January 18, 2020

Great Lives’ 17th Season Kicks Off Jan. 21 with Ronald Reagan

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 21, with a look at Ronald Reagan. Craig Shirley, author of “Rendezvous with Destiny: Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America,” will provide unique insight into the life of the 40th president and one of the most consequential figures of the 20th century. The Virginia Partners Bank Lecture. 

This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. Great Lives will continue on Jan. 23 with Tiger Woods biographer Jeff Benedict.

Forty years ago, few thought Reagan would be a great president, or even president at all. So much so that many, even from within his own party, sought to destroy his 1980 campaign from its earliest days. Make no mistake about it; the GOP establishment loathed Reagan, hated Reagan.

He’d tried in 1968, losing the Republican nomination to Richard Nixon. He narrowly lost to Gerald Ford in 1976. But by 1980, he was the marginal frontrunner for the nomination, but nearly lost to Ambassador George Bush. Reagan righted his campaign, got focused, and charged to the nomination, at long last.

Winning the 1980 GOP nomination, however, was only the first step. He then had to face the juggernaut of incumbent President Jimmy Carter. By common agreement, Carter was a mediocre president and was presiding over a poor economy and an even worse foreign policy — but as a fierce campaigner, he was without peer.

For most of the fall 1980 campaign, Carter maintained a lead over Reagan. Americans did not like to kick elected presidents out of office, only doing so in 1912 (which was anomalous with William Howard Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson all running) and 1932, when in the face of the terrible Great Depression, FDR defeated the hapless Herbert Hoover. Thus the odds were stacked against Reagan.

But in the one and only debate, in Cleveland, Reagan zinged Carter with his immortal line, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” One week later, Reagan won one of the largest landslide elections in history and in so doing, changed history.

The era of Reagan had begun. Without guile, without hatred, and without deception, Reaganism would prove to be the remedy America and the world needed forty years ago — but whose legacy still casts a long shadow over all of us.

Craig Shirley will analyze the Reagan Presidency and its legacy, including comparisons with Donald Trump.

UMW’s Great Lives Lecture Series Announces 17th Season

Professor Emeritus William Crawley, founder and director of Great Lives, announces the 17th season of the biographical lecture series to a packed reception at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Professor Emeritus William Crawley, founder and director of Great Lives, announces the 17th season of the biographical lecture series to a packed reception at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Hollywood actress-turned-inventor Hedy Lamarr and children’s author Theodor Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss – are among the prominent individuals to be featured in this year’s William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series.

Now in its 17th year, the stellar season was revealed to a packed reception Wednesday evening at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Lectures will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Jan. 21 to April 14, at the University of Mary Washington’s Dodd Auditorium on the Fredericksburg campus. They are free and open to the public without admission tickets.

Bestselling biographers – many of whom are distinguished historians and award-winning journalists – have spent countless hours chronicling the fascinating lives of their iconic subjects. At UMW, they’ll showcase these celebrated historical figures – notorious, in some cases – and provide illuminating insight into their lives and loves, successes and failures, strengths and struggles.

“I always say this, but this season is probably the most impressive lineup ever,” said Professor Emeritus William Crawley, Great Lives founder and director, who added he is confident that audiences will find multiple topics of interest. Read more. 

C-SPAN to Broadcast Great Lives Lecture, April 7

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt.

If you missed the March 19 Great Lives lecture on the Rocket Girls, you’ll still have a chance to watch it when C-SPAN airs it on Sunday, April 7 at 9 p.m. ET on C-SPAN3. The segment will also be available to view online at https://www.c-span.org/video/?458921-1/women-jet-propulsion-laboratory. The lecture was presented by science writer Nathalia Holt, author of the book Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars.

The spring 2019 Great Lives lectures conclude soon with Helen Rappaport, an expert on Russian history and author of The Race to Save the Romanovs, on Thursday, April 4. Heath Hardage Lee, historian and author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home from Vietnam, tells the story of POW wives on Tuesday, April 9.

This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall.  Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing.

Crawley Appears on WFVA Radio

William B. Crawley, professor of history emeritus and director of the William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series appeared recently on WFVA’s Town Talk to talk about the 2019 season that began earlier this week. Listen to his interview at https://www.newstalk1230.net/episode/town-talk-jan-14-2/.