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The General vs. the President

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Members only with no fee

The General vs. the President

Henry William Brands

Harry S. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. Heir to a struggling economy, a ruined Europe, and ever-increasing tension with the Soviet Union, on no issue was the path ahead clear and easy. General Douglas MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The lessons he drew from World War II were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster and a showdown with the communists was inevitable. In his new book, Henry William Brands presents their contest of wills against a turbulent backdrop of terrors, both overseas and at home, to evoke the making of a new American era.

Henry William Brands was born in Oregon, went to college in California, sold cutlery across the American West and earned graduate degrees in mathematics and history in Oregon and Texas. He taught at Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M Credit Marsha MillerUniversity before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History. He writes on American history and politics, with books including Reagan, The Man Who Saved the Union, Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American and TR. Traitor to His Class and The First American were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Brands lectures frequently and can be seen and heard on national and international television and radio. For the past four years, he has been writing a history of the United States in haiku form and publishing it on Twitter, a project that he expects will extend another two years.

Immediately following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki people around the country—and world—began seeking to understand the ramifications of living in the new “Atomic Age.” In August 1945, Pocket BOOKS published a slender volume, The Atomic Age Opens. An annotation in the table of contents speaks to the concerns plaguing American citizens in those first weeks after the catastrophic bombings:

“President Truman’s statement that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan was in itself enough to set the world agog, but when...the Army in the Pacific told what this new weapon had done to Hiroshima, public curiosity instantaneously became universal concern. [...] People everywhere voice their concern and their opinions, and many wondered if mankind could be trusted with such power.”

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