The Douglas W. Bryant annual lectures
The Eccles Centre has hosted an annual lecture since 1993. In 1995, this lecture was named in honour of Douglas W. Bryant who served as Trustee and Executive Director of the American Trust for the British Library between 1979 and 1990 and as its President between 1990 and 1994.
This lecture entitled 'How Dismal is the Future of American Politics?' was given by Professor Tony Badger on 19 May 2014, in the British Library Conference Centre.
In 2012 Barack Obama became the only Democratic president other than Franklin Roosevelt to win successive presidential elections with over 50% of the popular vote. He believed he had a mandate to demand action from Congress on two issues where public opinion appeared to expect government leadership: gun control legislation and the 'fiscal cliff'. His failure to secure action on both issues illustrated his subsequent inability to translate his electoral victory into a mandate to govern.
In the Nineteenth Annual Douglas W Bryant Lecture, Professor Tony Badger, reflecting on a half a century of studying modern America, asked why is it so difficult to govern the United States, and why is the American system of politics so dysfunctional? He looked at the historic limits on the presidency and the federal government, the low level of political participation, the extreme polarisation of party politics, the loss of popular faith in the federal government, and the malign influence of both money and religion on contemporary politics. He expressed scepticism about any likely progress on the immediate policy challenges facing the United States: immigration reform, the deficit, the reigning in of entitlement spending, and climate change. He asked if the US can respond nimbly to the crises in the Middle East and the challenge of China. However, Americans have portrayed the inadequacy of their politics in apocalyptic terms many times before. Tony Badger suggested that economic recovery, energy self-sufficiency and the sheer scale of America's per capita wealth and military capability will enable the United States once again to survive the dysfunctionality of its political system.
Tony Badger has been Paul Mellon Professor of American History at Cambridge University since 1992 and Master of Clare College since 2003. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians in 2012. Badger has written extensively on the New Deal, southern liberal politicians and the Civil Rights Movement. He is currently writing a biography of Albert Gore Sr.
The lecture was preceded by a reception.
- 2013 From Acadia to Arab Spring: Reflections on America's Place in the World by Lyse Doucet
- 2012 Rorschach President: How Barack Obama personifies the anxieties and aspirations of America by Gary Younge
- 2011 Why Men Hate to Talk about Relationships: the US, the UK, and the Atlantic Alliance by Philip Bobbitt
- 2010 Anti-Americanism in the 21st Century by Simon Jenkins
- 2009 Marathon: Looking Back at the Historic US Election of 2008 by Larry J. Sabato
- 2008 Constitutions: Does America's Work? Does Europe Need One? And What About Us? by Lord Kerr of Kinlochard
- 2007 The New Security: A Post-Cold War Understanding of Security in the 21st Century by Gary Hart
- 2006 How Digital Life Innovations Can Shape The Future Of Libraries by John Sculley
- 2005 The Atlantic - A Bridge or a Chasm? (PDF format) 252KB by the Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP KCMG QC
- 2004 The pursuit of power: leadership selection in the United States (PDF format) 150KB by David S. Broder
- 2003 The U.S. – The Role of World Leader: “A Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind…” (PDF format) 155KB, by Baroness Williams of Crosby
- 2002 A New Security for an Old America, by the Hon. Raymond G.H. Seitz
- 2001 A World Without a Father, by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
- 2000 The Immortality of the Book (PDF format) 92KB, by Sir Anthony Kenny
- 1999 The U.S. Presidency in the Twenty-First Century (PDF format) 110KB, by Steve Forbes
- 1998 Can the Special Relationship Survive into the 21st Century (PDF format) 47KB, by Lord Renwick of Clifton
- 1996 The Approaching Millennium: Challenges and Opportunities (PDF format) 54KB, by Harriet Fulbright
- 1995 Europe and America: Britain's Opportunity (PDF format) 59KB, by Lord Howe of Aberavon
- 1994 Equality and Autonomy: The Polarization of Constitutional Law (PDF format) 119KB, by Kenneth W. Starr
- 1993 British Travellers Report on the White Conquest of the Trans-Mississippi West, 1865-1905 (PDF format) 189KB, by Professor R.A. Burchell