Political Musings June 16, 2014: Obama is now just as loved or not as Bush as favorable ratings hit new lows





Political Headlines July 2, 2013: Michelle Obama & Laura Bush at George W. Bush Institute’s First Annual African First Ladies Summit





Michelle Obama, Laura Bush Bemoan Focus on Their Looks

Source: WH, 7-2-13


In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Tuesday to highlight the role of African first ladies, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama sat down together to dish on their husbands and share the frustrations of constant public scrutiny, telling ABC News’ Cokie Roberts that there’s no preparation for the complications of life in the White House.

Michelle Obama said first ladies have “probably the best jobs in the world” because their husbands, “who have to react and respond to crisis on a minute-by-minute basis … come into office with a wonderful, profound agenda, and then they’re faced with the reality. On the other hand, we [first ladies] get to work on what we’re passionate about.”…READ MORE

Political Buzz May 31, 2012: President George W. Bush Returns to White House for Portrait Unveiling — Barack Obama Hosts his ‘Predecessor’


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.


Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
George W. Bush stood next to his official portrait during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.


A Gracious and Civil Prelude to a Hanging: President Obama put partisanship aside for a few hours to pay tribute to his predecessor at the official unveiling of George W. Bush’s official White House portrait…. – NYT, 5-31-12

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss: “It’s wonderful to see because so often in American history, you had presidents hiding the portraits of predecessors they didn’t like. In recent years, instead, this has become a rare presidential ritual of national bipartisanship.”

  • Presidential portraits: Bushes, Obamas share rare moment of warmth: Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush returned to the White House on Thursday for a rare shared moment with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
    The occasion was the unveiling of the Bushes’ official portraits, a 50-year old tradition that brings together past and current presidents in the East Room every four to eight years. For the Bushes and the Obama, it was an occasion for humor, graciousness, emotion and warmth…. – Politico, 5-31-12
  • Bush, Obama on stage together share laughs: President Barack Obama shared the stage with former President George W. Bush, the predecessor he often inveighs against, in a friendly White House welcome for the unveiling of the 43rd president’s official portrait…. – Boston.com, 5-31-12
  • George W. Bush’s White House portrait unveiled in ceremony with Obama: President George W. Bush and Laura Bush were back in Washington on Thursday for the unveiling of the portraits of the former first couple that will hang at the White House. They were joined by President Obama and the former chief….. – LAT, 5-31-12
  • Bush thanks Obama for inviting his “rowdy friends” to portrait hanging: Former President George W. Bush brought a light-hearted tone to the unveiling of his official White House portrait on Thursday, winning over an audience of friends, family and former colleagues with jokes.
    Standing beside his portrait after its unveiling in the White House East Room, Mr. Bush chided the cheering audience to quiet down and thanked President Obama “for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging.”… – CBS News, 5-31-12
  • Obama praises predecessor as George W. Bush portrait unveiled: In a rare public tribute to his predecessor, President Obama unveiled the formal White House portrait of George W. Bush on Thursday, praising his “strength and resolve” after the9/11 terrorist attacks. LAT, 5-31-12
  • George W. Bush presidential portrait is unveiled. Who paid for it?: Though no longer the ‘haphazard affair’ it once was, the process of creating a presidential portrait like George W. Bush’s is not an easy process. But taxpayers don’t pick up the tab…. – CS Monitor, 5-31-12
  • Bush is back: Portrait event stirs up odd politics: President Barack Obama is welcoming his favorite foil, former President George W. Bush, back to the White House on Thursday for the official unveiling of Bush’s portrait…. – AP, 5-31-12
  • Barack Obama to host George W. Bush at White House: President Barack Obama has made him a foil for more than three years, the man he blames for the “mess” he inherited of an economy in free fall and wars gone astray. But it will be smiles and handshakes…. – McClatchy-Tribune News Service, 5-30-12
  • Obama to pause, salute Bush for a day: President Obama will preside over the unveiling of the official portraits of President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush in a White House celebration…. – The Seattle Times, 5-30-12
  • Odd politics, but tradition: Bush back at White House for portrait unveiling: President Barack Obama frequently bad-mouths George W. Bush’s record as a disaster. So here comes the odd part: Obama is about to proudly preside as Bush’s image and legacy are enshrined at the White House forever…. – WaPo, 5-31-12

Obama Welcomes George W. Bush Back to the White House

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-12

Despite frequently blaming his predecessor for the “messes” he inherited, President Obama on Thursday will welcome former President George W. Bush back to the White House to honor his legacy.

The 43rd president and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, will be back at their former home for the official unveiling of their portraits, an often uncomfortable presidential tradition.

The White House maintained Wednesday that Obama is looking forward to the event and that it’s “not at all” awkward.

“Look, there are differences… without question, between [President Obama’s] approach and the approach and the policies of his predecessor,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.  “That was certainly the case when, I believe, President George W. Bush had President Clinton to the White House for his portrait unveiling.  And I think it is well-established that those two now-former presidents have a good relationship…. I think there is a community here with very few members that transcends political and policy differences.”…READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush at the Official Portrait Unveiling

East Room

1:31 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you, Fred, for that introduction.  To President George H. W. Bush and Barbara, to all the members of the Bush family who are here — it is a great privilege to have you here today.  And to President and Mrs. Bush, welcome back to the house that you called home for eight years.

The White House is many things at once.  It’s a working office, it’s a living museum, it’s an enduring symbol of our democracy.  But at the end of the day, when the visitors go home and the lights go down, a few of us are blessed with the tremendous honor to actually live here.

I think it’s fair to say that every President is acutely aware that we are just temporary residents — we’re renters here.  We’re charged with the upkeep until our lease runs out.  But we also leave a piece of ourselves in this place.  And today, with the unveiling of the portraits next to me, President and Mrs. Bush will take their place alongside men and women who built this country and those who worked to perfect it.

It’s been said that no one can ever truly understand what it’s like being President until they sit behind that desk and feel the weight and responsibility for the first time.  And that is true.  After three and a half years in office — and much more gray hair — (laughter) — I have a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the Presidents who came before me, including my immediate predecessor, President Bush.

In this job, no decision that reaches your desk is easy.  No choice you make is without costs.  No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make everybody happy.  I think that’s something President Bush and I both learned pretty quickly.  (Laughter.)

And that’s why, from time to time, those of us who have had the privilege to hold this office find ourselves turning to the only people on Earth who know the feeling.  We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences.  We all love this country.  We all want America to succeed.  We all believe that when it comes to moving this country forward, we have an obligation to pull together.  And we all follow the humble, heroic example of our first President, George Washington, who knew that a true test of patriotism is the willingness to freely and graciously pass the reins of power on to somebody else.

That’s certainly been true of President Bush.  The months before I took the oath of office were a chaotic time.  We knew our economy was in trouble, our fellow Americans were in pain, but we wouldn’t know until later just how breathtaking the financial crisis had been.  And still, over those two and a half months — in the midst of that crisis — President Bush, his Cabinet, his staff, many of you who are here today, went out of your ways — George, you went out of your way — to make sure that the transition to a new administration was as seamless as possible.

President Bush understood that rescuing our economy was not just a Democratic or a Republican issue; it was a American priority.  I’ll always be grateful for that.

The same is true for our national security.  None of us will ever forget where we were on that terrible September day when our country was attacked.  All of us will always remember the image of President Bush standing on that pile of rubble, bullhorn in hand, conveying extraordinary strength and resolve to the American people but also representing the strength and resolve of the American people.

And last year, when we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, I made it clear that our success was due to many people in many organizations working together over many years — across two administrations.  That’s why my first call once American forces were safely out of harm’s way was to President Bush.  Because protecting our country is neither the work of one person, nor the task of one period of time, it’s an ongoing obligation that we all share.

Finally, on a personal note, Michelle and I are grateful to the entire Bush family for their guidance and their example during our own transition.

George, I will always remember the gathering you hosted for all the living former Presidents before I took office, your kind words of encouragement.  Plus, you also left me a really good TV sports package.  (Laughter.)  I use it.  (Laughter.)

Laura, you reminded us that the most rewarding thing about living in this house isn’t the title or the power, but the chance to shine a spotlight on the issues that matter most.  And the fact that you and George raised two smart, beautiful daughters — first, as girls visiting their grandparents and then as teenagers preparing to head out into the world — that obviously gives Michelle and I tremendous hope as we try to do the right thing by our own daughters in this slightly odd atmosphere that we’ve created.

Jenna and Barbara, we will never forget the advice you gave Sasha and Malia as they began their lives in Washington.  They told them to surround themselves with loyal friends, never stop doing what they love; to slide down the banisters occasionally — (laughter) — to play Sardines on the lawn; to meet new people and try new things; and to try to absorb everything and enjoy all of it.  And I can tell you that Malia and Sasha took that advice to heart.  It really meant a lot to them.

One of the greatest strengths of our democracy is our ability to peacefully, and routinely, go through transitions of power.  It speaks to the fact that we’ve always had leaders who believe in America, and everything it stands for, above all else — leaders and their families who are willing to devote their lives to the country that they love.

This is what we’ll think about every time we pass these portraits — just as millions of other visitors will do in the decades, and perhaps even the centuries to come.  I want to thank John Howard Sanden, the artist behind these beautiful works, for his efforts.  And on behalf of the American people, I want to thank most sincerely President and Mrs. Bush for their extraordinary service to our country.

And now I’d like to invite them on stage to take part in the presentation.  (Applause.)

(Portraits are unveiled.)

