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Pop-Up: Taking Action: The Reach and Limits of Presidential Directives

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is NOT required
Members only with no fee
Abraham Lincoln, By the President of the United States: A Proclamation [Emancipation Proclamation] (Philadelphia: F. Leypoldt, 1864). Broadside. Boston Athenaeum, Purchase, George Francis Parkman Fund, 1953.
Abraham Lincoln, By the President of the United States: A Proclamation [Emancipation Proclamation] (Philadelphia: F. Leypoldt, 1864). Broadside. Boston Athenaeum, Purchase, George Francis Parkman Fund, 1953.

Taking Action: The Reach and Limits of Presidential Directives

Jay D. Wexler

The current news cycle has been inundated with stories of presidential directives. According to the White House, President Trump signed five executive orders, nine presidential memoranda, and one proclamation during his first week in office. Presidents as far back as George Washington have issued presidential directives, perhaps the most famous of which was Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. But what exactly are presidential directives? How much authority can a president exercise through them? And what checks and balances are in place to prevent executive overreach? Join Boston University Professor of Law Jay D. Wexler for a lively discussion about these questions and more as he explores the definition and role of presidential directives in US government. As part of the discussion, we will examine broadsides of executive actions from the Athenæum’s special collections, including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln that was printed and sold to raise funds for the group that would later become the Red Cross.

Jay D. Wexler earned his JD at Stanford University after receiving his MA at University of Chicago Divinity School and his BA at Harvard University. He has taught at Boston University School of Law since 2001 where his research focuses on church-state law. His articles, essays, and reviews have been published in the BYU Law Review, George Washington Law Review, and William and Mary Law Review, among other places. Professor Wexler is also the author of five books including When God Isn’t Green: A Worldwide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide, which was published by Beacon Press in 2016. His current book project will analyze how atheists, Satanists, Wiccans, and other non-Christians have begun demanding their right to participate in public life. Before teaching at BU Law, Wexler worked as a law clerk for Judge David Tatel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the United States Supreme Court. From 1999 to 2001, he was an attorney advisor at the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice where he provided advice on constitutional and statutory issues to various members of the executive branch.

For the safety of our special collections, please store all belongings—including coats and bags of all sizes—in the complimentary, self-serve lockers in the vestibule before entering the reading room.