‘Reading Obama’ focus of author meets critic event at Linfield

James Kloppenberg“Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, & the American Political Tradition” will be the topic of discussion when the book’s author meets a critic of his work Monday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium in Melrose Hall at Linfield College.

James T. Kloppenberg of Harvard University, the author of “Reading Obama,” and Peter Berkowitz of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution will have the opportunity to comment on the book, followed by a discussion.

Derided by the Right as dangerous and by the Left as spineless, Obama does not fit contemporary partisan categories. Instead, his writings and speeches reflect a principled aversion to absolutes that derives from sustained engagement with American democratic thought. In “Reading Obama,” Kloppenberg covers the sources of Obama’s commitment to democratic deliberation: the books he has read, the visionaries who have inspired him, the social movements and personal struggles that have shaped his thinking. Kloppenberg says that Obama’s positions on social justice, religion, race, family and America’s role in the world do not stem from a desire to please everyone but from deeply rooted – although currently unfashionable – convictions about how a democracy must deal with difference and conflict.

Following Kloppenberg’s remarks, Berkowitz will offer some critical comments on those arguments. Once each has offered their prepared remarks, there will be time for them to engage in conversation with one another and with the audience.

Kloppenberg is the Charles Warren Professor of American History and chair of the History Department at Harvard University. His books include “Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920” (Oxford University Press); “The Virtues of Liberalism” (Oxford University Press); and “A Companion to American Thought” (Wiley-Blackwell).

Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the author of “Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism” (Princeton University Press, 1999) and “Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist” (Harvard University Press, 1995). He worked as a senior foreign policy advisor to the Giuliani 2008 campaign and served as a senior consultant to the President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics.

The program, which is free and open to the public, is supported by the Edith Green Endowed Lecture Fund and Dean’s Speakers Fund at Linfield and the Charles G. Koch Foundation. For more information, contact Nick Buccola, assistant professor of political science, 503-883-2246, nbuccol@linfield.edu.