Washington Center

Presidency/Executive Branch Seminar / Quarter/Semester

Core Seminar
Seminar 318

Quarter: 01/04/12 to 03/16/12
Semester: 01/04/12 to 4/20/12

The White House, located in the heart of downtown Washington and just a ten minute walk from UCDC, is an international symbol that simultaneously highlights the lofty promise of American democracy and reflects the significant flaws in the American experiment. This research seminar will examine the strengths and drawbacks of presidential leadership, the evolving role of the presidency in American culture, and introduce students to some major thematic debates that define presidential politics. The seminar will draw on the city of Washington as an experience through visits to current and former White House aides, news correspondents, and political and policy experts. Seminar topics include how presidents have sought to enact their reform agendas from the New Deal to Reagan's economic program to President Obama's health reform law; how they have struggled to manage foreign affairs while leading the U.S. in wartime; why Congress, the Supreme Court, and the news media thwart and assist presidential agendas at different moments; how presidents have harnessed the bully pulpit in the modern age to rally voters to their ideas, push their policies, and position themselves for re-election; and how they have pursued various strategies for manipulating a highly volatile, increasingly hostile Washington media climate.

The seminar is designed for UCDC students interning in the executive branch, the news media, or other organizations whose work is affected by the conduct of the presidency. During the term, students will pick a research topic that interests them (and has a loose connection to their internships), conduct original research into their topic, and draft a research paper and a series of applied writing assignments including a White House policy memo, a presidential press release and a political or policy speech about their chosen issue. In-class lectures and discussions of the readings will be a vital part of this course, and the seminar will also feature guest lectures, field trips to relevant places of historical interest in Washington, and visits with White House staff in the White House complex.

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