Messy politics nothing new in the U.S., speaker says

Ronald C. White
Ronald C. White

Strong political polarization and infighting in Congress is nothing new in American politics and has arguably been worse than it is today, according to a historian and author who will speak at Grand Valley State University's Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies on October 20. 

Ronald White will talk about modern political bickering and diametrically opposed sides of the political spectrum in an election year when he talks about "American Ulysses," his biography of President Ulysses S. Grant, who won the presidency in the historically challenging years following the end of the Civil War. 

"This presentation will strike a massively powerful chord with anyone who is invested in what our country is going through right now," said Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. "From political polarization to feelings that the country is changing to one that's no longer recognizable, White will draw amazing parallels between modern day and the biggest political fight of the 19th century."

White will also discuss Grant's legacy and how history tends to reflect on the achievements of two-term presidents over time, which will shed light on the eventual legacy of President Barack Obama, the nation's latest two-term president.

White is a New York Times bestselling author and a contributor to the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesChristian Science Monitor and more. He will bring history to life and give context to today's political events by showing that reputations of leaders change over time.

Ronald White: American Ulysses

October 20, 7 p.m.

Grand Valley State University Pew Grand Rapids Campus, Loosemore Auditorium


Grant was considered one of the greatest leaders in American history in the late 19th century, but during the 20th century, evaluations of Grant's legacy became more critical, Whitney said. 

"In his new book 'American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant,' White has taken years of meticulous research and put together an argument that the time is right for a fresh evaluation of Grant's important contributions to American life," Whitney said. 

This event is presented in partnership with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Library and Museum.