Friday, September 26, 2008

Job hunt-Part III

Well this has been a great week on the job search, the flood gates have opened. Just this week alone 7 new jobs have opened up. If you read this blog for historical perspectives on issues, I am sorry for taking up so much time lately with personal issues. I will get back to historical writing soon, but for now the job hunt takes up all my time and family and friends keep asking me where I have applied. So here are the jobs for this past week in which I am applying.

University of West Alabama. They are looking for a historian to teach everything before 1865. It is in Livingston Alabama, which is a very small town on the Mississippi border. Melissa is scared. It also has just a small branch of the church.

South Dakota State University. This is a job I am very excited about. They want a historian to do early America and teach the military history class. I like this job because it is a large university but with a small town feeling. This feels like Blacksburg which would make me very happy.

Westminster College. Little known college in Missouri, but a great location. This school became famous when in 1947 Winston Churchill gave their graduation address and said an Iron Curtin has descended across Europe (the name stuck). It is a small liberal arts college looking for someone to do 19th cent political history.

University of Southern Mississippi. This one is a long shot, they are looking for an established historian to teach their Civil War classes, but I will apply anyway. Small southern town on the gulf coast, with lots of southern charm. It has been voted several times as one of the best towns in the nation. By the way it is mostly famous for being the school of Bret Farve.

University of Toledo. Looking for someone to teach US political history. I known very little about the school or the town. I know I am too young for this, but when I think of Toledo I still think of the Toledo Mud Hens and Max Klinger. If I get an interview I will have to learn more.

The Citadel. This is a military school in Charleston SC. I like Charleston very much and the thought of teaching at a military school I find intriguing. Their students have to behave and studying is forced on them. This a for a southern historian, which as a civil war historian I fall into that category.

Ashland University. This is a small school in Ashland Ohio. They want an early American historian who focuses on political history. These are the types of schools I am interested in.

As always keep us in your prayers please, and if you know people at these school call them and beg and if that does not work, maybe we should go to bribing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Job Hunt-Part II

Once again I have been asked about new job possibilities. I have been disappointed so far with the number of jobs being listed, I was hoping for many more. So far I have applied to 13 schools, I was hoping for more like 20-30. If only I did Middle East history or even this year Colonial History there are tons of jobs. It is a circular thing, next year there could be 40 19th Century jobs, but I do not want to wait until next year. Keep us in your prayers that either I will get one of these (I only need one to be interested) or something good will open. Here are the most recent jobs

Old Dominion University. They want someone to teach 19th Century and must be able to teach Civil War (hay I can do that). It’s back in Va which is great but in Norfolk which is kind of a rough area, but close to the beach.

Skidmore College. They want some to teach everything from Colonial to Civil War which I would enjoy, I like Colonial and Revolutionary stuff. It is in New York state which I think is one of the prettiest areas in the country. Closest family will be around 6 to 7 hours which is far, but better than now.

Pittsburg State University. They want a 19th Century. This is in Pittsburg Kansas which is an hour or so south of Kansas City. It is small town that focuses on the University, perfect for me. They also have the winningest football team in Div II history. The best part of living here is that like in Arkansas we are a day and a half from everyone, which is not bad. If we live in the East or West we will be close to some family but 3 days from others, this way we would be right in the middle and can see everyone.

Troy University. They want a 19th Century with a subfield in the Civil War. Perfect job for me, but it is in South Alabama. If we can make it here, we can live anywhere, but well have to see. It is a good civil war job, and they love studying the Civil War in Alabama so it might be a good fit.

Salisburg University. Looking for a 19th Century historian. The good part is it is in the eastern shore of Maryland which is a nice location. It is close to family and cultural events yet isolated enough to be rural. It is also very close to the beach and would be a nice area.

So only five new ones, but it only takes one

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Does Experience Matter? A Historical View

One of my friends, Kelsey, has suggested a pro and con list of the leading candidates. I am intrigued, so I thought I would give it a shot. Yet before I do, I want to discuss one of the biggest issues being debated, experience. Does political experience make you a better president, or is character more important, or simply ideas. What can history tell us about experience? Note, just because experience helped or hurt these presidents does not mean the same is true with our candidates.

Lets began with looking at those men who are considered by most to be our greatest presidents: George Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Reagan. There are others that can be thrown in, especially based on your party leanings, but these tend to be accepted by both parties (Reagan is the one controversial, yet most liberals would still agree with his skills while not agreeing with his politics. Many people would include JFK because of his popularity, but scholars do not list him, with his lack of achievements.