PRESIDENT BUSH:  Thank you, sit down.  Sit down.  Behave yourselves.  (Laughter.)  Mr. President, thank you for your warm hospitality.  Madam First Lady, thank you so much for inviting our rowdy friends — (laughter) — to my hanging.  (Laughter.)

Laura and I are honored to be here.  Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming.  We are overwhelmed by your hospitality.  And thank you for feeding the Bush family, all 14 members of us who are here.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank our girls for coming.  I thank Mom and Dad, brother, sister, in-laws, aunts and uncles.  I appreciate you taking your time.  I know you’re as excited as Laura and me to be able to come back here, and particularly thank the people who helped make this house a home for us for eight years, the White House staff.

I want to thank Fred Ryan and the White House Historical Association and Bill Allman, the White House curator.  I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection.  It now starts and ends with a George W.  (Laughter and applause.)

When the British burned the White House, as Fred mentioned, in 1814, Dolley Madison famously saved this portrait of the first George W.  (Laughter.)  Now, Michelle, if anything happens there’s your man.  (Laughter and applause.)  I am also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, what would George do?  (Laughter.)

I am honored to be hanging near a man who gave me the greatest gift possible, unconditional love — and that would be number 41.  (Applause.)  I want to thank John Howard Sanden for agreeing to use his considerable talents to paint my likeness.  You’ve done a fine job with a challenging subject.  (Laughter.)

In the portrait, there’s a painting by W.H.D. Koerner called, “A Charge to Keep.”  It hung in the Oval Office for eight years of my presidency.  I asked John to include it, because it reminds me of the wonderful people with whom I was privileged to serve.  Whether they served in the Cabinet or on the presidential staff, these men and women — many of whom are here — worked hard and served with honor.  We had a charge to keep and we kept the charge.

It is my privilege to introduce the greatest First Lady ever — sorry, Mom.  (Laughter.)  Would you agree to a tie?  (Laughter.)  A woman who brought such grace and dignity and love in this house.  (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH:  Thank you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, darling.

Thank you, President and Mrs. Obama.  Thank you for your kindness and your consideration today.  It was really gracious of you to invite us back to the White House to hang a few family pictures.  (Laughter.)  And I’m sure you know nothing makes a house a home like having portraits of its former occupants staring down at you from the walls.  (Laughter.)

This is not the first time I’ve had the opportunity to confront an artistic likeness of myself.  A few years ago, just after the 2008 election, a friend sent me something he’d found in the gift shop of the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia.  It was a Laura Bush bobblehead doll.  (Laughter.)  He said he found it on the clearance shelf.  (Laughter.)

But I’m flattered and grateful to know that this particular work has a permanent home.  And thanks to the masterful talent of John Howard Sanden, I like it a whole lot better than I do that bobblehead doll.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, John Howard Sanden — you’re terrific to work with.  And thanks to Elizabeth and your family who have joined you today.  Thank you very, very much, John.  (Applause.)

And, of course, it’s meaningful to me as a private person to know that these portraits will be on view at the White House, that my portrait will hang just down the hall from my mother-in-law, and that George’s portrait will hang very close to his dad’s.  But what’s more meaningful is it’s meaningful to me as a citizen.  This was our family’s home for eight years.  It was our home, but it wasn’t our house.  This house belongs to the people whose portraits will never hang here, the ordinary and not-so-ordinary people whose lives inspired us and whose expectations guided us during the years that we lived here.

In this room are many of the people who stood by us as we faced the tragedy of September 11th, and who worked with us in the years after.  Thanks to each and every one of you for your service to our country.  (Applause.)

I hope others will see in this portrait what I see:  a woman who was honored and humbled to live in the White House during a period of great challenge, and who will never forget the countless American faces who make up the true portrait of that time.

Thank you all very much.  Thanks so much.  And thank you, Michelle, if you want to come up.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, I don’t think we have enough tissue to go around.  (Laughter.)  Jenna and Barbara, they’re just a mess.  (Laughter.)  But I want to thank President and Mrs. Bush for joining us today.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Laura for providing such a wonderful model of strength and grace for me to follow as First Lady.  It is an interesting job, and it’s just been amazing to learn from your example not just as a First Lady, but as a mother of two wonderful daughters.  You’re on the other side of where we hope to be — (laughter) — in a couple of years — two daughters that sit up straight and cry when they’re — (laughter) — and think lovingly about their mom and their dad.  (Laughter.)  We’re working towards that goal, but you’ve done a terrific job.

And I also want to echo Barack.  We couldn’t be more thankful for the warmth and graciousness that both of you showed — all of you showed — our family when we moved in three years ago.  It is truly, truly a privilege for us to occupy this house.  And hopefully, we are setting the same example of warmth and love and hope that you all have provided as well.

The warmth is truly reflected in these portraits, and I promise you — (laughter) — I promise, I’m going straight for — (laughter) — and I’m sure it will be closer right down the stairs, and I’ll get right to it.

So I am thrilled for all of the White House visitors who will soon have the chance to enjoy them as well.  And I’m thrilled for both of you as you join these incredible Americans whose portraits are already displayed here at the White House.

So congratulations again.  Congratulations on the work that you have done, the example that you have provided to this country, and what it means to be an American family.  We are so happy and proud and honored to be a part.

And with that, it is my pleasure to invite you all to join us for a reception right outside in the State Room.  Now it’s time to eat.  (Laughter.)  Thank you all so much.  (Applause.)

1:50 P.M. EDT

May 31, 2012

Background Information on the Presentation of Portraits of President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Welch Bush

President George Walker Bush
President George W. Bush is portrayed standing in the center of the Oval Office in the West Wing. His right hand rests on an armchair made for the White House in 1818 by District of Columbia cabinetmaker William King, Jr. A corner of the “Resolute desk,” presented to the White House by Queen Victoria in 1880, can be seen behind the chair. Over his right shoulder hangs a 1929 western painting, A Charge to Keep, by William H. D. Koerner. The President, who had used the same title for his 1999 memoir, often called attention to that painting and its significance.

Mrs. Laura Welch Bush
For the setting of her portrait, First Lady Laura Bush selected the Green Room, as refurbished with her active participation in 2007. Wearing a midnight blue gown, she rests her left hand on a lyreback armchair attributed to the famous New York cabinetmaker, Duncan Phyfe, c.1810. Federal easy chairs, among antique American furniture added to the room in 1971-72, were reupholstered in a rich salmon-colored silk. The 1767 David Martin portrait of Benjamin  Franklin hangs over the neoclassical mantel, acquired for the White House in 1818.

About the Artist
John Howard Sanden, born in 1935 in Austin Texas, now lives in Connecticut and maintains a studio in Carnegie Hall in New York City. Well known for his portraits of leaders of industry and education, he received the first John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Portrait Artists in 1994.

As usual, the White House Historical Association contracted with the artist selected by the subjects and will donate the finished paintings to the White House as a gift of the George B. Hartzog, Jr. White House Acquisition Trust. In 2010, President Bush selected John Howard Sanden to execute his White House portrait.  The success of the sittings and the portrait itself, completed in 2011, led Mrs. Bush to select Sanden for her portrait as well, finished in early 2012.

Campaign Buzz May 15, 2012: Former President George W. Bush Endorses Mitt Romney… As Elevator Door Closed — Speaking at Launch of Presidential Center’s “Freedom Collection”


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.


Former President George W. Bush is pictured.
Bush spoke Tuesday in Washington at an event for his presidential institute. | AP Photo


George W. Bush offers quick support to Mitt Romney: George W. Bush is backing presumptive Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney.
The former president offered a four-word endorsement of Romney as the doors of his elevator were closing after a speech Tuesday in Washington. Bush said:
“I’m for Mitt Romney.”
ABC News caught Bush after the speech, prompting his unscripted, but not surprising, endorsement.
Bush’s parents, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, endorsed Romney in March. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also publicly backed Romney.
Since leaving office in January 2009, George W. Bush has tried to avoid politics…. – AP, 5-16-12

  • Bush Dips a Toe Back Into Washington: After keeping a low profile since leaving office, former President George W. Bush is starting to speak out again on issues he hopes will define his legacy…. – NYT, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush endorses Mitt Romney: ABC News caught up with former president George W. Bush in an elevator in downtown Washington on Tuesday and asked the question that elicited the sound bite. “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush said, just as the doors slid shut…. – WaPo, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush, elevators, and the art of the tepid Romney endorsement: “I’m for Mitt Romney,” said George W. Bush, as the elevator doors closed on him. It’s amazing how much air you can take out of any announcement by inserting “as the elevator doors closed.” “Give me liberty or give me…. – WaPo, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush voices support for Romney: Former President George W. Bush voiced his support for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign for the first time today, ABC News reports.
    In a decidedly underwhelming fashion, the former president said to a reporter, “I’m for Mitt Romney,” as the doors of an elevator closed on him. Mr. Bush was in Washington to deliver a speech on freedom and democracy at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
    Andrea Saul, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the latest unofficial endorsement, “We welcome the president’s support, as we welcomed his father’s.”
    She added that Romney does not have any scheduled appearances with Mr. Bush, noting that the former president made clear when he left office that he was not going to engage in political campaigns…. – CBS News, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush: ‘I’m for Mitt Romney’: Former President George W. Bush speaks during the “Celebration of Human Freedom” event in Washington on Tuesday. President George W. Bush offered up his endorsement of Mitt Romney. It was in an elevator — as the doors were closing…. – WSJ, 5-15-12
  • What’s Behind George W. Bush’s Odd Romney Endorsement?: The former president blurted out his support for his party’s nominee — only to be greeted with silence in return.
    George W. Bush’s endorsement of Mitt Romney on Tuesday appears to have been unplanned. The former president had just given a speech on human rights in Washington, and afterward, Matt Negrin, a reporter for ABC News, followed him to the elevator and asked who he’s supporting in the election in November.
    “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush said, as the elevator doors inched closed.
    Well, sure he is. What else was he supposed to say? But it was beyond strange to see a former two-term Republican president slide his support for his party’s presumptive nominee under — or, rather, through — the door in this manner. And Romney’s response was even stranger: silence. The Romney campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Bush endorsement, and Romney didn’t mention it in his post-endorsement speech Tuesday in Iowa. (A campaign spokeswoman told the New York Observer that Romney was “proud” to have Bush’s support, but did not expect to campaign with him.)…. – The Atlantic, 5-15-12
  • Can George W. Bush’s tepid Romney endorsement finally unseat Daniels?: In what may be the final face-off in the Ticket’s Romney tepid endorsement playoffs, we’re pitting former President George W. Bush against three-time champion Mitch Daniels for the title. Bush, asked for his position on the election by ABC News after a speech in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, merely stated that “I’m for Mitt Romney.” In a poetic touch, he said so just as the door of the elevator he was riding closed…. – ABC News, 5-15-12

