Historian to share insight on presidency

H. W. Brands to visit GV, speak about Obama, Machiavelli

By gabriella patti | 12/7/14 11:24pm

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GVL / Courtesy of glasscock.tamu.edu American Author H.W. Brands


Grand Valley State University students will have chance to learn what a Machiavellian mindset might mean for the presidency during an American conversation with historian H.W. Brands entitled, “The Prez: Machiavelli comes to the White House.”

The lecture is being hosted by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies in partnership with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum and Foundation.

The lecture will be presented Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. in the L.V. Eberhard Center on the GVSU Pew Campus.

Brands is a well-renowned historian and bestselling author. Described by the director of the Hauenstein Center Gleaves Whitney as “one of the most prolific historians in the U.S. today,” Brands is no stranger to the Hauenstein Center and has been invited every year since 2004.

“H.W. Brands is one of our most popular speakers year in and year out,” Whitney said. “He is popular because he is so accessible to students and delivers his message with enthusiasm.”

In his presentation, Brands will be addressing what a Machiavellian mindset might mean for a present-day American president.

“I will talk about what the most notorious political consultant of all time – Machiavelli – would tell a modern American president,” Brands said.

Whitney said that Brands has been uncharacteristically vague about his lecture topic and believes that he will be packing a surprise into his speech.

Whitney added that Brands will offer students a unique insider’s perspective to the presidency of Barack Obama.

“The most important thing that H.W. Brands will be able to share with us is how President Obama fits into American history at this point in this presidency,” Whitney said.

Brands has dined at the White House with the president, and Whitney said that he knows the triumphs, frustrations and disappointments of the presidency.

“He will be able to speak very perceptively to students about a president that most of them supported,” Whitney said.

Brands defined what it means to be Machiavellian as putting morality aside and concentrating on what works. Whitney said that to be Machiavellian has two different definitions.

The traditional definition "is to be concerned with acquiring, expanding and maintaining power,” Whitney said. The older definition includes concern for how a republic functions.

Whitney believes that Brands will address both sides of this very complex Italian figure.

“He will apply the lessons of Machiavelli to the challenges we Americans face today,” he said.

Brands said that this lecture will be relevant for students and members of the community who are curious to learn more about the current political system.

“Anyone concerned that our current political system isn't working well needs to ask why,” Brands said. “Machiavelli has the answers.”

For more information, visit www.hauensteincenter.org.

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