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Pre-Reunion: Personality, Politics...

June 4-7, 2006

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If next June is your Reunion—and even if it isn't—you're in luck. It's an ideal time to visit the campus—and get reacquainted with some of Cornell's greatest teachers. Here's the plan.

With CAU favorites Walter F. LaFeber, the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor of History, and Joel H. Silbey, the President White Professor of History, Emeritus (just back from Oxford University, where he held the Harmsworth Professorship in American History for the 2004-2005 year), we'll plunge into the American presidency in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, taking stock of great moments of national decision-making in domestic and foreign policy, the responses of the presidents who led the nation through them, and the impact of politics, personality, temperament, and managerial style on events, decisions, and outcomes.

We'll begin with Woodrow Wilson, whose mastery of politics (not to mention good timing) got him elected, but whose political principles and belief in the need to spread democracy played unanticipated, not always salutary, roles in his conduct of office and his ability to deal with political opponents before, during, and especially after World War I. We'll consider FDR's policies and style and we'll revisit Harry S. Truman, model of "the buck stops here" presidency. We'll re-enter Vietnam with JFK and LBJ, asking how two such savvy politicians—especially Lyndon Johnson—could have steered the country into the Vietnam "quagmire." And we'll bring our microscope up to the present, as we take a "fair and balanced" look—as they say—at politics, policy, and personal style in the presidency of George W. Bush.

Our Reunion Seminar will begin Sunday evening, June 4, with a welcome dinner and introductions, meet each morning and afternoon Monday through Wednesday, and conclude with a valedictory dinner Wednesday evening. Joel and Walt will be joined at several points by colleagues in the history department; daily sessions will include lectures and plenty of time for group discussion. The program fee of $670 per person includes the full educational program, welcome and closing receptions and dinners, and daily breaks. For those who would like to stay on central campus, we have reserved rooms at the Statler Hotel. The Statler rate of $575 per person (the supplement for single occupancy is $340) includes four nights' lodging, breakfast and lunch daily, and parking). We have also reserved rooms at the Best Western University Inn, just off campus. The rate at the Best Western, for four nights lodging -- including continental breakfasts and shuttle service to campus -- is $220 per person (the supplement for single occupancy is $220). No special background is needed; just come with your experiences, perceptions, and opinions and be ready for a lively, stimulating return to campus.