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James Knox Polk and the War with Mexico

Daniel Walker Howe

October 16, 2013, 3:30PM

Daniel Walker Howe

DANIEL WALKER HOWE is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University and Professor of History Emeritus at UCLA.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.  Besides many other books and scholarly articles, he has published in The New York Review of Books, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, and Smithsonian Magazine, and was historical advisor to the TV series America: The Story of Us, which ran on the History Channel.

This event is part of…

Historical Presidency: Organized by U.Va. historians Melvyn Leffler and William Hitchcock, the 2015 Historical Presidency series will examine executive leadership during a century of war, economic crisis, and American global expansion. Learn more in the Historical Presidency brochure (PDF).


American Forum - JFK and the Vietnam Escalation

Marc Selverstone

October 16, 2013, 11:00AM

Marc Selverstone

Marc Selverstone is Chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center. He joined the Miller Center in November 2000 after receiving his Ph.D. in U.S. Foreign Relations from Ohio University. His interests include U.S. foreign relations post-1945, the culture of the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. He is author of Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945–1950 (Harvard University Press, 2009), which won the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in 2010. He is presently at work on The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam, which is under contract with Harvard University Press. This Forum is part of the Miller Center’s 50th Anniversary retrospective on the Kennedy Presidency.


Taeku Lee, University of California, Berkeley

Nicole Mellow, Williams College

Gabriel Sanchez, University of New Mexico

Moderator: Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker

Closing Comments: Governor Gerald L. Baliles, Director and CEO, Miller Center


Rey Koslowski, State University of New York at Albany

Muzaffar Chishti, Migration Policy Institute

Janic Fine, Rutgers University

Moderator: Julia Preston, The New York Times


Introduction: Governor Gerald L. Baliles, Director and CEO, Miller Center

Session 1
Nancy Foner, The City University of New York
Daniel Tichenor, University of Oregon
Karthick Ramakrishnan, University of California, Riverside
Moderator: Audrey Singer, Brookings Institution


On October 10, from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., the conference, “Immigration Reform: Politics, Policy and Process,” will kick off with a reception and keynote roundtable, "How Have the Media Covered Immigration Reform?" Participants include TED HESSON, FusionRYAN LIZZA, The New Yorker; JULIA PRESTON, The New York Times; and BETH REINHARD, National Journal. The roundtable will be moderated by RAY SUAREZ of PBS NewsHour.


Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

Washington, D.C.

Among the most contentious of today’s policymaking challenges is the issue of immigration. Comprehensive reform has languished for more than a decade, locked in political stalemate, despite near consensus that the nation’s immigration system is fundamentally broken. All the while, significant contributions to U.S. innovation and economic competitiveness have been stymied by existing immigration provisions. What does the historical and cultural context of immigration reform tell us about prospects for legislative action? What are the impediments facing implementing effective policy? What are the implications of reform along electoral and party lines?

This conference will look beyond the travails of a "broken" legislature slouching toward immigration reform. Featuring eminent scholars from political science, economics, and law along with practitioners and policymakers, the conference will focus on three topics: The Historical, Legislative and Cultural Context for Immigration Reform; Prospects and Promise for Workplace and Border Security; and the Implications of Reform for Electoral and Party Alignments.

Organized by conference directors DAVID LEBLANG (Miller Center), SID MILKIS (Miller Center), and DANIEL TICHENOR (University of Oregon), “Immigration Reform: Politics, Policy and Process” will take place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., before an invited audience. It will be recorded for the Miller Center’s archives. If you are interested in attending, please contact Anne Carter Mulligan at


American Forum - Escape from the Quagmire? The Way Ahead in Syria, Egypt and the Middle East

Ryan Crocker, David Rohde, Shibley Telhami

October 7, 2013, 11:00AM

Ryan CrockerDavid RohdeShibley Telhami


Bringing together the foremost American diplomat to the Islamic world, a two-time Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist specializing in the Middle East, and one of the leading scholars of attitudes in the region, the Forum offers a frank discussion of whether the U.S. can re-establish firm footing after the cataclysmic events of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the Egyptian coup(s), and the crisis in Syria. 


  • Ryan Crocker, the 2013 James R. Schlesinger Distinguished Professor at the Miller Center, holder of the U.S. Foreign Service’s highest rank, served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, and previously ambassador to Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon;  
  • David Rohde, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, was kidnapped by the Taliban, now a reporter for ThomsonReuters, and the author of Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East
  • Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, non-resident senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, and author most recently of The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East.