Bush touts Arab spring, says US can’t fear freedom: Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday praised the Arab spring movement and said the U.S. shouldn’t fear the spread of freedom, even if it doesn’t know what policies newly liberated countries will pursue.
“America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere,” Bush said. “It only gets to choose what side it is on.”
And the U.S., Bush said, should always be on the side of freedom.
The former president remarks came at event marking the launch of his presidential institute’s “Freedom Collection.” The event also featured brief remarks by his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, and a question-and-answer session by video with Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi…. – AP, 5-15-12

  • George W. Bush touts Arab spring, says U.S. can’t fear freedom: President George W. Bush had plenty to say about freedom during a rare public speech Tuesday — he uttered the word about two dozen times — but noticeably absent was a single mention of Afghanistan or Iraq, or of President Barack Obama….- Politico, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush: US must stand with dissidents: Former president George W. Bush said Tuesday that the United States must stand with dissidents and democracy activists around the world even if the change they sow makes things more difficult in the short run…. – USA Today, 5-15-12
  • Bush Celebrates Democracy Activists, Sides With Syrian Resistance: As President George W. Bush quietly returned to Washington today, he brought along a slew of global democracy activists known mostly for never being quiet. Today’s line-up at the George W. Bush Presidential Center sponsored event…. – ABC News, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush praises Arab spring: Former President George W. Bush praised the Arab spring movement on Tuesday and said the US shouldn’t fear the spread of freedom, even if it doesn’t know what policies newly liberated countries will pursue…. – Fort Worth Star Telegram, 5-15-12

Aung San Suu Kyi Joins President and Mrs. Bush via Video at Human Freedom Event in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Source: George W. Bush Presidential Center, 5-25-12

President George W. Bush today praised the courage of dissidents around the world and called on America to stand with them by choosing the side of freedom. Joined by leading voices of liberty, President Bush delivered his remarks at the Celebration of Freedom, a special event in Washington, D.C., to showcase the Freedom Collection, a collection of inspiring interviews of global freedom activists compiled by the George W. Bush Institute.

“These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom,” said President George W. Bush. “In the Arab Spring, we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism. Great change has come to a region where many thought it impossible. The idea that Arab people are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever. Yet we have also seen instability, uncertainty, and the revenge of brutal rulers. The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle. But there is a reason for the momentum of liberty across the centuries:  human beings were not designed for servitude. They were created for better things. And the human soul is forever restless until it rests in freedom.

Freedom advocates from around the world whose stories are part of the Freedom Collection were in attendance at the standing-room only event, including: Ammar Abdulhamid, Syria; Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuela; Bob Fu, China; Marcel Granier, Venezuela; Normando Hernandez, Cuba; Wei Jingsheng, China; Cristal-Montanez Baylor, Venezuela; Ahmed Samih, Egypt; Mohsen Sazegara, Iran; Doan Viet Hoat, Vietnam; and Cheery Zahau, Burma.

“Today we are pleased to recognize Facebook as a social media partner on the Freedom Collection,” said James K. Glassman, founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. “Through Facebook, we are extending the reach of the Freedom Collection and the Bush Center’s efforts to promote liberty by documenting and sharing the global struggle for human freedom. Having a strong presence on Facebook will enable us to promote openness, invite conversation, and foster greater debate and understanding.”

Following President Bush’s speech, Mrs. Laura Bush was introduced by ChinaAid Association founder Xiqiu “Bob” Fu. Mrs. Bush introduced Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who joined via video conference, saying, “Her example shows people everywhere that political isolation and prison cannot silence the call for liberty.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, who responded to questions the Bush Center had collected via Facebook, said, “There should be no political prisoners in Burma if we are really headed for democratization.” In response to a request for a message to the people of Syria, she said, “We are with you in your desire for freedom and in your struggle for freedom.”

During Tuesday’s event, the Bush Center also received key artifacts for inclusion in the Freedom Collection from Martin Palous, Director of the Vaclav Havel Library. The items include an original carbon copy of the Declaration of Charter 77, the 1977 independent initiative calling for the communist government of Czechoslovakia to respect fundamental human rights, Havel’s letter nominating three Cuban dissidents for the Nobel Peace Prize, and a volume of texts and speeches signed by Havel.

Available online at www.FreedomCollection.org, the Freedom Collection uses video interviews to document the personal stories of brave men and women who have led or participated in freedom movements from the 20th century to the present day. It also includes a physical archive containing documents and artifacts from major freedom movements, including an early draft of the Tibetan Constitution given to President Bush by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The addition of these items from the Vaclav Havel Library will provide further inspiration and insight for the current generation of freedom advocates. As part of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom initiative, the Freedom Collection helps to combat the feeling of isolation that can be common among dissidents by sharing the stories of those who have gone before in the struggle for freedom. It also expands moral and practical support from the United States and other free societies for those still seeking liberty.


Remarks by President Bush: The Arab Spring and American Ideals

Source: George W. Bush Presidential Center, 5-22-12

The below article by President George W. Bush was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 18, 2012 and was adapted from a speech he delivered May 15, 2012 at the Bush Institute’s Celebration of Human Freedom. The event celebrated the brave efforts of dissidents and activists around the world in their fight to be free. The Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative seeks to extend the reach of freedom around the world by fostering democracy and supporting today’s freedom advocates through programs such as the Freedom Collection, unveiled earlier this spring.

The op-ed can be found on the Wall Street Journal online here.

George W. Bush: The Arab Spring and American Ideals

We do not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. We only get to choose what side we are on.

These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom. In the Arab Spring, we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism. The idea that Arab peoples are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever.

Yet we have also seen instability, uncertainty and the revenge of brutal rulers. The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle.

Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa—and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.

But in the long run, this foreign policy approach is not realistic. It is not within the power of America to indefinitely preserve the old order, which is inherently unstable. Oppressive governments distrust the diffusion of choice and power, choking off the best source of national prosperity and success.

This is the inbuilt crisis of tyranny. It fears and fights the very human attributes that make a nation great: creativity, enterprise and responsibility. Dictators can maintain power for a time by feeding resentments toward enemies—internal or external, real or imagined. But eventually, in societies of scarcity and mediocrity, their failure becomes evident.

America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on.

The day when a dictator falls or yields to a democratic movement is glorious. The years of transition that follow can be difficult. People forget that this was true in Central Europe, where democratic institutions and attitudes did not spring up overnight. From time to time, there has been corruption, backsliding and nostalgia for the communist past. Essential economic reforms have sometimes proved painful and unpopular.

It takes courage to ignite a freedom revolution. But it also takes courage to secure a freedom revolution through structural reform. And both types of bravery deserve our support.

This is now the challenge in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. After the euphoria, nations must deal with questions of tremendous complexity: What effect will majority rule have on the rights of women and religious minorities? How can militias be incorporated into a national army? What should be the relationship between a central government and regional authorities?

Problems once kept submerged by force must now be resolved by politics and consensus. But political institutions and traditions are often weak.

We know the problems. But there is a source of hope. The people of North Africa and the Middle East now realize that their leaders are not invincible. Citizens of the region have developed habits of dissent and expectations of economic performance. Future rulers who ignore those expectations—who try returning to oppression and blame shifting—may find an accountability of their own.

As Americans, our goal should be to help reformers turn the end of tyranny into durable, accountable civic structures. Emerging democracies need strong constitutions, political parties committed to pluralism, and free elections. Free societies depend upon the rule of law and property rights, and they require hopeful economies, drawn into open world markets.

This work will require patience, creativity and active American leadership. It will involve the strengthening of civil society—with a particular emphasis on the role of women. It will require a consistent defense of religious liberty. It will mean the encouragement of development, education and health, as well as trade and foreign investment. There will certainly be setbacks. But if America does not support the advance of democratic institutions and values, who will?

In promoting freedom, our methods should be flexible. Change comes at different paces in different places. Yet flexibility does not mean ambiguity. The same principles must apply to all nations. As a country embraces freedom, it finds economic and social progress. Only when a government treats its people with dignity does a nation fulfill its greatness. And when a government violates the rights of a citizen, it dishonors an entire nation.

There is nothing easy about the achievement of freedom. In America, we know something about the difficulty of protecting minorities, of building a national army, of defining the relationship between the central government and regional authorities—because we faced all of those challenges on the day of our independence. And they nearly tore us apart. It took many decades of struggle to live up to our own ideals. But we never ceased believing in the power of those ideals—and we should not today.

