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DUNKER LECTURE


THE DR. ROBERT E. DUNKER ANNUAL LECTURE

This series is named in honor of Dr. Robert E. Dunker, president emeritus of Western Iowa Tech Community College and founder of The Institute for Lifelong Learning.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

Every president has faced obstacles and opportunities in his presidency. Seeing how he tackled or avoided those problems or how well he managed to move people forward defines that era in American history.

Each semester, the Dr. Robert E. Dunker Lecture series chooses a presidency to illuminate methods of leadership as defined by actual practice in office. This term takes us into the era of one of our best known founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. 

PART 1: THE PATRIOT AND THE PRESIDENT

Thomas Jefferson provides a special challenge to anyone examining his history. His story is America’s story. His pen defined the reasons of the revolt, and his statements continue to inspire people over two centuries later! He was the compass that defined the direction of the country from before 1800 to long after his death in 1825.

While there are many writings on the history of the revolution, Jefferson’s massive output of letters, official documents, and long dissertations on his personal reasoning for his choices, defined much of what was placed in early history books. There was so much to cover, we often overlook what wasn’t included!

To paraphrase a statement by a later president, we can neither add nor detract from Jefferson’s standing in American history. We can add to our knowledge and our understanding of how politics and practices in America developed by learning the actual events of Jefferson’s presidential years. What challenges did he face as president? Was he successful? What about his dealings with congress? What about foreign policy? For most Americans, only his choice to grasp Napoléon Bonaparte’s offer of the vast lands beyond the Mississippi is well known. He transcended the enumerated powers of the presidency, a major event then, a regular occurrence today.

In this lecture, we will see how Jefferson practiced leadership and politics in his eight years. His choices provide answers to many of the paradoxes in our exercise of presidential power to this day. It is a rich story, and the details are surprising, enlightening, and enjoyable! 

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3; 6 TO 8 P.M.
Location: Cargill Auditorium, Entrance 14, Lot 4
Fee: No charge / Max: 200
Lifelong Learning membership not required 

 

PART 2: THOMAS JEFFERSON: SENIOR STATESMAN, MORAL COMPASS

Assuredly, someone right now is horrified at the thought that Thomas Jefferson could be considered the “moral” compass for our coun- try, but that is the reality of the first 200 years of America. George Washington largely defined the direction of the practices of the pres- idency, but Jefferson’s examples and his writings influenced the prac- tice of the presidents and politicians far beyond his long life. Only Alexander Hamilton equalled influence.

Jefferson’s conflicts were also our country’s conflicts and recognized part of the human condition. Jefferson was a brilliant man and an in- ventor but was perpetually in debt as a spendthrift. As a self-defined deist who preached for separation of church and state, he created a version of the bible that focused on Christ’s teachings as a method to live a worthy life. His thoughts on the rights of individuals and that all men are created equal did not stop him from owning slaves. His love of his wife is little remembered, but everyone today knows details of his affair with his slave following his wife’s death.

As president, Jefferson, a debtor himself, believed the country must have no debt and slashed John Adams’ budget for constructing war- ships. He recognized the power of financial institutions to hold peo- ple hostage to money and fought Hamilton’s banking plans for the good of individuals. Yet, without a national bank to loan the country money, he faced the consequences of his actions on the shores of Tripoli. When the ships were needed and money was not available, Jefferson believed the president was constrained by his enumerat- ed powers in the Constitution. While he debated with himself over his power to do so, he accepted Napoleon’s offer of the Louisiana Purchase immediately.

Jefferson, in short, was human. The personal contradictions he wres- tled with reflect the contradictions we would see the country face far into the future. He fell short of perfection himself, but he worked to provide the country with the written discussion of his thoughts as a guide as the country moved forward.

In this lecture, we will learn his thoughts on these issues reading from his writings. We will also see the people those writings influenced on all sides during his life and far beyond! 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, NOON TO 2 P.M.
Location: Cargill Auditorium, Entrance 14, Lot 4
Fee: No charge / Max: 200
Lifelong Learning membership not required 

 

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