Colloquium - Lead Wars, Panel 2: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children

James Childress, Merlin Chowkwanyun, Patricia King, Guian McKee, Jack Schwartz

October 4, 2013, 1:00PM

James ChildressMerlin ChowkwanyunPatricia KingGuian McKeeJack Schwartz

The afternoon session from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. will feature:

  • MERLIN CHOWKWANYUN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar, University of Wisconsin, and former Miller Center National Fellow
  • JAMES CHILDRESS, University Professor & John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, University of Virginia
  • PATRICIA KING, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Medicine, Ethics, and Public Policy, Georgetown Law Center
  • JACK SCHWARTZ, visiting professor of law and health care law and policy fellow, University of Maryland (former assistant attorney general, Maryland)
  • GUIAN MCKEE (moderator), associate professor of public policy at the Miller Center
Gerald MarkowitzDavid Rosner

This special symposium on David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz’s Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America's Children will kick off the Fall 2013 Miller Center Colloquium Series on Historical Perspectives on the Health Care Crisis, organized by GUIAN MCKEE, associate professor of public policy at the Miller Center. 

This special symposium has been co-organized by McKee and former Miller Center Fellow MERLIN CHOWKWANYUN.

Please click on the colloquium title above to see a full list of participants and the timing of the panels.

This symposium is being co-sponsored by the U.Va. Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life, the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities of the School of Medicine, the Claude Moore Foundation, and the Department of Public Health Sciences at the U.Va. School of Medicine.

Please RSVP to by noon on Wednesday, October 2 if you’d like to attend the lunch that will occur between the two panels.


American Forum - A Town Hall Meeting on the Middle Class and State of the American Dream

Martin Baron, Jennifer Marsico, Thomas A. Hirschl

October 2, 2013, 6:00PM

Martin BaronJennifer MarsicoThomas A. Hirschl

The University of Virginia’s Miller Center will hold a town hall in Charlottesville on Wednesday, October 2 that will examine the shrinking of the middle class and its impact on the state of the American Dream. This event will launch the Milstein Symposium, a new Miller Center initiative that will address challenges facing the middle class.

The town hall, which begins at 6 pm, will focus on a soon-to-be-released Washington Post/Miller Center poll that is asking respondents about their financial security and what the American Dream means to them.

Participants will include MARTIN BARON, executive editor of The Washington Post, THOMAS A. HIRSCHL, co-author of Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shape Our Fortunes, and JENNIFER MARISCO, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. It will be moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon, host of the Miller Center’s American Forum.

The town hall will be live streamed at It will later be broadcast on public television stations across the nation.

The size of the middle class has steadily decreased for the past four decades. In the early 2000s, middle-income households did not account for the largest percentage of U.S. aggregate household income for the first time. The town hall will explore critical questions regarding this trend and the future of the American Dream. What does the American Dream mean today?  What are the present challenges to achieving it?  How can we restore it?  What is the impact of emerging technologies?  Why is a robust and stable middle class vital to the nation’s future?

The Milstein Symposium will bring together policymakers, business leaders, scholars, and journalists to advance innovative and nonpartisan ideas to help rebuild the American Dream. The first year will focus on creating the jobs of the future, and three commissions will examine topics in manufacturing, entrepreneurship and self-employment, and infrastructure investment.

The Milstein Symposium is named for philanthropist, business and civic leader Howard P. Milstein. Milstein is chairman, president and chief executive officer of New York Private Bank and Trust and its operating bank, Emigrant Bank, the country's largest privately held bank.

The Miller Center has created a Facebook page where users can share what the American Dream means to them. The address is Twitter users can also tweet their thoughts to @Miller_Center, using the hashtag #AmericanDream


Explaining the Iraq War: Counterfactual Theory, Logic, and Evidence

Frank Harvey, Melvyn P. Leffler, John M. Owen, William B Quandt, Philip Zelikow

September 27, 2013, 11:15AM

Frank HarveyMelvyn P. LefflerJohn M. OwenWilliam B QuandtPhilip Zelikow

FRANK HARVEY, professor of international relations at Dalhousie University, WILLIAM QUANDT, professor emeritus of politics at U.Va., MEL LEFFLER, U.Va.'s Edward Stettinius Professor of History and Miller Center Faculty Associate, and PHILIP ZELIKOWWhite Burkett Miller Professor of History at U.Va., will discuss Harvey's new book, Explaining the Iraq War: Counterfactual Theory, Logic, and Evidence.

A book signing will follow this event.

This public panel will conclude the academic conference, "History, Method, and the Future ofSecurity Studies" organized by JOHN OWEN, Taylor Professor of Politics at U.Va. and Editor-in-Chief of Security Studies.  Security Studies is a peer-reviewed academic journal housed at the Miller Center.


