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Has Obama learnt from FDR?




Registration and refreshments 18.00, Lecture 18.30, Networking and refreshments 19.30

Series: A City Leaders lecture

Has Obama learnt from FDR?

In January 2009 the model of Franklin D Roosevelt’s first hundred days in office loomed large for the incoming President, his advisers and the media. There was a major financial crisis and a major recession had followed. A discredited outgoing President had been succeeded by a charismatic president with an electoral mandate and large congressional majorities. There was even, as in 1933, an upcoming international economic conference to try to engineer and coordinate global economic recovery. Obama expected his financial stimulus package to pass on day one of the congressional session, as FDR’s bill to reopen the banks had done.

A year into Obama’s administration, what lessons did the president learn from Roosevelt whose model of dynamic leadership has been the standard by which all modern American presidents, especially Democrats, have been judged?

This lecture examines why it has been so difficult for Obama to sustain the popularity of his economic stimulus and why his signature issue of health care reform has been politically intractable. The lecture will examine, firstly, the very real differences between 1933 and 2009 in terms of the economic circumstances of American voters and the constituency pressures exerted on politicians of both parties, secondly, the structural obstacles in the American political system facing any ambitious president and, thirdly, the missteps that resulted from failing properly to understand the Roosevelt model.

Professor Tony Badger has been Paul Mellon Professor of American History in Cambridge since 1992 and Master of Clare College since 2003. He is chair of Cambridge Assessment and of the Kennedy Memorial Trust. He has published extensively on the New Deal and on the post-1945 South, most notably The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933-1940 (1989) and New Deal/New South: The Anthony Badger Reader (2007). He is currently writing a biography of vice-president  Al Gore’s father, Albert Gore Sr, the senator from Tennessee from 1952 to 1970.

His most recent book FDR: The First Hundred Days (2008) was described by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown as ‘a brilliantly written, compelling and moving portrait…a classic example of how a work of history can illuminate the issues we’re dealing with today.’ The Observer described it in January 2009 as ‘top of the political class's reading list on both sides of the Atlantic.’

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When & where

12.00am - 12.00amThursday 11th March 2010