Full Text February 22, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture



President Barack Obama speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture site in Washington, D. C.

President Obama helps to dedicate a new museum for African-American history
President Obama at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

President Obama at the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Source: WH, 2-22-12

President Obama delivers remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (February 22, 2012)
President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture site in Washington, D. C., Feb. 22, 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event with the President and other participants included: former First Lady Laura Bush; Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray; Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas; Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, pastor, Abyssian Baptist Church, New York; Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum; Richard Kurin, undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian; Linda Johnson Rice and Richard Parsons, co-chairs of the museum’s advisory council; Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary, The Smithsonian Institution; Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture; and Dr. France Córdova, Chair, Smithsonian Board of Regents. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This morning, President Obama was on hand for the ground breaking at the site of the future Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

He told those assembled on the National Mall:

Just like the Air and Space Museum challenges us to set our sights higher, or the Natural History Museum encourages us to look closer, or the Holocaust Museum calls us to fight persecution wherever we find it, this museum should inspire us as well.  It should stand as proof that the most important things in life rarely come quickly or easily.  It should remind us that although we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.

As he considered what the museum will mean and the history that it will cover, the President talked about what he wants his daughters to experience:

I want my daughters to see the shackles that bound slaves on their voyage across the ocean and the shards of glass that flew from the 16th Street Baptist church, and understand that injustice and evil exist in the world. But I also want them to hear Louis Armstrong’s horn and learn about the Negro League and read the poems of Phyllis Wheatley. And I want them to appreciate this museum not just as a record of tragedy, but as a celebration of life.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was approved by the Smithsonian Board of Regents in 2006, and the new building is scheduled to open to the public in 2015. The museum will sit on a five acre site, between 14th and 15th Streets N.W. — near the Washington Monument.

Learn more

Watch: First Look at the Museum of African American History and Culture

When the Museum of African American History and Culture opens on the National Mall in 2015, it will be “not just a record of tragedy, but a celebration of life,” as President Obama said during the ground breaking ceremony on the site today.

The museum, the 19th in the Smithsonian Institution, will feature objects collected from across the country that tell the stories that make up the African American experience, including personal items that belonged to Harriet Tubman and one of the planes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. Lonny Bunch, the museum’s Founding Director, gives us a first look at some of the treasures that will be on display…. Watch it now


Remarks by the President at the Groundbreaking Ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Mall

11:21 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. Thank you so much.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you very much.  Well, good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to thank France for that introduction and for her leadership at the Smithsonian.  I want to thank everybody who helped to make this day happen.  I want to thank Laura Bush; Secretary Salazar; Sam Brownback; my hero, Congressman John Lewis; Wayne Clough, and everybody who’s worked so hard to make this possible.

I am so proud of Lonnie Bunch, who came here from Chicago, I want to point out.  (Laughter and applause.)  I remember having a conversation with him about this job when he was planning to embark on this extraordinary journey.  And we could not be prouder of the work that he has done to help make this day possible.

I promise to do my part by being brief.

As others have mentioned, this day has been a long time coming.  The idea for a museum dedicated to African Americans was first put forward by black veterans of the Civil War.  And years later, the call was picked up by members of the civil rights generation -– by men and women who knew how to fight for what was right and strive for what is just.  This is their day.  This is your day.  It’s an honor to be here to see the fruit of your labor.

It’s also fitting that this museum has found a home on the National Mall.  As has been mentioned, it was on this ground long ago that lives were once traded, where hundreds of thousands once marched for jobs and for freedom.  It was here that the pillars of our democracy were built, often by black hands.  And it is on this spot –- alongside the monuments to those who gave birth to this nation, and those who worked so hard to perfect it –- that generations will remember the sometimes difficult, often inspirational, but always central role that African Americans have played in the life of our country.

This museum will celebrate that history.  Because just as the memories of our earliest days have been confined to dusty letters and faded pictures, the time will come when few people remember drinking from a colored water fountain, or boarding a segregated bus, or hearing in person Dr. King’s voice boom down from the Lincoln Memorial.  That’s why what we build here won’t just be an achievement for our time, it will be a monument for all time.  It will do more than simply keep those memories alive.

Just like the Air and Space Museum challenges us to set our sights higher, or the Natural History Museum encourages us to look closer, or the Holocaust Museum calls us to fight persecution wherever we find it, this museum should inspire us as well.  It should stand as proof that the most important things in life rarely come quickly or easily.  It should remind us that although we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.

And that’s why, in moments like this, I think about Malia and Sasha.  I think about my daughters and I think about your children, the millions of visitors who will stand where we stand long after we’re gone.  And I think about what I want them to experience.  I think about what I want them to take away.

When our children look at Harriet Tubman Shaw or Nat Turner’s bible or the plane flown by Tuskegee Airmen, I don’t want them to be seen as figures somehow larger than life.  I want them to see how ordinary Americans could do extraordinary things; how men and women just like them had the courage and determination to right a wrong, to make it right.

I want my daughters to see the shackles that bound slaves on their voyage across the ocean and the shards of glass that flew from the 16th Street Baptist church, and understand that injustice and evil exist in the world.  But I also want them to hear Louis Armstrong’s horn and learn about the Negro League and read the poems of Phyllis Wheatley.  And I want them to appreciate this museum not just as a record of tragedy, but as a celebration of life.

When future generations hear these songs of pain and progress and struggle and sacrifice, I hope they will not think of them as somehow separate from the larger American story.  I want them to see it as central — an important part of our shared story.  A call to see ourselves in one another.  A call to remember that each of us is made in God’s image.  That’s the history we will preserve within these walls.  The history of a people who, in the words of Dr. King, “injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.”

May we remember their stories.  May we live up to their example.  Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

11:28 A.M. EST

Full Text September 11, 2011: President Barack Obama’s 9-11 Message to the Families — Remarks at National September 11 Memorial in New York & United Flight 93 Memorial




The 10th Anniversary of 9/11

President Obama’s Message to 9/11 Families

Source: WH, 9-11-11

President Obama has a message for those who lost loved ones on that terrible day, ten years ago: “We can never replace all that you have lost.  But what we can do, what we will do, is honor the memory of your loved ones by being the best country we can be, and by standing with you and your families, now and forever.”

The President and Mrs Obama commemorated today’s sad anniversary by attending memorial services at the three sites where the planes went down, and once again met with many of the families. The First Family have been touched by the grief that still lingers:

Despite heartache that never goes away, you’ve done what your loved ones would have wanted.  You’ve learned to live and laugh and love again.  Your courage, your resilience has been an inspiration to my family, and an inspiration to the American people.  Through you, we’ve been reminded that, as a people, we don’t simply endure, we can emerge stronger than before.

In quiet moments of remembrance, some of you have shared with Michelle and me the beauty of their lives, the anguish of your loss and the pain of these past ten years.  And I realize that there are no words than can ever fill the hole in your hearts.

But today I want to say again—your loved ones live on in you and in the life of our nation, which will never forget them.  In their name, we’ll never waver in our efforts to prevent another attack on our shores and to spare other families the heartbreak you have known.  In their name, we’ll continue to deliver justice to those who took the people you loved most in the world.  And in their name, we will come together, in spirit of national service, to honor your loved ones, as one American family.

President Obama and First Lady Join Services to Commemorate Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

Source: WH, 9-11-11

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush at the National September 11 Memorial President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, walk along the western edge of the North Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, N.Y., prior to a commemoration ceremony on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are marking the tenth anniversary of the worst attacks on our country by joining ceremonies at each of the three sites where the planes crashed on September 11, 2001. Their first stop was New York City, where they joined the annual service that includes reading the names of all of the almost 3,000 victims. The President and First Lady joined former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush at the new September 11 Memorial, which features two reflecting pools built over the towers’ footprints where the names of the victims are etched in bronze.

Following a moment of silence at 8:46 AM, the exact moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center ten years ago, the President read Psalm 46 from the Bible:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear,
even though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea.
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake
with its swelling,
there’s a river
whose streams shall make glad
the City of God,
the holy place of the Tabernacle
of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her.
She shall not be moved.
God shall help her
just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged,
the kingdoms were moved.
He uttered his voice.
The earth melted.
The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come behold the works of the Lord
who has made desolations in the Earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the Earth.
He breaks the bough
and cuts the spear in two.
He burns the chariot in fire.
Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the Earths.
The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate in a wreath laying ceremony in Shanksville PAPresident Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate in a wreath laying ceremony to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11, and to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the United States, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

From New York, the Obamas traveled to Shanksville, Pa., where they walked along the Wall of Names that honors the 40 brave Americans who were on Flight 93,  the plane that crashed at Shanksville, and placed a wreath at the site. The President also placed a wreath at a memorial at the Pentagon, where the 184 victims are each remembered with a bench and small reflecting pool. Sunday evening, the President and the First Lady will attend A Concert for Hope at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

The President declared September 11 a national day of service and remembrance to honor those killed in the attacks, those who responded 10 years ago and those who have served in our military during in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday, the First Family participated in a service project in Washington, DC.

