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The Perils of Polarization: A History of a Nation Divided

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, May 25, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1D0014
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Whatever became of "E pluribus unum"? It's increasingly clear that the United States is fragmented; civility is in short supply, and common values are eroding. The traditional national motto "Out of many, one" seems increasingly out of reach.

Bringing a historical perspective to analysis of politics and societal change, journalist, historian, and author Ken Walsh illustrates how the United States has always had recurring problems with creating unity and maintaining respectful discourse amid diversity. Character assassination, for example, is nothing new. Notably, pamphleteer and provocateur James Callender used character-assassination tactics against President Thomas Jefferson in the early 1800s. The Civil War, of course, was the ultimate example of the nation's failure to unify. The country was also deeply divided on what to do about the Depression in the early 1930s under President Herbert Hoover, on the Vietnam War and civil rights during the 1960s and '70s under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and on how to correct the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009 under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Walsh examines how the United States reached this point, places the current situation in historical context, and discusses whether there is much chance for comity, consensus, and cooperation in the future.

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