill, you could do worse than to put Johnson at the top of your list. That was true for civil rights and race relations, especially. Johnson was at the center of it all. So who was this influential, some might say, accidental president? Here’s your primer. Born in Texas to a family that resided just on the razor edge between poor and middle class, you wouldn’t have expected much from Johnson if you saw him in his youth. A poor student, he was initially denied admission to college, ultimately winning a spot at Southwest State Teachers College in 1927. Ambitious despite outward appearances, he became a congressional aide in 1931, moving to Washington, where he’d represent Texas in some form or fashion over the next forty years.
Feb 11, 2021
Episode 19: John F. Kennedy
Today’s episode is all about John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States—a vigorous president forever young in our memory because tragedy snatched him too early from our view. Kennedy stands near the top of public rankings of presidential greatness, though professional historians tend to rank him slightly lower, a distinction that captures the way the Kennedy mystique, the Camelot White House, the fashionable president with an even more glamorous wife, retains a hold on our national psyche far beyond what his 1000 days in office produced. That dichotomy—what the public recalls, and what historians know—underlies today’s discussion of JFK and race. Several of the most momentous, and monstrous, events in modern Civil Rights history occurred on his watch. James Meredith tried to desegregate the University of Mississippi, whose governor unleashed what can only be described as a race riot in response. Freedom Riders promoting voting rights swarmed the South d…
Feb 4, 2021
Episode 18: Dwight D. Eisenhower
Today’s episode is all about Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, a two term president with arguably the greatest pre-presidential resume of them all. It’s not everyone who could fill out a job application, and under experience, write: “saved Western civilization.” That might be a stretch, but only a small one. It was Ike, after all, who oversaw the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, and then did as much as anyone to build the structures of long-term American prosperity and power that ultimately proved triumphant in the Cold War that followed. He was not without fault, however, nor one for whom questions of race intertwined easily with the awesome power of the presidency. Dwight Eisenhower sat in the Oval Office during critical years of the modern Civil Rights movement, sitting too long and refusing to stand up for equal justice under the law a bit too long for many Americans of his own time, and for American’s looking back in hindsight…
Jan 28, 2021
Episode 17: Harry S. Truman
Today’s episode is all about Harry S Truman, the 37th president of the United States, a man with the unenviable task of following Franklin Roosevelt, AND of overseeing the end of the largest war in human history. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked when consoling the newly-widowed Eleanor Roosevelt. Harry, she said, “is there anything WE can do for YOU, for YOU are the one in trouble now.” That date was April 12, 1945. The war still raged in Europe and the Pacific, and amazingly, it would be another two weeks before Truman was first formally briefed on a new and terrible type of bomb, an atomic bomb, with hope it might bring the fighting to a speedy end. Unlike so many other presidents we’ve studied thus far this season, Truman never planned or even really dreamed he’d one day sit in the Oval Office. He was not, like a Roosevelt, a Kennedy, or a Bush, to the manor born. He was instead our last President without a college degree, raised in America’s heartlan…
Jan 21, 2021
Episode 16: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Part II
Today’s episode is all about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Actually, we have two episodes for you on FDR. He’s that important, and being the only person ever elected to the White House four times, he was also in office long enough to have created several legacies when issues of race arise. Just how important was he? Well, here’s one way to look at it: there have been three true existential crises in American history, moments not just of stress or strife, but perilous times when the very existence of the republic seemed threatened. This week, we talked with Dr. Jill Watts, a professor of history at California State University San Marcos, and an expert on African-American history in the 20th century. She is the author of The Black Cabinet and talked to us about that work and how FDR’s black cabinet pushed him to include Black Americans in New Deal programs. Second, we talked to Dr. Natalie Mendoza, a professor of Mexican American history at the University of Colorado Boulder. We le…
Jan 14, 2021
Episode 15: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Part I
Today’s episode is all about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Actually, we have two episodes for you on FDR. He’s that important, and being the only person ever elected to the White House four times, he was also in office long enough to have created several legacies when issues of race arise. Just how important was he? Well, here’s one way to look at it: there have been three true existential crises in American history, moments not just of stress or strife, but perilous times when the very existence of the republic seemed threatened. The first was when the nation formed; and when it was led by George Washington. The Second was when it nearly perished in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was the man in charge then. The third was the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s time. The Depression lasted throughout the thirties, and World War II followed soon after. FDR led the nation to victory in World War II—a global war to defend democracy and defeat fascism. And yet, while fighting the…
Jan 8, 2021
Episode 14: January 6, 2021 Insurrection
After the events of January 6, 2020, we invited a few friends and historians to offer their interpretations of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building. While our understanding of this historic moment will continue to evolve, we invite you to think of this conversation as a first draft of history.
Dec 17, 2020
Episode 13: The 1920s
Today’s episode is all about the roaring twenties. It’s a decade often recalled with wistful longing, and more than touch of trepidation. Longing, because that is what Americans largely felt in this era: a longing to move past the pain of the Great War and the great pandemic. Trepidation, for us if not for them, because we know the traumas that 1930s and ‘40s would bring. Sometimes it’s no fun to know what comes next, and if you don’t know what we are referring to…well, then you better stick around for future episodes! The Presidents of the 1920s are largely not recalled well, if recalled at all. Indeed, we’ve chosen to discuss them en masse to leave a bit more time for more consequential presidents still to come. Our three today, in the order they served, were Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. If you needed a catchphrase to remember each as we go forward today, you could do worse than to say: one of the most scandal-ridden presidencies in American his…
Dec 10, 2020
Episode 12: Woodrow Wilson Part II
There is so much to discuss about this fascinating man. So much indeed, that we’ve decided to break our discussion into two episodes. In Part I, we released an episode following our regular format, which offered a pretty critical view of Wilson’s history on race. In this episode, we are talking to Professor Thomas Knock, perhaps the preeminent Wilson scholar about Wilson’s life, legacy, and presidency. To be sure, it’s a more complimentary portrayal, but given that Knock has spent so much time thinking about Wilson and how to commemorate this complicated man, we wanted to share the conversation in its entirety.
Dec 10, 2020
Episode 11: Woodrow Wilson Part I
Today’s episode is all about Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States and arguably the most consequential. Note, I did not say one of the greats. They aren’t holding a spot on Mt. Rushmore for him. Certainly not lately, as the national reckoning over race during 2020 has landed hard on Wilson, whose reputation has been sullied by the widespread realization that he might just vie for the unenviable title of most racist president of all. That’s a hard list to evaluate, especially given that numerous antebellum presidents owned people of other races, but as our friend Jon Meacham said in an earlier episode when discussing Andrew Johnson, if you are in the discussion for most racist president ever, well that’s a list you’d rather not be on. Wilson has not fared particularly well as our country rethinks its racial past, and has featured prominently in our national discussion about how to live with the harsh truths of the past in our own present day. But back to Wil…
Dec 3, 2020
Episode 10: William Howard Taft
Today’s episode is all about William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States. The only person on our nation’s history to serve both as Commander-In-Chief and as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Taft is one of those people in history with the sad fate of having his name forever recalled…alongside someone else’s. But really, what did you expect would happen to the man Theodore Roosevelt picked to be his successor. As we’ll soon see, with friends like these…..