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With the Bark Off: Conversations on the American Presidency
45 minutes | Jun 23, 2022
"My father is a war criminal by the definition my father spoke of" A Conversation with Craig McNamara
Craig McNamara is the son of Robert S. McNamara, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson during the 1960s. From his childhood, Craig cherished his father. But he also struggled for years to understand the elder McNamara’s role in the decisions that led to the war in Vietnam – an experience that forever distanced father from son. Now a businessman and walnut farmer, Craig McNamara is founder of the Center for Land-Based Learning, an organization devoted to educating young farmers in the business of sustainable agriculture. Craig joins Mark Lawrence to talk about his remarkable life and especially his complicated relationship with the man he called ‘Dad.’
49 minutes | Jun 9, 2022
A Conversation With AFI Founder George Stevens, Jr. on growing up in the Golden Age of Hollywood
On today's episode, we go slightly beyond the presidency as we talk to George Steven's Jr. about his new memoir, My Place in the Sun: Life in the Golden Age of Hollywood and Washington. The son of famed film director George Stevens, George Stevens Jr. grew up in the highest reaches of Hollywood, on the sets of classic films like Giant, Shane, The Diary of Anne Frank, and A Place in the Sun. But yearning for his own place in the sun, he ventured to Washington to work with legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow at the United States Information Agency, producing films for John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, before going on to work for other presidents in other capacities. The founding director of the American Film Institute and the creator of the Kennedy Center Honors, Stevens describes his remarkable life and unimaginable brushes with history.
50 minutes | May 26, 2022
“What’s hanging over Biden’s election and to his presidency to this day are these competing impulses...” A Conversation with Jonathan Martin on "This Will Not Pass" and the battle for America’s future.
Since its publication in May, This Will Not Pass, written by Jonathan Martin and his New York Times colleague Alexander Burns, has received thunderous attention. Martin and Burns dive deep into the corridors of Washington power to provide insight into the end of the Trump administration, the big lie around the presidential election of 2020, the insurrection attempt on January 6, and the dawn of the Biden administration. Mark Updegrove talks to Martin about the explosive revelations in the book and, more broadly, the political polarization and party dysfunction that have become the hallmarks of today’s Washington.
49 minutes | May 12, 2022
“He did what he thought was necessary to win.” A Conversation with Kai Bird on President Jimmy Carter
My guest today is Kai Bird, author of the new biography, The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter. This extraordinary book examines the 39th president with unprecedented depth as well as balance, highlighting President Carter's great achievements as well as the shortcomings that made him a one-term president. Kai Bird is the Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center and a highly acclaimed author with several biographies to his credit. These include The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy and The American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which Bird co-authored with Martin Sherwin and won the Pulitzer Prize.
50 minutes | Apr 28, 2022
A Conversation with Alexis Coe on You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
Coe’s first book, Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis, appeared in 2014. More recently, she published the book that we’ll be discussing today, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, which appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Coe has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and TheNew Republic. She has also hosted the podcast No Man’s Land and Presidents are People Too! and worked as consulting producer for the forthcoming History Channel program on Washington.
49 minutes | Apr 14, 2022
A Conversation with Historian Christopher Leahy on the President Without a Party: The Life of John Tyler
Our special guest today is Professor Christopher Leahy, a leading expert on the U.S. presidency and American politics in the 18th and 19th centuries. His book, President Without a Party: The Life of John Tyler, published by LSU Press in 2020, is the first full-scale biography of America’s 10th president published in more than 80 years. Dr. Leahy has appeared on numerous podcasts discussing his work and he’s also the author of numerous journal articles and reviews in scholarly publications.
47 minutes | Mar 31, 2022
“Politics requires treating your opponents as adversaries, not enemies,” A Conversation with Fredrik Logevall on John F. Kennedy
Fredrik Logevall is the Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs and Professor of History at Harvard University. Dr. Logevall is the author or editor of ten books including Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History. Most recently, he's published JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956, the first volume of what will be a monumental two-part biography of John F. Kennedy.