First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a woman at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville PAPresident Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet people on the rope line while attending a ceremony to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the United States, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (262MB) | mp3 (25MB)

Nancy Clarke: White House Florist’s Tales of Six First Ladies Rosalynn Carter to Michelle Obama in “My First Ladies”


History Buzz

When Hillary Clinton Ran Naked Through the White House

Former first lady Hillary Clinton dashed naked from her White House bathroom to the bedroom. Laura Bush would drive staffers crazy directing where each Christmas ornament should be placed on the presidential tree. Barbara Bush was such a fan of Keds tennis shoes, her husband bought her 20 pairs in different colors and designs. And Nancy Reagan once called, distressed that two roses in a vase in her dressing room had drooped. Former White House chief florist Nancy Clarke has a closet full of such insider tales from her 31 years with six first ladies from Rosalynn Carter (favored barbecue dinners) to Michelle Obama (prefers gala apples over flowers). And now, two years after leaving the White House, she’s written a rare behind-the-scenes book, My First Ladies, due out in September.

“I truly believe I had the ultimate job any floral designer could ever dream of,” says Clarke. While every first family brings in a chief social secretary to handle East Wing affairs, Clarke was there for six administrations, serving as a de facto deputy social secretary. Hers is the first such look at the quirks and traits of her bosses.

Consider Clinton, described as a mix of dignity and schoolgirl. When the Monica Lewinsky affair broke, Clinton didn’t show her feelings to staff and, Clarke says, never engaged in the kinds of fighting with her husband that was described in the media. Once, Clarke took the elevator to the presidential residence and saw Clinton dash naked from her bathroom to the bedroom. “We looked at each other and we both screamed,” Clarke writes. Clinton joked about it later. “She said it was like living in her sorority house again.”

Reagan, Clarke says, was the most elegant and romantic of the six. Dispelling rumors that the Reagan marriage was an act, the Gipper once spotted mistletoe hanging in a foyer, then pulled his wife over for a big hug and smooch.

Laura Bush, obsessed with Christmas, was also very down to earth, driving her hubby’s Ford pickup at their Texas ranch and even climbing into a refrigerated truck to view the flowers to be used at her daughter’s wedding.

Mother-in-law Barbara was considerate, so much so that she mistakenly gave Camp David staffers pricey Steiff teddy bears used in Christmas centerpieces that were supposed to be returned to storage.

Having survived six first ladies, Clarke is too diplomatic to pick a favorite. “I loved working for every single one. They were all different. They all had different personalities. And I really did, I loved my job.”

Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.

Political Shorts: George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” a Bestseller, Library Ground-Breaking

  • Booming sales for Bush book ‘Decision Points’: The Decider has written a blockbuster. Random House Inc. says former President George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” sold 775,000 copies through its first week of publication. Random House made the announcement Tuesday. In the book, the two-term president discusses the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his decisions to send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and the response to Hurricane Katrina. An initial print run of 1.5 million copies has been increased to 1.85 million. E-book sales alone are 100,000. Random House said last week that opening-day sales of “Decision Points” were its highest since former President Bill Clinton’s “My Life” debuted in 2004…. – AP, 11-16-10
  • Bookend to a Presidency George W. Bush Breaks Ground on a Library, Museum and Policy Center in Texas: George W. Bush and 3,000 fans celebrated his return to the spotlight Tuesday during a ground-breaking ceremony at Southern Methodist University, where plans to build his presidential library have divided the campus. Mr. Bush, who left office with low approval ratings and spent two years in relative seclusion, has recently worked to burnish his image, giving interviews to Oprah Winfrey and the Today Show’s Matt Lauer to promote his book “Decision Points.”
    “Staying out of current affairs and politics does not mean staying out of policy,” Mr. Bush said to the crowd gathered under a large white tent. “I strongly believe that the principles that guided our service in public office are the right principles to lead our country in the future.” Mr. Bush said a public policy institute attached to the library would promote those principles, as well as improve free markets, global health, political freedom and education.
    Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who used a cane to climb to the dais, made a dig at the Obama administration, calling the presidential center “the only shovel-ready project in America,” drawing laughs. The president’s wife, Laura Bush, an SMU graduate, also attended, as did former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe…. – WSJ, 11-16-10
  • Bush and Cheney, Together Again at Groundbreaking: With the turn of a shovel and a few turns of phrase, former President George W. Bush culminated an elaborately orchestrated return to the public stage on Tuesday with a presidential library groundbreaking and a reunion with former Vice President Dick Cheney. In a rare public appearance since a long hospital stay earlier this year, former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared much thinner. In their first public appearance together since leaving office, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney heaped praise on each other, putting behind them the tension of their final days in the White House when they fought over the president’s refusal to pardon the vice president’s ex-chief of staff. In his new memoir, Mr. Bush wrote that he worried that the fight had fractured their friendship.
    Addressing a crowd of 2,500 supporters and Bush administration veterans, Mr. Cheney said the response to Mr. Bush’s book showed that the country had begun to re-evaluate him. “Two years after you left office, judgments are a little more measured than they were,” Mr. Cheney said. “When times have been tough or the critics have been loud, you’ve always said you had faith in history’s judgment, and history is beginning to come around.”
    Mr. Bush responded by hailing his No. 2 and recalling the decision to ask him to be the running mate in 2000. “As I stand here,” Mr. Bush said, “there is no doubt in my mind he was the right pick then, he was a great vice president of the United States and I’m proud to call him friend.”… – NYT, 11-16-10

History Buzz, Apr 26-May 10, 2010: Stephen Ambrose, Diane Ravitch & Niall Ferguson in the News

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images



  • Stephen Ambrose’s Work Faces New Scrutiny: The late historian Stephen E. Ambrose rose to fame on the strength of an authorized biography that he claimed included details from “hundreds of hours” of interviews with former President Dwight David Eisenhower. But Richard Rayner, a writer for The New Yorker, reports today that during his research Ambrose apparently had only limited access to Eisenhower, and that archived datebooks and other records conflict with some of the times Ambrose claimed he had sat down with the former five-star general…. AOL News, 4-26-10
  • Thomas Fleming “Channelling George Washington” Series – HNN
  • Orlando Figes Contraversay: Who gives a Figes for Orlando? – Sydney Morning Herald, 5-18-10



  • Naomi Oreskes finds that out of 928 articles on climate change, 0 challenge consensus: …A study by Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California-San Diego, found 928 peer-reviewed articles on climate change; none opposed the unanimous conclusion that human-released greenhouse gases are affecting our climate…. – Kansas City Star, 5-9-10
  • The Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress: When the Library of Congress announced this month that it had recently acquired Twitter’s entire archive of public tweets, the snarkosphere quickly broke out the popular refrain “Nobody cares that you just watched ‘Lost.’” Television tweets are always the shorthand by which naysayers express how idiotic they find Twitter, the microblogging site on which millions of users share their thoughts and activities in 140 characters or fewer.
    The purview of historians has always been the tangible: letters, journals, official documents.
    But on the other hand, says Michael Beschloss, historian and author of “Presidential Courage,” “What historian today wouldn’t give his right arm to have the adult Madison’s contemporaneous Twitters about the secret debates inside the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia?” – WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Europe pressed on slavery reparations by historians: Historians and anti-racism campaigners are to urge the countries that oversaw and profited from the Atlantic slave trade to recognise it as a crime against humanity, opening the way for reparations… – AFP, 5-4-10
  • Va. seeks balance in marking Civil War’s 150th anniversary, tapping Kennedy-era historian: …At last, President John F. Kennedy called on a 31-year-old historian to take over as the centennial’s executive director, refocusing it on sober education. Virginia has turned to the same man — James I. Robertson Jr., a history professor at Virginia Tech and a Civil War expert — to help the state avoid the same kinds of problems as it prepares to mark next year’s 150th anniversary of the start of the war…. – WaPo, 5-3-10
  • Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past, 400-1000 research project gets funding: A new research collaboration involving historians from Cambridge is to examine how early medieval societies used the past to form ideas about identity which continue to affect our own present. The project will cover six centuries of western European history, from 400 to 1000 AD, and will investigate how earlier cultural traditions, coupled with other sources, such as the Bible, influenced the formation of state identities following the deposition of the last Roman emperor in the West in the fifth century…. – Medieval News, 4-28-10
  • Historians say state should toss proposal: Historians complained of so many problems with the State Board of Education’s proposed social studies curriculum standards that they urged Texas lawmakers Wednesday to ask the board to start over…. – Houston Chronicle, 4-28-10


  • Jonathan Jones: Is academic snobbery to blame in the Orlando Figes affair?: I have a horrible feeling that behind this disaster lies a rebirth of insular academic snobbery, the resentment of a popular historian. I find myself thinking of the episode of Peep Show in which an academic urges Mark Corrigan to write an attack on Simon Schama – “and his interesting, accessible books”…. – Guardian (UK), 4-29-10