George Washington’s history is fairly well known. His background was in the military. Washington set the standard for what was considered the greatest qualification for being president, military service. Being a war hero is a big plus, but some type of military experience was almost always necessary until the election of Bill Clinton. Washington entered the presidency, with no political experience, none official at least. However, the military then and still today, but more then, was very political. You did not become a General without playing some politics. Then there is leadership. Washington may not have had political leadership, but had plenty of experience in management.

Lincoln also has a well known history, one with some but limited political experience. He had this military credentials, leading men into the Blackhawk wars, but that was also very limited. Lincoln was involved in politics most of his adult life, one way or another, but for actual service he served four consecutive terms in the Illinois state assembly starting in 1834. In 1846 he elected to the US House of Representatives and served for one term only. He did make a big splash attacking the sitting president for the Mexican War. In 1858 he ran for the US Senate against Stephan Douglas in which he lost but made a name for himself. It was not until 1860 that he won his next election as President. So Lincoln did have some experience but did not hold an office from 1848 until when he ran for president in 1860.

Teddy Roosevelt had a life time of public service, but only a limited amount of elected office experience. From 1888 to 1895 he was appointed to the Civil Service Commission where he spent his time fighting corruption and bring about reform. In 1885 to 1896 he was President of the NYC police commissioners and again fought corruption and brought about reform. In 1896 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but resigned in 1898 when the US went to war with Spain. Teddy created his own cavalry command, known as the Rough Riders, and became the nations biggest war hero. Based on his popularity Teddy was elected Governor of New York, but only served half his term before being put on the presidential ticket as VP (sounds a lot like Palin, for McCain’s sake lets hope that’s were the similarities end). A year or so into his term as VP, the president was killed making TR the new Commander and Chief.

Franklin D. Roosevelt has a similar résumé as his cousin Teddy, but with a bit more experience in elected office. From 1910 to 1913 he served in the New York state Legislature. In 1913, like his cousin he was appointed to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, which he resigned in 1920 to run on the losing ticket as the VP with James Cox only to lose to Harding. In 1921 he caught polio and most thought his political ambitions were over only to be proven wrong when in 1929 he won the governorship of New York and stayed there until 1932 when he ran for the President and won. Still just a one term Governor (Palin is sounding better).

Ronald Reagan’s leadership experience came from a much different source then the rest. He did have military experience, enlisting in the reserve in 1937, but health problems kept him out of WWII. In 1941 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild and then later from 1947 to 1952 and again in 1959 he was president of the Guild. SAG was not intended to be political, but in Reagan’s case it was. Reagan worked with the House Committee on Un-American Activities bringing Hollywood elites before Congress in order to root out communist. In 1967 he ran and won the governorship of California and served until 1975. The next year he had a failed run for the White house. It was not until 1980 that he won the presidential election and 4 years later won every state in the Union except Minnesota where his challenger was from. He was a very popular and effective president and only had one term as governor under him.

I would like to mention just one other, Ike. Most do not consider him to be one of the best, but he was an effective presidents. Ike came directly from the military with no political experience. Being the commanding general of WWII does give him leadership and some political experience (Ike keep getting bigger when Patton slipped because he could not or would not play the political game). The most important issue in the 1950s was the cold war, and Ike knew how to play that game, but had never been elected to any office before he was president.

So does experience matter? It seems that many of these great presidents had very little. Of these great ones, it seems that being a governor was important in their success. I thought all the talk about McCain’s character was overkill, but after analyzing past presidents, experience is not always the key, character seems to be important and basic leadership skills. Ultimately I feel it is not always experience, but the issues that should help us decide who we should vote for, but we need to consider the character as well. Obama has more experience in public office than Ike, but Ike had great advisors like John Foster Dullas to help. Palin has limited experience, but as much as the two Roosevelts and Reagan. It is their issues and what they want to accomplish and if they have the character to follow through. Another good President, Harry Truman, had little experience but on his desk read the sign, “The Buck Stops Here” and that is how he governed. With today’s politicians the buck seems to stop everywhere but the president. I think experience is important, but it does not need to be elected positions, we need to look at their life experience and what kind of person they are and can they live up and take on the challenge of the job.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two Weeks of Political Fun

For someone who studies political history, this week has been like a trip to Disney Land with two weeks in a row of party conventions. I just wanted to comment on a few thoughts I have had so far.

