Author Archives: Jennifer Shyue

Names in the News: Smith To Head Swarthmore, Singer ’97 on the Rise of Robots, and More

Princeton Dean Valerie Smith will be Swarthmore’s next president. (Brian Wilson/Office of Communications)

Princeton Dean Valerie Smith will be Swarthmore’s next president. (Brian Wilson/Office of Communications)

Dean of the College VALERIE SMITH was named the 15th president of Swarthmore College on Feb. 21. She will be Swarthmore’s first African American president, as well as its second female president. At Princeton, Smith was also the founding director of the Center for American Studies and is currently the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and a professor of English and African American Studies. She will begin her duties at Swarthmore on July 1. In a Philadephia Inquirer interview, Gil Kemp, chair of Swarthmore’s board of trustees, said of Smith, “I think this is a marvelous fit … Her awareness of our distinctive competence, focus on academic rigor, commitment to the common good — it’s a marvelous confluence.”

In an op-ed for CNN.com, New America Foundation Strategist and Senior Fellow PETER W. SINGER ’97 writes about the rise of the robot in modern warfare. As robots become increasingly more automated, he explains, debates over their place in battle have become more complicated. He concludes, however, that “one thing is clear: Like the present, the future of war will be robotic.”

Former Tennessee senator BILL FRIST ’74 and former Georgia representative JIM MARSHALL ’72 penned a Washington Post op-ed about their suggested reforms to the Veterans Health Administration. Their piece coincided with the release of a report by the Fixing Veterans Health Care task force, of which Frist and Marshall are co-chairs. Continue reading

David Treuer ’92’s Novel Explores Secrets and Desire in World War II-era America

David Treuer ’92

David Treuer ’92

It is August 1942. Frankie Washburn has left his life as a Princeton student to return to the Pines, his family’s rustic Minnesota home on an Indian reservation, one last time before he joins the Air Force. Waiting for him are his parents; the Indian caretaker he spent childhood summers quietly shadowing; Billy, a longtime friend who has become something much more intimate; and the news that a German prisoner-of-war has escaped from the camp across the river.

The search for the German soldier culminates in a shocking act of violence with consequences that will shape the characters’ lives. In Prudence, David Treuer ’92 pushes the boundaries of gender, race, and sexual orientation to tell a story of loss and desire in World War II-era America. Nobel Prize-winning author and professor emeritus Toni Morrison calls the novel “a wondrous and mesmerizing narrative — intricate, seductive, and wholly gratifying.” Continue reading

Slavery in Jamaica and the Antebellum South Brought to Life in A Tale of Two Plantations

Richard S. Dunn *52 *55

Richard S. Dunn *52 *55

Historian Richard S. Dunn *52 *55 has spent the last 40 years constructing a portrait of the final decades of slavery. In A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, Dunn draws a richly compelling history of the lives of three generations of slaves at the Mesopotamia sugar estate in Jamaica and the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia.

“Slavery caused terrible suffering to the black people in both regions,” Dunn writes, “but in strikingly dissimilar ways.” At Mesopotamia, Dunn found, life was marked by deadly work regimens, rampant disease, and dependence on the slave trade for new laborers. At Mount Airy, families often were broken up as “surplus” slaves were sold or moved to other work sites. More than 200 of the estate’s slaves were sent 800 miles away, Dunn found in his study of the papers left behind by the owners. Dunn provides a detailed account of the lives of two enslaved women: field hand Sarah Affir from Mesopotamia and Winney Grimshaw at Mount Airy. Continue reading

Zelizer Re-examines President Johnson and the “Great Society”

Professor Julian Zelizer

Professor Julian Zelizer

In the three years between November 1963, when he became president, and November 1966, when the Democratic Party was routed in the midterm elections, Lyndon Johnson pushed through Congress the legislative accomplishments of the “Great Society:” the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty program, Medicare and Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, and the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

Previous assessments of Johnson’s presidency have attributed his success to a receptive Congress and his force of personality, buttressed by his 6-foot-4-inch stature and his use of “the Treatment,” which history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer describes as “physically and verbally bullying, cajoling, lobbying, and threatening.”

9781594204340_large_The_Fierce_Urgency_of_NowIn The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, Zelizer questions that view. He examines the crucial role Congress played in passing and eventually blocking initiatives driven by the president, as well as the larger political climate that was conducive to change-making legislation. He argues that “the work of grassroots activists and changes in the power structure of Congress enabled a liberal president to fulfill his grand legislative ambition — the creation of a second New Deal that would complete the work of Franklin Roosevelt.”

Kirkus Reviews calls The Fierce Urgency of Now “a smart, provocative study.” Alan Krueger, a Princeton professor of economics and public policy and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, writes, “Zelizer’s book is a valuable antidote to all those who say we just need Barack Obama to be more like Lyndon Johnson to get things done in Washington.”

Reexamining the Life of Civil War General Stonewall Jackson

S.C. Gwynne ’74

S.C. Gwynne ’74

When Thomas J. Jackson began his Civil War career, he was known among his students at the Virginia Military Institute as the college’s worst teacher, a literalist when it came to following military orders, and an implausible star in the Mexican-American War. He also was a confirmed Unionist who hated the very idea of the tremendous conflict that secession would bring. Despite his aversion to war, the man known as Stonewall Jackson became one of the greatest Southern heroes of the Civil War.

As S.C. Gwynne ’74 writes in Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, in a war that “made a specialty of such changes,” Jackson’s transformation stands out. With the same vivid prose that marked his previous book, Pulitzer Prize finalist Empire of the Summer Moon, Gwynne offers a fresh perspective on the life of the man who, 14 months after the start of the war, had become the most famous military figure in the Western world.

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Forty-five Years After Its Publication, John Brooks ’42’s Business Book Is a Hit

John Brooks ’42

John Brooks ’42

An impassioned endorsement from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has put a long-forgotten business book by John Brooks ’42 on the bestseller lists.

Gates called Business Adventures, which came out in 1969, “the best business book I’ve ever read” in a blog post in July. He also mentioned that the book initially was loaned to him by fellow business titan Warren Buffett. Business Adventures is a collection of essays on topics ranging from the Ford Edsel to the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain. Brooks, who died in 1993, wrote the pieces for The New Yorker, where he was a staff writer.

The book had been out of print, but publishers rushed to re-issue it. It since has made The New York Times best-seller list.
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