American Icons: The American President

Fall 2008

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office to become the first president of the United States. That event symbolized the beginning of a new era in American history, an era of freedom and independence. But it also proved to be an era of trial and error as Americans implemented the government under the Constitution and experimented with how it should work. This book discussion series, focusing on the presidencies of Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, asks us to explore these founding fathers and consider what they were like. When we hear people today referring to one or more of them by citing political speeches and letters to the editor to support differing viewpoints, what are we to think? Are these first presidents truly icons? As we prepare for another presidential election this November, exposure to and reflection on these founding fathers may prove helpful. We will have the opportunity to read what historians, biographers and novelists have to say about them and to discuss our own views and responses to the books. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity to better understand who these founding fathers were and how their characters and actions still shape the history of the United States, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series. Join us to explore and discover.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these books come alive in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections and theme brochure by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at, or dropping by the Dulaney-Browne Library, Room 211. “b>(Note the new location of the office in the five-story building southwest of Walker Center.)”/b> Information can also be found on the web site of Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature:

The series will still be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning September 9 and continuing with one exception on alternate Tuesdays through November 11. Books, services, and other materials for this series are provided by “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma,” a project of the Oklahoma Humanities Council. This series was funded by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


9/9/2008 Richard Brookhiser’s Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington

Brookhiser’s enlightening biography of probably our most famous but least understood president launches our series. In an age that produced Napoleon Bonaparte, Washington chose to act for the good of the country rather than his own ambitions. The book focuses on our first president’s contributions as well as his character and values.

9/23/2008 Joseph J Ellis’ American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

The award-winning biography of Jefferson, regarded by many as our most important president, offers an illuminating study of the human person with all of his contradictions. How could he be championed by both Southern secessionists and Northern abolitionists in his time? How can he be claimed by both liberals and neo-conservatives today?

10/7/2008 William Safire’s Scandalmonger

Safire, one of our finest contemporary commentators, offers a well-researched and documented historical novel about political intrigue, illicit affairs, and the effects of partisan politics on the press. This best-seller demonstrates that Washington sex scandals and lurid journalism are nothing new on the United States political scene.

10/28/2008 John Ferling’s Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

If you think recent presidential elections have been fraught with controversy, Ferling’s discussion of the election of 1800 will leave your head spinning. The strong personalities of Adams and Jefferson as well as Alexander Hamilton clashed in volatile ways, and when the election was over, the electoral college ended in a tie.

11/11/2008 Rita Mae Brown’s Dolley: A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War

Set in the midst of the War of 1812, Brown’s historical novel of the wife of the fourth president of the United States brings to life a researched and imaginative study of a spirited, wise and courageous first lady. Much more than the consummate hostess, Dolley Madison emerges as a heroine.