50 minutes | Mar 17, 2022
“There is nothing that defines the role of First Lady,” A Conversation with Tina Tchen on how Mrs. Obama carved out her role as First Lady
Barack Obama made history in 2008, becoming the first African American to be elected to our nation’s highest office, as our 44th President. When he took office in January 2009, he brought a small coterie of close and loyal friends from his home state of Illinois to join him at the White House. Among them was Tina Tchen, who would become a White House insider and a close aide to Barack and Michelle Obama. Tchen began her White House tenure in 2009 as the Director of Public Engagement before serving as Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to the First Lady from 2011 to 2017. She talks about what it was like to be behind the scenes in the West and East Wings during the Obama administration working closely with President and Mrs. Obama, and what their legacies will mean to history.
45 minutes | Mar 3, 2022
“Coolidge prided himself in not letting laws get through.” A Conversation with Amity Shlaes on Calvin Coolidge
My guest today is Amity Shlaes, a well-known columnist for the Financial Times and Forbes magazine and a former member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. She's also one of America's premier economic historians. Shlaes has published six books to date, including Great Society: A New History and The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. She joins us to talk about her biography of America's 30th President, Calvin Coolidge.
45 minutes | Feb 17, 2022
“You don't understand Jefferson, if you don't understand the way he exploited his enslaved people.” A Conversation With Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf
Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University. She's the author of six books, including The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Peter Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Virginia. He's also author of numerous books, including most recently Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance. In 2017, these two giants in the history of the early American republic teamed up to publish the book at the heart of our discussion today, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination. This book ranks among the most original and engaging studies of Thomas Jefferson and his times to appear in recent years. They join us today to discuss our third President, his life and times.
49 minutes | Feb 3, 2022
“The tragedy is that Andrew Johnson replaces him,” A Conversation with John Avlon on Lincoln and the Fight for Peace.
There have been countless books written about Abraham Lincoln, but John Avlon’s new book, Lincoln and the Fight for Peace, takes a different tact. Chronicling the last days of Lincoln’s life after the most bloody war in our history, Avlon looks at the plans for peace that he calls Lincoln’s “unfinished symphony.” John Avlon is a senior political analyst and anchor at CNN and the author of Independent Nation, Wingnuts, and Washington’s Farewell, which covers George Washington’s farewell address and its seminal mark on our nation. Previously Avlon served as editor-in-chief and managing director of The Daily Beast and as chief speechwriter for the Mayor of New York after the attacks of 9/11.
45 minutes | Jan 20, 2022
“Watergate was the symptomatic scandal that caught him, but it was not an aberration.” A Conversation with John Farrell on Richard Nixon
John A. Farrell joins us for a conversation about America’s 37th president, Richard Nixon. John is author of Richard Nixon: The Life, which won the PEN America Award for biography and the New York Historical Society’s prize for American History. The book was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. John worked for many years as a journalist for major American dailies and covered the White House for TheBoston Globe. His books include biographies, not just of President Nixon, but also of the famed lawyer Clarence Darrow and House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
49 minutes | Jan 6, 2022
“When you're in crisis mode all the time, it makes it very hard to think in the long term.” A Conversation with Dr. Jeremi Suri on the American presidency
This week we address the history of the presidency writ large with Jeremi Suri, the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair in Global Affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a professor in the Department of History at The University of Texas. He is a frequent commentator on current affairs and writes for op-ed pages and book reviews all over the country. He hosts his own podcast, This is Democracy, and he is author of several books in American history and the international history of the 20th century. In his book The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, Dr. Suri sweeps across the history of the American presidency and paints a rather gloomy picture of the institution in the early 21st century. In this episode, he explains why we haven’t had a great president since Franklin Roosevelt, in his opinion.
33 minutes | Dec 23, 2021
“There are a series of environmental threats and social threats that are written into our body…” A Conversation with Raj Patel
Raj Patel is a New York Times bestselling author and a Research Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. An expert on the world food system, he has testified about hunger and food sovereignty to the U.S., British and European Union governments. His latest book Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice, written with co-author Rupa Marya, reveals the links between health and structural injustices—and offers solutions that can lead to the healing of our bodies and our world.
