CORVALLIS, Ore. – Historian Michael Beschloss will deliver the 2015 Provost’s Lecture at Oregon State University in the Austin Auditorium of The LaSells Stewart Center on Tuesday, Nov. 10, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Beschloss will speak on “Leadership Under Pressure: A Historian’s Close-up Look at Presidential Decision-Making.” It is free and open to the public.
A preeminent presidential historian, Beschloss is the author of eight books and frequently serves as an analyst on Meet the Press, The Daily Show, The PBS NewsHour and other shows. He is the author of a regular column in the New York Times, and is the first presidential historian ever appointed by NBC News.
Since he was 10 years old, poring over history books, Beschloss knew he wanted to become a historian.
“I loved to read history books about presidents and also felt I was living through a period in American history in which whoever happened to be president had a big influence on how Americans lived,” he said.
Beschloss arrives at OSU in the midst of a heated and divisive presidential primary season, but said the current animosity is less about a rift in the general population and more about the nature of modern American politics.
“The antagonisms are great, but if you compare the political differences of our time to earlier periods, there have been other times when the differences were much greater – such as the debates over slavery in the 1850s, economics and whether to fight Hitler in the 1930s,” Beschloss said.
“The point is that hostility between the two parties is now built into our modern political process, no matter how deep the actual divisions in the country.”
That said, the more divisive candidates, while attracting a certain demographic in the primaries, are unlikely to move forward if history is any predictor.
“Unifiers tend to have an easier time getting elected president than dividers,” Beschloss said. “It’s hard to think of anyone in recent times who succeeded in winning the presidency on a platform that preeminently pitted groups against one another.”
An interesting facet of the current presidential race is that the field is appears open to more than just white males, Beschloss noted. With the first African-American president serving his second term, and both women and a non-Christian vying for a spot in the coming primaries, the presidency is looking like a possibility for a broader group of people.
“One of the glories of America is that the gates to the White House are always opening wider, and that process is likely to speed up as demographic changes make the composition of American society look very different from the way it did even 20 years ago,” Beschloss said.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the lecture, which will be followed by a book signing.