American Forum - JFK and the Anger of the 1960s

Steven L. Davis, Bill Minutaglio

September 25, 2013, 11:00AM

Steven L. DavisBill Minutaglio

In their new book, Dallas 1963, BILL MINUTAGLIO and STEVEN L. DAVIS offer a fresh new understanding of the social and political climate in the U.S. in the weeks and months leading to John F. Kennedy's assassination. They explore the forces that led many people to warn President Kennedy to avoid Dallas on his fateful trip to Texas. Minutaglio and Davis lead us through intimate glimpses of the Kennedy family and the machinations of the Kennedy White House, to a group of political activists in Dallas who fanned flames of anger at JFK—and who some later blamed for the president's death. A professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Minutaglio has worked at the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express-News. He has written books about George W. Bush, Molly Ivins, Alberto Gonzales, and America's greatest industrial disaster. Davis is the author of two highly praised books on Texas and is a curator at Texas State University, which holds the literary papers of Cormac McCarthy and many other writers. Photo Credit: Dennis Darling


Colloquium - Lincoln and Davis: War Presidents

Gary W. Gallagher, James M. McPherson

September 18, 2013, 5:00PM

Gary W. GallagherJames M. McPherson

A Conversation with James McPherson and Gary Gallagher 

GARY W. GALLAGHER is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He earned his graduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He has published widely in the field of Civil War-era history, most recently Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War, The Union War, and Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty. In 2010-2012, he held the Cavaliers' Distinguished Teaching Professorship, the highest teaching award conveyed by the University.

JAMES M. MCPHERSON is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University, where he taught for more than 40 years. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he held the presidency of the American Historical Association in 2003. His numerous books on the Civil War era include Battle Cry of Freedom, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989, as well as For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War and Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, both of which won the Lincoln Prize in 1998 and 2009, respectively.  His most recent book is War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865.

This event is part of…

Historical Presidency: Organized by U.Va. historians Melvyn Leffler and William Hitchcock, the 2015 Historical Presidency series will examine executive leadership during a century of war, economic crisis, and American global expansion. Learn more in the Historical Presidency brochure (PDF).

George Packer

The Unwinding is an examination of a nation in crisis. American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer, journalist, novelist, and author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an original way, with his sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives. A book signing will follow his Forum. Photo Credit: Guillermo Riveros


American Forum - JFK and the Breakthrough for Civil Rights

William P. Jones

September 11, 2013, 11:00AM

William P. Jones

In The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, William P. Jones argues that the enormous role of the American labor movement in triggering the epic march in August 1963 must be rescued from the shadow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legendary "I Have a Dream" speech. The opening event of the day was a speech delivered by the march’s leader, trade unionist A. Philip Randolph, who first called for a march on Washington in 1941 to press for equal opportunity in employment and the armed forces. Randolph’s egalitarian vision of economic and social citizenship is the strong thread running throughout the full history of the March on Washington movement. Jones’s history delivers a new understanding of this emblematic event and the broader civil rights movement it propelled. A professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jones is a specialist in civil rights and labor history and contributes to The Nation and other publications. A book signing will follow his Forum. Photo Credit: The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents

Gilbert King

Gilbert King has written about Supreme Court history and the death penalty for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine's history blog, “Past Imperfect,” as well as The Washington Post's “The Root.” His book, The Execution of Willie Francis, was published in 2008. Gilbert’s most recent book is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. Devil in the Grove draws on never-before-published material about the deadliest case of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s career. Gilbert is also a photographer whose work has appeared in Glamour and New York Magazine, as well as international editions of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. A book signing will follow his Forum.

Barbara Perry

In her compelling and intimate portrait, presidential historian Barbara Perry captures Rose Kennedy’s essential contributions to the incomparable Kennedy dynasty. This biography—the first to draw on an invaluable cache of Rose’s newly released diaries and letters—unearths the complexities behind the impeccable persona she showed the world. The woman who emerges in these pages is a fascinating character: savvy about her family’s reputation and resilient enough to persevere through the unfathomable tragedies that befell her. Perry is senior fellow and associate professor in the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program and is a well-known scholar of the U.S. Supreme Court and the American presidency. A book signing will follow her Forum. Photo Credit: Robert Capon


Congress and Policy Making in the 21st Century

Jeffery Jenkins, Eric M. Patashnik

June 3, 2013, 10:25AM

Eric M. Patashnik

In recent years the U.S. Congress has been called broken, dysfunctional, and weak, yet its importance as policy-maker remains unchallenged. The role of Congress in the policy-making process has received surprisingly little attention in recent years. Most political science research on Congress focuses on its internal organization and distribution of power, while the public policy literature focuses on the role of presidents, interest groups, and the bureaucracy. What has been Congress's distinctive impact on government's role in key areas such as energy, health care, immigration, and monetary policy?  How have congressional elections and constituency pressures shaped the legislative agenda?  How has Congress responded to major events such as the Great Recession and secular trends such as growing income inequality and demographic change? In an era of partisan polarization, does Congress possess the collective capacity to contribute to effective problem solving?