  • New Obama book by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter airs private flares of temper: President Obama may cultivate an image as the unflappable Mr. Cool, but he can get hot under the collar too, according to a new book.
    In “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter, the author recounts a series of private blow-ups – including a particularly fiery one involving the nation’s top military brass…. – NY Daily News, 5-8-10
  • HISTORY Book review of “Goodbye Wives and Daughters,” by Susan Kushner Resnick: The coal-mining tragedy depicted in “Goodbye Wifes and Daughters” occurred nearly 70 years ago but is still an eerily familiar storyline in 2010. While mine safety and regulation have vastly improved, recent headlines out of West Virginia make journalist Susan Kushner Resnick’s excavation of the 1943 explosion that killed 75 men in Bearcreek, Mont., seem not so distant from present-day disasters. WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Book reviews: ‘History in Blue’ by Allan T. Duffin, ‘A Few Good Women’ by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee: HISTORY IN BLUE 160 Years of Women Police, Sheriffs, Detectives, and State Troopers, A FEW GOOD WOMEN America’s Military Women from World War I to the War in Iraq and Afghanistan
    In “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” (1845), Margaret Fuller set out the original feminist proclamation about women’s access to work: “We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to woman as freely as to man.”
    Both “History in Blue,” by Allan T. Duffin, and “A Few Good Women,” by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel- Greenlee, document women’s work history and provide fascinating individual stories…. – WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Diane Ravitch: The Education of Diane Ravitch THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education Ravitch’s offer to guide us through this mess comes with a catch: she has changed her mind. Once an advocate of choice and testing, in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” she throws cold water on both. Along the way she casts a skeptical eye on the results claimed by such often-praised school reformers as New York’s Anthony Alvarado and San Diego’s Alan Bersin, reviews a sheaf of academic studies of school effectiveness and delivers the most damning criticism I have ever read of the role philanthropic institutions sometimes play in our society. “Never before,” she writes of the Gates Foundation, was there an entity “that gave grants to almost every major think tank and advocacy group in the field of education, leaving no one willing to criticize its vast power and unchecked influence.”… – NYT, 5-6-10
  • Woodward book on Obama coming in September: A Bob Woodward book on the Obama administration is coming out in September…. AP, 5-5-10
  • Ruth Marcus reviews Laura Bush’s memoir, ‘Spoken From the Heart’: Laura has always seemed the more interesting Bush. Certainly, the more mysterious. With George W., what you see is what you get. He is not a complicated man. But Laura leaves you wondering about the layers beneath that serene exterior. What is she thinking? What private rebellions are simmering, what resentments submerged? What forged the bond, seemingly as strong as it was unlikely, between the librarian who named her cat Dewey, after the decimal system, and the jock-turned-oilman who was soon to turn, inevitably, to the family business of politics? Laura Bush’s autobiography, “Spoken From the Heart,” begins promisingly enough for anyone hoping to penetrate that surface…. – WaPo, 5-2-10
  • HISTORY Book review of “The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, the Rush to Empire, 1898″ by Evan Thomas: More than a century before a recent president, who had never seen combat, led the United States into war with Iraq, a pair of politicians similarly unscarred by war created the playbook that has been used ever since. The prototype conflict was the Spanish-American War of 1898, studied by every school child as America’s thunderous entry onto the world stage and its first foray into colonial rule. So much has been written about this seminal moment that journalist and author Evan Thomas faced a daunting task in undertaking “The War Lovers.” After all, what could be said that hasn’t already been covered in the some 400 or so books? Plenty, it turns out…. – WaPo, 5-2-10
  • Jim Baggott: If You Build It . . .: THE FIRST WAR OF PHYSICS The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949 Jim Baggott, a popular British science writer, sets out in “The First War of Physics” to tell the story of the early stages of the nuclear arms race…. – NYT, 5-9-10
  • LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH on Marla R. Miller: Star-Spangled Story: BETSY ROSS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA Marla R. Miller, who teaches American history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, believes that Claypoole “planted the seeds of her own mythology in the 1820s and ’30s as she regaled her children and grandchildren with tales from her youth, her work, and of life in Revolutionary Philadelphia.” In an engaging biography, Miller shows that even though the flag story is riddled with improbabilities, the life of the woman who came to be known as Betsy Ross is worth recovering. Piecing together shards of evidence from “newspaper advertisements, household receipts, meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, shop accounts and ledgers, probate records, tools and artifacts . . . and oral traditions,” Miller connects her heroine with most of the major events in Philadelphia’s early history, from the building of the city in the years when Elizabeth’s great-­grandfather was establishing himself as a master carpenter to the yellow fever epidemic that in 1793 killed her parents.
    Through skillful use of small details, Miller sustains her repeated assertion that the future Betsy Ross was often “only a handshake away” from the men who made the Revolution…. – NYT, 5-9-10


  • From Tory to Turkey: Maverick historian Norman Stone storms back with partisan epic of Cold War world: It isn’t every day that one interviews a figure described on an official British Council website as “notorious”. That badge, which this fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture will wear with pride, comes inadvertently via Robert Harris. In his novel Archangel, Harris created the “dissolute historian” (© the British Council and our taxes) Fluke Kelso: an “engaging, wilful, impassioned and irreverent” maverick on the trail of Stalin’s secret papers…. – Independent (UK), 5-14-10


  • Yuan Tengfei: Celebrity Chinese historian severely criticizes Mao on state TV: “If you want to see Mao, you can go to his mausoleum at the Tiananmen Square. But don’t forget it’s a Chinese version of the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Mao, under whose hands many people were massacred,” the report quoted Yuan Tengfei, a history teacher at Beijing’s Jinghua School, as saying in a 110-minute special TV lecture at the state television, CCTV. “The only thing Mao did right since he founded the new China in 1949 was his death,” Yuan was quoted as saying…. – Tibetan Review, 5-11-10
  • British political historian explains the role of class in UK elections: Steven Fielding, a professor of political history and the director of the Center for British Politics at the University of Nottingham. Mr. Fielding said that viewers who see politicians performing on television start to regard them, in a sense, as protagonists in fictional dramas. “It’s not that they confuse them with TV characters, but that they see them in the same framework,” he said. “The leaders’ debates exaggerate that by encouraging voters to focus on the minutiae rather than on the policy.”… – NYT, 4-30-10


  • “In the eyes of the majority, Stalin is a winner,” says Russian historian Nikolai Svanidze: Historian Nikolai Svanidze spoke to SPIEGEL about the reasons for Stalin’s popularity in Russia. He argues that the archives need to be opened in order to reveal the dictator’s crimes and explains why President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have very different approaches to Russian history….. – Spiegel Online, 5-6-10
  • Harvey Klehr sits down with FrontPageMag: Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Harvey Klehr, Andrew Mellon Professor of Politics and History at Emory University. He is the author of the new book, The Communist Experience in America: A Political and Social History…. – Jaime Glazov at FrontPageMag, 5-6-10
  • Q&A with Niall Ferguson: Niall Ferguson’s resumé could put you to sleep. He’s a senior fellow here, a professor of this or that there. But despite hanging out with the elbow-patch crowd, this Scottish intellectual and author smoothly blends history, finance and politics all into one understandable package. At times he is humorous, at others frightful. His relationship with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-Dutch intellectual who has a death threat looming over her head after she was critical of Islam, also lends him an air of controversy. Mr. Ferguson, whose latest bestseller is The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World, was in Calgary this past week as the headliner at the Teatro salon speaker series. He touched on everything from why he thinks the International Monetary Fund will soon be bailing out Britain, to why the United States must now tread carefully around the globe or risk the wrath of China. And he shared his thoughts on money and power and who he thinks will win the U.K. election…. – Financial Post, 5-1-10


  • Z Street lobbying group awards Daniel Pipes prize for peace plan: Z STREET awarded Daniel Pipes, the Director of the Middle East Forum and pre-eminent Middle East scholar, its first annual Z STREET Peace Plan Prize for his article, “My Peace Plan: an Israeli Victory.” Z STREET is a staunchly pro-Israel organization… – Press Release, 5-10-10
  • Canadian Military Historian Knighted By the Netherlands: As Canada and its Second World War allies prepare to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8, the Netherlands is honouring a Canadian military historian with a knighthood. Dr. Dean Oliver, director of research and exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum, has received the Dutch honour, Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau…. – Epoch Times, 5-5-10
  • Caferro and Gerstel awarded Guggenheim Fellowships: William Caferro, a professor of history at Vanderbilt University, and Sharon E.J. Gerstel, Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at UCLA, have been named 2010 Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation…. – Medieval News, 4-28-10
  • Ernest Freeberg named winner of the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award: Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,”Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008)… – Press Release, 4-6-10


  • Turkish Scholar Taner Akcam Advocates Change in Policy of Genocide Denial: Dr. Taner Akcam, one of the first Turkish scholars to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, delivered two important lectures in Southern California last week. Based on historical research, he analyzed the underpinnings of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and proposed solutions for its official acknowledgment…. – Panorama.am (5-11-10)
  • K.C. Johnson, Steve Gillon to appear in Bank of America ad on “History”NYT (5-5-10)


  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700″ is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.
  • Oxford University Press to publish OAH’s Journal of American History and Magazine of History: Oxford University Press (OUP) is honored to have been selected by the Organization of American Historians to be the publisher of the Journal of American History and the Magazine of History…. – OUP Press Release, 5-6-10
  • Pizarro: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian to speak at YWCA event: The YWCA of Silicon Valley will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at its 20th annual fundraising luncheon this fall. Goodwin’s 2005 book on the Lincoln presidency, “Team of Rivals,” is often cited as a favorite of President Barack Obama’s. And I’d expect she’ll have interesting perspectives on current history, given that the Nov. 16 luncheon comes just two weeks after this year’s midterm elections…. – SJ Mercury News, 5-2-10




  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • David S. Heidler: Henry Clay: The Essential American, (Hardcover), May 4, 2010
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, May 4, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010
  • T. H. Breen: American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • Alexandra Popoff: Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography, (Hardcover) May 11, 2010
  • John D. Lukacs: Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • S. C. Gwynne: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, (Hardcover) May 25, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: The Chickamauga Campaign (1st Edition), (Hardcover), May 28, 2010
  • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010
  • Spencer Wells: Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, (Hardcover), June 8, 2010
  • John Mosier: Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin – The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Evan D. G. Fraser: Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Ruth Harris: Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century (REV), (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • James Mauro: Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010.
  • William Marvel: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • Suzann Ledbetter: Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women, (Hardcover), June 28, 2010.
  • Julie Flavell: When London Was Capital of America, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Donald P. Ryan: Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Jane Brox: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, (Hardcover), July 8, 2010.
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), July 30, 2010.
  • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010


