History 3359: Presidential Personality
5:30-6:50 p.m. MW • Room 013, University Hall
Instructor: Dr. Sam W. Haynes, associate professor of history
Catalog description: This course examines the dynamics of presidential behavior, personality and leadership in their historical contexts. Students will review a select number of chief executives whose backgrounds, careers and management styles enable a better understanding of the extent and limits of presidential power.
About the professor: Dr. Haynes decided to offer this course after writing a biography of President James K. Polk, James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse, Longman, 1997. This year, he served as a consultant for the History Channel's "To the Best of My Ability," a series on the U.S. presidency.
Required reading: Hail to the Chiefs: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents by Robert Dallek; Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin; Richard Nixon: A Psychobiography by Vamik D. Volkan, et al; Andrew Jackson and the Search for Vindication by James Curtis; and Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House by Alexander and Juliette George.
What the prof says: "Ideally, I would like students to gain an understanding of the extent to which personality has shaped the decision-making process in the White House, as well as to explore how those who have held the nation's highest of ce have managed to transform the role of the executive branch. Historians and the general public typically evaluate presidents according to their ability to ful ll speci c policy agendas. Yet the success (or failure) of these 43 individuals often hinges on much less tangible factors. A president's self-image, his ability to project that self-image to others and whether he seeks to resolve crises through compromise or con ict are all ingredients in the calculus of presidential leadership and are important elements in assessing his place in history."
Course format: The 16-week class averages about 20 students and is run in a seminar format, allowing for in-depth discussion of personality and the executive branch. Occasionally, Dr. Haynes shows documentaries on 20th century presidents being discussed. Students are graded on two take-home interpretive essays, five quizzes (one for each of the texts) and a book review of a major presidential biography not included on the reading list.