Co-hosted by Jeff Jenkins, Professor of Politics and Miller Center Faculty Associate, and Eric Patashnik, Professor of Public Policy and Politics at the Batten School, this academic conference brings together leading scholars who will seek to shed new light on how Congress works--and what difference Congress makes for public policy outcomes.

This conference is co-sponsored by the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.  All sessions are closed to the general public, but proceedings will be webcast live and archived at


Manuscript Review, “One Nation Under God,” by Kevin Kruse

Prof. Darren Dochuk, Prof. Kevin Kruse, Prof. Michael Lienesch, Reihan Salam

May 10, 2013, 12:00PM

Prof. Darren DochukProf. Kevin KruseProf. Michael LieneschReihan Salam

The intellectual centerpiece of the the Miller Center Fellowship Spring Conference, the manuscript review continues our tradition of considering an important forthcoming book by a leading scholar of history or social science. This year, Princeton University’s Kevin Kruse will present his manuscript One Nation Under God: Corporations, Christianity and the Rise of the Religious Right.  Providing commentary will be a panel that includes Reihan Salam of National Review, Darren Dochuk of Washington University in St. Louis, and Michael Lienesch of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


American Forum - A Conversation with Ryan Crocker and James Schlesinger

Gerald L Baliles, Ryan Crocker, James R Schlesinger

May 2, 2013, 5:30PM

Gerald L BalilesRyan CrockerJames R Schlesinger

RYAN C. CROCKER, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, and JAMES R. SCHLESINGER, who served as both secretary of defense and energy, will take part in a wide-ranging conversation on foreign affairs covering a broad range of topics including the Middle East and Asia, defense and diplomacy, and the state of American politics.  The session will be moderated by Miller Center director and CEO GERALD L. BALILES, and a question and answer period with the audience will follow.

Ryan C. Crocker is the 2013 James R. Schlesinger Distinguished Professor at the Miller Center. He holds the diplomatic rank of career ambassador, the U.S. Foreign Service’s highest rank. He served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 and U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009. He previously served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007; to Syria from 1998 to 2001; to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997; and to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993.

James R. Schlesinger served as secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and as the nation’s first energy secretary under President Jimmy Carter. He also held leadership roles with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Atomic Energy Commission during a distinguished career in public service. Schlesinger taught economics at U.Va. from 1955 to 1963.

Limited public seating for this event will be available on a first come, first served basis.

Ryan CrockerEric Holder

This special program was created using footage from multiple Miller Center events and will air on PBS stations nationwide. Check your local listings. 

Attorney General Eric Holder discusses his plans for the second term, including efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and conduct trials for accused terrorists.  Ambassador Crocker discusses prospects for stability in Afghanistan after US troops fully withdraw. 

ERIC HOLDER was sworn in as the 82nd attorney general of the United States on February 3, 2009 by Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Holder on December 1, 2008. In 1997, Holder was named by President Clinton to be the deputy attorney general, the first African-American named to that post. Prior to that, he served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1988, Holder was nominated by President Reagan to become an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. 

RYAN C. CROCKER, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan and the 2013 James R. Schlesinger Distinguished Professor at the Miller Center. He holds the diplomatic rank of career ambassador, the U.S. Foreign Service’s highest rank. He served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 and U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009. He previously served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007; to Syria from 1998 to 2001; to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997; and to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993.

John Fabian Witt

JOHN FABIAN WITT is professor of law at Yale Law School and author of Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History; Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law; and the prize-winning book, The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law. In 2010, Witt was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Before returning to Yale, he taught legal history at Columbia and served as law clerk to Judge Pierre N. Leval on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A book signing will follow his Forum. With support from the H. F. Guggenheim Foundation.


American Forum - The End of the American Century?

Andrew J. Bacevich

April 19, 2013, 11:00AM

Andrew J. Bacevich

A professor of international relations and history at Boston University, ANDREW J. BACEVICH is the author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent WarThe Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, and American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy. Bacevich has held fellowships at the American Academy in Berlin, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

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