The Stories of America That You Never Learned in School
Where: New York Institute of Technology
212-261-1500 Price: $145
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Carol Berkin / Baruch College
Americans like to believe that the Constitution miraculously brought the United States into being; as though the framers established, in one bold stroke, the nation we know today. Yet when George Washington delivered his First Inaugural address in 1789, he expressed worry about the challenges that lay head. He was right to be concerned. The existence of the new nation was anything but secure.
This brand-new lecture by renowned historian Carol Berkin presents powerful but lessor known stories about America’s early years. As Washington says in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s remarkable musical Hamilton, “Winning was easy…governing’s harder.” In fact, the newborn republic survived a series of potentially fatal crises in its early years, and its survival was by no means certain.
Carol Berkin / Baruch College
Carol Berkin is Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY. She has worked as a consultant on several PBS and History Channel documentaries, including, The “Scottsboro Boys,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. She has also appeared as a commentator on screen in the PBS series by Ric Burns, “New York,” the Middlemarch series “Benjamin Franklin” and “Alexander Hamilton” on PBS, and the MPH series, “The Founding Fathers.” She serves on the Board of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Board of the National Council for History Education.
What’s happening in America today is not uncharted territory, but the flowering of the DNA that has defined our country from its inception. From acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author and razor-sharp cultural critic, comes a new paradigm for understanding our post-truth world.
There’s a tendency at this moment – this alternative-facts moment – to see our situation as an aberrant, new American phenomena. In fact, it is the logical progression of our national character. America was created by wishful thinkers and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is in our bones. From Manifest Destiny to witch hunts to P.T. Barnum to Joseph Smith and the Scopes Monkey Trial. From Walt Disney to Billy Graham, from the birther movement to, yes, Donald Trump, we have proven, again and again, to be uniquely susceptible to magical thinking, delusion, illusion, conspiracy, and bullshit. In other words: what do you get when you mix epic individualism with extreme religion, show business, and everything else; run it through the Great Awakening and the Great Delirium, the anything-goes Sixties and the Internet Age; and let it ferment for a few centuries? You get Fantasyland, a place where reality and fantasy are dangerously blurred and mingled.
Kurt Andersen / Pratt Institute / Public Radio International
Kurt Andersen is the host and co-creator of the the popular Public Radio International show Studio 360 and editor-in-chief of both New York and Spy magazines, the latter of which he co-founded. He was named by New York magazine as one of the “100 People Who Changed New York,” and by Forbes as one of the “25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media.” He is a Trustee of The Pratt Institute where he was also a writer-in-residence and was named the 2014 arts Medalist by Harvard College’s Signet Society.