The Filson Historical Society’s Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series presents best-selling author and foreign affairs analyst Aaron David Miller speaking on his latest book, The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President.
Which is a journey through presidential history that explains how greatness in the presidency was achieved, why it’s gone, and how to better appreciate the presidents we have, rather than being consumed with the ones we want.
The End of Greatness explores the concept of greatness in the presidency and the ways in which it has become both essential and detrimental to America and the nation’s politics. Miller argues that greatness in presidents is an overrated virtue. Indeed, greatness is too rare to be relevant in our current politics, and driven as it is by nation-encumbering crisis, too dangerous to be desirable. Our preoccupation with greatness in the presidency consistently inflates our expectations, skews the debate over presidential performance, and drives presidents to misjudge their own times and capacity. And, our focus on the individual misses the constraints of both the office and the times, distorting how Presidents actually lead. In wanting and expecting our leaders to be great, we have simply made it impossible for them to be good.
Aaron David Miller is currently the Vice President for New Initiatives and a Distinguished Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Between 2006 and 2008, he was a Public Policy Scholar when he wrote his fourth book The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace (Bantam, 2008). His other books include The Arab States and the Palestine Question: Between Ideology and Self Interest, The PLO and the Politics of Survival, and The Search for Security, Saudi Arabian Oil and American Foreign Policy.
For the prior two decades, he served at the Department of State as an advisor to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process, most recently as the Senior Advisor for Arab-Israeli Negotiations. He also served as the Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator for Arab-Israeli Negotiations, Senior Member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and in the Office of the Historian. He has received the department's Distinguished, Superior, and Meritorious Honor Awards.
Mr. Miller received his Ph.D. in American Diplomatic and Middle East History from the University of Michigan in 1977 and joined the State Department the following year. During 1982 and 1983, he was a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and a resident scholar at the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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