1. Conventions are interesting, but incredibly pointless and very expensive. It would seem to me that the thousands and thousands of dollars spent could be used for a better purpose, especially when both candidates are claiming to want to cut spending and fix the nations problems. Use the money for the people and not just those who attend conventions. There was a time when conventions were necessary, that is how the candidates were chosen. No one even thought of Lincoln as a contender until the convention began and the Republicans could not come to a consensus on anyone. They realized on the ballots that Lincoln’s name was listed as most peoples second choice and after three votes his name was suggested. Today the candidates are chosen months before they arrive, with modern communication and technology the convention is obsolete. It is just a way for people to party

2. I find both VP choices as counter productive for the candidate’s major message. Obama is calling for change, to vote for someone outside of the Beltway boys. He claims our foreign policy is broken and attacked Clinton for her voting record on foreign affairs. Yet he then chose Biden as his VP. Biden has been in the Senate for 20 years and is completely part of the established Beltway insiders, and better yet his voting record mirrors that of Clinton whom Obama criticized. Biden is many things, but he is not change. Biden was brought in for his expertise on foreign policy, which Obama disagrees with, but at the same time he has shown in recent years, not to be much of an expert with the way he has voted.

McCain is no better. His major issue is experience, yet he chose Palin, a not yet completed one term Gov from the small state (population) of Alaska. How do you claim experience and yet bring in someone with very little. I do understand that she is the VP and so can learn. The problems is the way the Democrats are spinning this and how my students see it is, McCain is not far from death and she could be the next president. Like Biden, Palin was brought on the ticket for other reasons (will discuss later), but is a gamble for McCain. I am very interested in her speech tonight.

I doubt the media will report it this way, but at least the McCain ticket makes more sense. Both tickets have one with experience and one without. It just makes more sense to me for the teacher to lead and the pupil to learn and not other way around.

3. I thought Obama’s speech was his best yet. No one has ever doubted his charisma and speaking ability, but in this speech he actually put forth some of his ideas and what is agenda will be. As I polled my students, at least those that watched, most liked his speech especially now that he stood for something. However where he stood lacking, and this also from students, was how he plans to implement his plans while at the same time lower taxes.

4. My student’s reaction to Obama’s speech is my next point. I have over 400 students and when we talked about the speech only about 30 had watched it. I think this is possibly bad news for the Obama camp. Last Spring there was Obama fever on campus, an excitement I have not ever seen before, and probably nothing like it since Bobby Kennedy in 68. Yet it is gone now, not replaced with a dislike of Obama, but disinterest. Obama counts on the youth vote, but instead of his excitement building after his speech it has remained stagnant.

5. One reason for Obama’s popularity stagnation was the brilliant move by McCain to announce Palin the day after Obama’s speech. All the talk the next day was everyone’s shock of Palin and not anything about Obama. Now even with the issue of Palin’s daughter, she has captured all the media attention, I imagine tonight’s speech will be well watched.

6. What a coup for the Republicans to have Liberman talk last night. It was an interesting speech, at times poking at the Republicans. The most powerful part was his end when he addressed Democrats saying in this election you should not vote for party but for America. I did not like how he used Jefferson to prove his point. I am tired of people always using Jefferson. He was a great man yes, but never has there been a greater example of saying one thing and doing another. I wrote a whole blog about how it is hard to live up to principles with the difficulty of governing; I used Jefferson as the example.

7. The best speech so far from either party was Fred Thompson. Where was this when he was running for president (I do not believe he wanted to win, just wanted to say that he once ran). I am not a huge McCain supporter, we disagree on several issues, but after Thompson’s speech last night no one can attack his character. I have heard McCain’s story before, but Thompson tells it so well, I actually found my self choked up at the end when he was talking about how McCain can not raise his arms about his shoulders and solute the flag. The torture he received for 5 years makes that impossible, and so we should solute him. He may have money now, but he knows what it means to struggle. In a weird way he reminds me of FDR; a wealthy may who struggled physically for so long that he understood the meaning of hardship and more importantly how to overcome. FDR once said after trying for two years just to wiggle your toes, everything else seemed easier. McCain has a similar background with struggles and better yet endurance and victory. Disagree with the man all you want, but do not question his integrity or character or his ability to challenge the system and make change. Obama talks a good game, McCain has lived it. Even though we disagree, I respect him for standing by decisions that have made him unpopular even within his own party.

I hope everyone watches the speechs, watch on C-Span and not the news channels, they only show highlights that they chose and talk through most of it. Palin up tonight.