LaFeber-Silbey Lecture: 'California Dreaming'

Historian Francis J. Gavin will present this year’s LaFeber-Silbey Lecture, “California Dreaming – The Crisis and Rebirth of American Power in the 1970s”. The talk is Thursday, October 3, at 4:30 p.m. in the Kaufmann Auditorium/Room G64 in Goldwin Smith Hall. Sponsored by the Department of History, the talk is free and open to the public.

“Francis J. Gavin is a renowned historian,” says Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies. “I have heard him speak and believe he will bring a dynamic energy and viewpoint about American History and its interface with American politics to Cornell.”

In his talk, Gavin will explore how scholars have increasingly recognized the 1970s as a pivotal decade in world history. “The situation in the United States reflected a puzzle,” said Gavin. “America seemed in crisis – stagnating economy, socio-cultural division, political cynicism, declining military and foreign policy power abroad.  But the United States was reinventing itself in profound and consequential ways that would reshape and reinvigorate American culture, its economy, technology, and its ability to project power abroad and influence international relations.  This story is best reflected in the story of California in the 1970s.  Coming to terms with California Dreaming and the rebirth of American power forces us to come to terms with how we think about the past, what matters and how we should think about power in the world.”

Gavin is the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and the inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He has held the first Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security Policy Studies and Professor of Political Science at MIT and the Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs and the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas. From 2005 until 2010, he directed The American Assembly’s multiyear, national initiative, The Next Generation Project: U.S. Global Policy and the Future of International Institutions. Gavin’s writings include "Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958-1971" (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and "Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age" (Cornell University Press, 2012).

The LaFeber-Silbey Endowment in History Lecture is held yearly and is given by speakers who are active in public life, policy-making, or academic scholarship, and who are often Cornell alumni. Several alumni underwrite the series, named for Cornell historians Walter LaFeber and the late Joel Silbey.

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