  • Eminent historian of Irish ascendancy ascendancy dies at 79: Mark Bence-Jones, the genealogical researcher who has died at the age of 79, was the most eminent historian of the social mores of the Irish ascendancy in its decline over the last 100 years…. – Irish Times, 5-8-10
  • Angus Maddison, Economic Historian, Dies at 83: Some people try to forecast the future. Angus Maddison devoted his life to forecasting the past. Professor Maddison, a British-born economic historian with a compulsion for quantification, spent many of his 83 years calculating the size of economies over the last three millenniums. In one study he estimated the size of the world economy in A.D. 1 as about one five-hundredth of what it was in 2008…. – NYT, 4-30-10

History Buzz: April 26, 2010: Orlando Figes & Stephen Ambrose Embroiled in Controversy

April 26, 2010: Orlando Figes & Stephen Ambrose Embroiled in Controversy


    This Week’s Political Highlights

  • Bush memoir: 43’s ‘most critical and historic decisions’: It’s official: George W. Bush’s entry into the ranks of presidential memoirs will be released Nov. 9.
    Decision Points “will be centered on the 14 most critical and historic decisions in the life and public service of the 43rd president of the United States,” says the release from Crown Publishers.
    Among those topics: The disputed 2000 election, 9/11, the Iraq war, the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan and Iran. Bush also discusses his decision to quit drinking, his faith and his celebrated and politically active family…. – USA Today, 4-27-10
  • The Unthinkable: A Democratic Challenge To Obama: OK, OK. Of course it’s not going to happen. No Democrat in his or her right mind would contemplate challenging President Obama in 2012. In fact, when the Democratic National Committee issued a press release this month announcing the date for the party’s national convention, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine emphasized — twice — that the Democrats fully intend to renominate President Obama and Vice President Biden. But despite the obvious long odds, anything is possible in American politics. There are historical examples of tough intraparty challenges to incumbent presidents… – NPR, 4-22-10


    On This Day in History….

    This Week in History….

  • First Earth Day in U.S. had feel of ’60s, says historian: It was part protest, part celebration, and an estimated 20 million Americans took part. On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, millions of people across the U.S. went to large public rallies, listened to political speeches, took part in teach-ins, went to concerts and educational fairs, and helped to clean up their communities. Air and water pollution, nuclear testing and loss of wilderness were major concerns…. – CBC News (4-22-10)


  • Martin Barillas: Wikipedia Struggles with Holocaust Disinformation; Ravensfire Deletes Jewish Content: Wikipedia posters continued to struggle with the campaign to delete information about IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust as contributors posted and reposted conflicting theories of what should and should not be allowed to appear in the Internet encyclopedia…. – Cutting Edge News (4-26-10)
  • Orlando Figes: Phoney reviewer Figes has history of litigious quarrels: …The professor of Russian history at Birkbeck, University of London, who has previously been engaged in at least two legal disputes with other historians, has been accused and cleared of plagiarism, and received hate mail while an academic at Cambridge. One colleague who did not want to be named described the most recent episode as “the tip of the iceberg”…. – Independent (UK) (4-25-10)
  • Oliver Kamm: Figes’ Furies – Times Online (UK) (4-25-10)
  • Orlando Figes admits: ‘It was me’: For a week now, an extraordinary row has had Britain’s academe in turmoil with threats of libel writs and the bloodying of distinguished reputations.
    But now, in an astonishing twist to the saga, I can reveal that the offending reviews on Amazon were not, after all, written by Figes’s wife, Stephanie, herself a Cambridge University law lecturer…. The Daily Mail (UK) (4-23-10)
  • Poison pen reviews were mine, confesses historian Orlando Figes Guardian (UK) (4-23-10)
  • Another Blow to the Reputation of Stephen Ambrose: In 2002, Ambrose was accused of lifting passages for The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany from the work of the historian Thomas Childers. Citing faulty citations, Ambrose apologized, and his publisher promised to put the sentences in question in quotes in future editions. But shortly after, other accusations arose: about passages in books like his Crazy Horse and Custer, Citizen Soldiers, and a volume of his three-volume biography Nixon. Ambrose responded that the relevant material was cited in his footnotes…. – Chronicle of Higher Education (4-23-10)
  • Richard Rayner: Stephen Ambrose exaggerated his relationship with Eisenhower The New Yorker (4-26-10)
  • Harlem Center’s Director to Retire in Early 2011: Howard Dodson, whose wide-ranging acquisitions and major exhibitions have raised the profile of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and burnished its reputation as the premier institution of its kind, plans to retire as its director in 2011. Howard Dodson turned a research library known mostly to scholars into an institution open to anyone interested in black culture…. – NYT, 4-19-10
  • Historians Call on Texas State Board of Education to Delay Vote: Historians from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso have written an Open Letter to the Texas State Board of Education. The letter identifies specific problems with the proposed changes to the state’s social studies standards and recommends that the board delay adoption of the standards in order to solicit additional feedback from “qualified, credentialed content experts from the state’s colleges and universities” and the general public…. – Keith Erekson (4-14-10)


  • HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr.: Ending the Slavery Blame-Game: THANKS to an unlikely confluence of history and genetics — the fact that he is African-American and president — Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to reshape the debate over one of the most contentious issues of America’s racial legacy: reparations, the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ unpaid labor and bondage…. – NYT, 4-22-10
  • Jon Wiener: Stephen Ambrose, Another Historian in Trouble: In his first and biggest Ike book, “The Supreme Commander,” published in 1970, Ambrose listed nine interviews with the former president. But according to Richard Rayner of The New Yorker, that’s not true. The deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, Tim Rives, told Rayer that Ike saw Ambrose only three times, for a total of less than five hours, and that the two men were never alone together. The Nation (4-20-10)


  • Laura Bush Opens Up About Fatal Crash: Spoken From the Heart Laura Bush has finally opened up publicly about the mysterious car accident she had when she was 17, a crash that claimed the life of a high school friend on a dark country road in Midland, Tex. In her new book, “Spoken From the Heart,” Ms. Bush describes in vivid detail the circumstances surrounding the crash, which has haunted her for most of her adult life and which became the subject of questions and speculation when it was revealed during her husband’s first presidential run. A copy of the book, scheduled for release in early May, was obtained by The New York Times at a bookstore… – NYT, 4-28-10
  • Graham Robb: A Pointillist Tour, Revolution to Riots: PARISIANS An Adventure History of Paris “Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris” arrives with an odd subtitle (adventure history?) that makes it sound as if it were written on a skateboard and sponsored by Mountain Dew. Here’s what this book really is: a pointillist and defiantly nonlinear history of Paris from the dawn of the French Revolution through the 2005 riots in Clichy-sous- Bois, told from a variety of unlikely perspectives and focusing on lesser-known but reverberating moments in the city’s history…. – NYT, 4-28-10 Excerpt
  • Assessing Jewish Identity of Author Killed by Nazis: Némirovsky’s personal story contains plenty of drama, including the desperate, heart-rending attempts by her husband, Michel Epstein, to save her. He too died at Auschwitz. But along with the belated publication came charges from a handful of critics that Némirovsky, killed because she was a Jew, was herself an anti-Semite who courted extreme right-wing friends and wrote ugly caricatured portraits of Jews. Next month a new biography, “The Life of Irène Némirovsky: Author of Suite Française,” and a collection of her short stories are being published for the first time in English in the United States, giving Americans another opportunity to assess Némirovsky’s life and work…. NYT, 4-26-10
  • Book review of “Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978” by Kai Bird: “Crossing Mandelbaum Gate” is a fascinating book about a crucial period in the Middle East, but as a memoir it fails on the promise of its subtitle. Bird turns a beacon on the exhilarating places in which he grew up. If only he had shone the same beacon on himself…. – WaPo, 4-25-10
  • Rove and Romney on the Republican Party After Bush: Karl Rove, COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCE My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, Mitt Romney, NO APOLOGY The Case for American Greatness NYT, 4-22-10
  • Alan Brinkley “A Magazine Master Builder”: THE PUBLISHER Henry Luce and His American Century …Luce’s success story would be sheer romance if it could surmount one basic problem: Luce himself. On the evidence of “The Publisher,” Alan Brinkley’s graceful and judicious biography, Luce began as an arrogant, awkward boy and did not grow any more beguiling as his fortunes rose. He made up in pretension what he lacked in personal charm, and he was “able to attract the respect but not usually the genuine affection of those around him.” … – NYT, 4-19-10
  • Jonathan Yardley reviews ‘The Publisher,’ by Alan Brinkley: THE PUBLISHER Henry Luce and His American Century …Luce was a complicated, difficult man, by no stretch of the imagination a nice guy. Brinkley is very good on his tangled relationships with women — especially his equally famous and equally difficult second wife, Clare Boothe Luce — as well as with the men who worked with, which is to say under, him. My only qualm about this otherwise superb book is that it does not convey much sense of what life was like in his empire… – WaPo, 4-18-10
  • DAVID S. REYNOLDS on Leo Damrosch “Tocqueville: The Life”: TOCQUEVILLE’S DISCOVERY OF AMERICA In “Tocqueville’s Discovery of America,” Leo Damrosch, the Ernest Bernbaum professor of literature at Harvard, reveals the man behind the sage. Damrosch shows us that “Democracy in America” was the outcome of a nine-month tour of the United States that Tocqueville, a temperamental, randy 25-year-old French apprentice magistrate of aristocratic background, took in 1831-32 with his friend Gustave de Beaumont…. – NYT, 4-18-10
  • Book review: Aaron Leitko reviews “The Poker Bride,” by Christopher Corbett: THE POKER BRIDE The First Chinese in the Wild West In his exhaustively researched “The Poker Bride,” Christopher Corbett tells how Bemis — a Chinese woman who probably arrived in the United States as a concubine — wound up living on a remote patch of Idaho wilderness for more than 50 years with a Connecticut-born gambler who had won her in a poker game. By the time she finally descended from the mountains in 1923, she had become a relic of a different era, a kind of modern Rip Van Winkle…. – WaPo, 4-18-10
  • Roger Ekrich makes history more interesting in telling true story of “Kidnapped”: According to my research, every 11-year-old has read Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. What I didn’t know when I was 11—and, in fact, didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago—is that Kidnapped was based on a true story…. That true story is told in a new book, Birthright: The True Story That Inspired Kidnapped, by Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech. Mr. Ekirch spoke about the book yesterday at the Library of Congress…. – Chronicle of Higher Education (4-16-10)
  • Schlesinger Interviews With Jacqueline Kennedy to Be Published: Nearly seven hours of unreleased interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, recorded just months after the death of President John F. Kennedy and intended for deposit in a future presidential library, will be released as a book, the publisher Hyperion said on Tuesday…. – NYT (4-13-10)
  • GARRY WILLS on David Remnick: “Behind Obama’s Cool”: THE BRIDGE The Life and Rise of Barack Obama David Remnick, in this exhaustively researched life of Obama before he became president, quotes many interviews in which Obama made the same or similar points. Accused of not being black enough, he could show that he has more direct ties to Africa than most ­African-Americans have. Suspected of not being American enough, he appealed to his mother’s Midwest origins and accent. Touring conservative little towns in southern Illinois, he could speak the language of the Kansan grandparents who raised him. He is a bit of a chameleon or shape-shifter, but he does not come across as insincere — that is the importance of his famous “cool.” He does not have the hot eagerness of the con man. Though his own background is out of the ordinary, he has the skill to submerge it in other people’s narratives, even those that seem distant from his own…. – NYT, 4-11-10 Excerpt