45 minutes | Dec 9, 2021
A Conversation with Doris Kearns Goodwin on Presidential Leadership in Turbulent Times
Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of our most respected and celebrated historians. She is the author of seven books, including No Ordinary Time, which won the Pulitzer Prize for history, and Team of Rivals, which was adapted into Steven Speilberg’s film Lincoln. Her latest book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, looks at four Presidents she has studied closely as a biographer: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, for whom she worked as a White House Fellow before helping him write his memoir after he left the presidency. This conversation took place on September 26, 2018, at the LBJ Presidential Library.
37 minutes | Nov 24, 2021
“This is a major challenge that LBJ poses to us: he’s very difficult to evaluate...” A Conversation with Dr. Mark Lawrence on The End of Ambition
Dr. Mark Lawrence is the Director of the LBJ Presidential Library and a former professor of history at The University of Texas at Austin. An expert on the Lyndon Johnson years, he is the author of three books relating to America’s foreign policy during the period. His latest, The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era, looks at how America’s once thriving ambition to democratize and develop much of the Third World diminished during the Johnson presidency, and why.
40 minutes | Nov 11, 2021
Veterans Day Special: A Conversation with Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
Since this episode drops on Veterans Day, we thought we would devote it to one of our nation’s most respected veterans. Robert M. Gates spent half a century of his life devoted to public service. He started his career in the Air Force before being recruited to the CIA, where he climbed the ranks to become the agency’s director under President George H. W. Bush, one of eight U.S. presidents Secretary Gates served throughout his illustrious career. In 2006 he became Secretary of Defense for George W. Bush, a job he continued for Barack Obama until 2011. He is the first person to hold that position for both Republican and Democratic administrations, a reflection of the esteem in which he is held on both sides of the political aisle. He talks about leadership, what makes a good leader, his own leadership style, and the leadership of the presidents he has served. This conversation took place on January 28, 2016, at the LBJ Presidential Library, as part of the Tom Johnson Lecture Series.
31 minutes | Oct 28, 2021
"Mark Twain was the first stand-up comedian." A Conversation with Cappy McGarr on the Mark Twain Prize
Mark Twain once said “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” If so, as the greatest humorist of his day, Twain himself blessed our country throughout much of his life. How appropriate then, to name our nation’s highest award for comedy in his honor. Cappy McGarr co-created the John F. Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which launched in 1998. Appointed to the Kennedy Center board of trustees by Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2011, McGarr continues to serve as Executive Producer of the Mark Twain Prize and also helped established the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. His new book, The Man Who Made Mark Twain Famous: Stories from the Kennedy Center, the White House and Other Comedy Venues, recounts his history with the Mark Twain Prize and what he has learned about comedy—and our most famous comedians—along the way.
43 minutes | Oct 14, 2021
“I'm 80 years old. I'm not looking for another job.” A Conversation With Dr. Anthony Fauci
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2019, Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a household name. As the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the President, Dr. Fauci is the public health official who has been most visible around the pandemic. But his service to our country goes well beyond combating COVID-19. In his nearly 40 years at the NIAID, he has advised every president since Ronald Reagan and has worked to find remedies for HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 (swine flu), and Anthrax. Dr. Fauci talks frankly about what he has learned in his fruitful life and career in medicine, the high praise and scorching criticism he has received along the way, and the unparalleled challenges he has faced in helping to keep our country safe from COVID-19.
28 minutes | Sep 30, 2021
“I was carrying around the weight of UT's racial history…” A Conversation With Dr. Leonard Moore on Teaching Black History to White People
For 25 years Dr. Leonard Moore, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been teaching Black history—mostly to white students. He describes his engaging and provocative new book, Teaching Black History to White People, as “part memoir, part Black history, part pedagogy, part how-to guide.” He argues that Black history should be an essential part of student curriculum as a means of understanding the Black experience in America and as a prescription for greater racial harmony.
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