The 20th-century American Presidency is something of a mystery. Some Presidents performed exceptionally well in office, displaying strong leadership and winning the respect of the American people as well as the rest of the world. Others fell short of expectations and are remembered at best as marginal chief executives. What was it that allowed some to rise to greatness while others failed? What elusive mix of character traits, circumstance, and determination combine to mold the shape of a Presidential Administration? This course explores the tenures of the men who held our nation’s highest office during the 20th-century. The lectures look at each President and examine their strengths and weaknesses as well as the times in which they served. Through this analysis listeners will develop a better understanding not only of this supreme office and how it has taken shape, but also how it has shaped America and, indeed, the modern world.
A winner of the Bancroft Prize for history, Robert Dallek is a respected expert on presidential history and has taught at Columbia University, UCLA, and Oxford University. He is currently Professor of History at Boston University. He has published numerous works about U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. presidency, including such best-selling books as Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960, Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents, and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy.
Lecture 1 Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft: The Rise of the Modern Presidency
Lecture 2 Woodrow Wilson: Domestic Triumphs; Foreign Defeats
Lecture 3 The Presidency in Retreat: The Twenties
Lecture 4 Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Restoration of Presidential Greatness, 1933-1939
Lecture 5 Roosevelt and the Road to War, 1939-1941
Lecture 6 War and Peacemaking, 1941-1945
Lecture 7 Harry Truman: The Making of a President
Lecture 8 Republican Interlude: Dwight Eisenhower in the White House
Lecture 9 John F. Kennedy: Myths and Realities
Lecture 10 Lyndon Johnson: Triumph and Tragedy
Lecture 11 Johnson and Vietnam
Lecture 12 The Paradox of Richard Nixon as President
Lecture 13 The Carter Interlude and Ronald Reagan’s Presidency
Lecture 14 Conclusions: Assessing Presidential Leadership