  • TCNJ profs say they’ve solved Civil War mystery: A literary mystery that has lingered since the Civil War has apparently been solved by a pair of professors from The College of New Jersey. Their findings ended up as a new book, “A Secession Crisis Enigma,” by Daniel Crofts, a professor of history who turned to David Holmes, professor of statistics, while looking for an answer to a longstanding question. They wanted to determine who was the author of “The Diary of a Public Man,” which was published anonymously in four installments in the 1879 “North American Review.”… NJ.com (4-24-10)
  • It’s war: Anzac Day dissenters create bitter split between historians: A furore has erupted over Australia’s Anzac Day legacy, with the authors of a new book which questions the day’s origins accused by a rival historian of failing to acknowledge the preeminent scholar in the field. Crikey (AU) (4-19-10)
  • Smithsonian exhibit brings the Apollo Theater to D.C: About 100 items are on view at the National Museum of American History, representing big names from entertainment today and from decades past.
    Michael Jackson’s fedora, Ella Fitzgerald’s yellow dress and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet are together in a Smithsonian exhibit celebrating the famed Apollo Theater that helped these stars to shine. The not-yet-built National Museum of African American History and Culture is bringing New York’s Harlem to the nation’s capital with the first-ever exhibit focused on the Apollo, where many musical careers were launched. It opens Friday at the National Museum of American History. About 100 items are on view, representing big names from entertainment today and from decades past…. – USA Today, 4-25-10


  • Roots of Islamic fundamentalism lie in Nazi propaganda for Arab world, Jeffrey Herf claims: “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World” “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would have been over long ago were it not for the uncompromising, religiously inspired hatred of the Jews that was articulated and given assistance by Nazi propagandists and continued after the war by Islamists of various sorts,” said Jeffrey Herf, a history professor at the University of Maryland. – Telegraph (UK) (4-21-10)
  • JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: An accomplished author himself, President Obama appears irresistible to his fellow literati.
    JAY WINKIK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And he captivates the imagination. And I think it’s safe to say that the White House Press Corps has been galvanized by him. And perhaps one could also add to that. There’s a touch of bias where he may reflect the sentiments of many in the White House Press Corps…. – Fox News, 4-10
  • Historians weigh in on the Tea Party in the NYT: “The story they’re telling is that somehow the authentic, real America is being polluted,” said Rick Perlstein, the author of books about the Goldwater and Nixon years…. – NYT (4-16-10)
  • Gary Cross: For some 20-somethings, growing up is hard to do, says Penn State historian: Gary Cross is a professor of history at Penn State University whose most recent book, “Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity,” addresses just that.
    “This trend has been building up over the last 50 years to where today it really is hard to see [role] models, to recognize these models of maturity,” he said. “Men have, in effect, slowly and not always steadily rebelled against the role of being providers and being sacrificers.”
    Now, “Men who are in their mid-20s are more independent for a longer period than before because of the rise in the age of marriage. In 1970, when I was 24, men married at 22. Now they’re married at 28; that’s a big difference,” Dr. Cross said. “Part of it is the way boys have always been indulged more than girls in the typical family,” Dr. Cross said. “One thing that has struck me is, early in the 20th century, how indulgent they were of openly naughty boys. Not so much with the girls.”… – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4-14-10)


  • A Primer on China from Jeffrey Wasserstrom: In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, just published by Oxford University Press, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom provides answers to a wide range of commonly asked questions about the world’s most populous country. The excerpt below describes two of the topics the book addresses: nationalism and the web…. – Forbes (4-21-10)
  • Award-wining historian Natalie Zemon Davis talks to American Prospect: Natalie Zemon Davis will be awarded the 2010 Holberg International Memorial Prize on June 9 for the way in which her work “shows how particular events can be narrated and analyzed so as to reveal deeper historical tendencies and underlying patterns of thought and action.” Davis describes her work as anthropological in nature. Rather than tell the political story of a time and place, concentrating on an elite narrative, Davis’ work is often from the point of view of those less likely to keep records of their lives. TAP spoke with Davis, an 81-year-old professor emerita of history at Princeton University and current adjunct professor of history at the University of Toronto, about her innovative approach to history…. – The American Prospect (4-9-10)


  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences Announces 2010 Class of Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members: Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
    Robert P. Brenner, University of California, Los Angeles
    Paul H. Freedman, Yale University
    Jan E. Goldstein, University of Chicago
    Greg Grandin, New York University
    Carla Hesse, University of California, Berkeley
    Daniel Walker Howe, University of California, Los Angeles
    Donald W. Meinig, Syracuse University
    Heinrich von Staden, Institute for Advanced Study – AAAS Press Release (4-19-10)
  • University of Glasgow creates first Chair of Gaelic in Scotland: Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh has been named as the first ever established Chair of Gaelic in Scotland by the University of Glasgow. The Chair has been created to recognise the University as a centre of excellence for the study of Celtic and Gaelic…. – Medieval News (4-16-10)
  • Historians on the 2010 List of Guggenheim Fellows: Andrew Apter, Joshua Brown, Antoinette Burton, William Caferro, Hasia R. Diner, Caroline Elkins, Walter Johnson, Pieter M. Judson, Jeffrey C. Kinkley, Thomas Kühne, Ms. Maggie Nelson, Susan Schulten, John Fabian Witt – Tenured Radical (4-15-10)
  • Pulitzer Prize in History awarded to Liaquat Ahamed: HISTORY: “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World” by Liaquat Ahamed – A Harvard graduate [who] was born in Kenya, Ahamed dreamed of being a writer while he worked as an investment manager. “Lords of Finance” is a compelling account of how the actions of four bankers triggered the Depression and ultimately turned the United States into the world’s financial leader, the Pulitzer board said…. – AP (4-12-10)
  • Ernest Freeberg named winner of the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award: Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,“Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008). Press Release (4-6-10)


  • History Doctoral Programs Site Updated at AHA Website: The AHA’s History Doctoral Programs web site has now been updated to include current information on students, faculty, and departments as a whole. In addition to department-level fixes, the site has also been updated to include links to a wealth of additional information about universities in the United States… Robert Townsend at AHA Blog (4-6-10)AHA


  • 12-hour ‘America’ series gives ‘an aerial view of history’: History Channel has enjoyed bountiful ratings of late focusing on contemporary topics. But it returns to more traditional roots with its biggest project yet, America The Story of Us. Through dramatic re-creations and computer-generated imagery, the six-night, 12-hour series (premiering Sunday, 9 ET/PT, and continuing through May 30) covers 400 years of U.S. settlement and growth. But an American history series — the first comprehensive TV effort since Alistair Cooke’s America for PBS in 1972 — had been contemplated for about 18 months. The Story of Us crystallized during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration.
    “Watching that was an historic moment. But so was the economic crisis, the wars the nation was fighting,” says History Channel general manager Nancy Dubuc. “Ideas came up about where are we going in America and how we got there, and how to hit all the touch-points in a way that entertains and inspires.” Obama filmed a 90-second spot to launch the series, which is narrated by actor Liev Schreiber. Observations by historians, politicians, actors and cultural observers are interspersed, including former secretary of State Colin Powell, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Harvard University historian Henry Louis Gates Jr…. – USA Today, 4-22-10
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule



  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • David S. Heidler: Henry Clay: The Essential American, (Hardcover), May 4, 2010
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, May 4, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010
  • Alexandra Popoff: Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography, (Hardcover) May 11, 2010
  • John D. Lukacs: Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • S. C. Gwynne: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, (Hardcover) May 25, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: The Chickamauga Campaign (1st Edition), (Hardcover), May 28, 2010
  • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010


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