R.W. Emerson’s Saxons by Nell Painter

Distinguished scholar Nell Irvin Painter offers an extraordinary analysis of Ralph W. Emerson’s “English Traits” and its historical importance in the Journal of American History (March 2009).

If you cannot get a copy quickly, here is a video of the lecture that shaped the essay.


Pat Buchanan, Bill O’Reilly, and Tim Wise

Bill O’Reilly recently claimed that Democrats and liberals believe that white men are the problem with society. Tim Wise (among several students of white identity) concisely responds that it is not the men themselves, but the attitudes and behaviors they offer in regards to women and people of color that need to change. Making those changes does not require a political realignment. It is simply a recognition of every human being’s inherent value.

Pat Buchanan is the single most famous example of the resistance to this realization among white men in the United States. In the aftermath of the “Lone Wolf” assassinations over the last six months, I appreciate the essay on Buchanan’s career of racial and gender smears that appeared on Media Matters. Perhaps one day, these views will receive their proper rebuttal on the national stage whenever they appear.

Walter Cronkite, broadcast news anchorWalter Cronkite, broadcast news anchor

* Urgent Political Notice *

Please take a moment to call Congress and support the major health care reform that will occur this summer.

Thank you in advance for your time.

The Congress will vote on healthcare legislation soon. Please join with President Obama to win quality, affordable healthcare we all can count on in 2009.

Call Senator Specter toll-free Monday through Friday between 9 am and 6 pm at 1-888-436-8427. Urge him to support President Obama’s healthcare plan with a public plan choice (info below).

A Public Health Insurance Plan Option – What is it?

A public health insurance plan option is a key element of healthcare reform proposals from President Obama and leading members of Congress. Individuals could keep their private insurance or join a new public plan.

The new public health insurance plan would be established by the federal government and available to individuals nationwide. It would offer comprehensive benefits and broad access to providers. Individuals’ premiums would be affordable and based on their income. No one would be denied because of pre-existing conditions. Its overhead costs would be signficantly lower than private insurance, which includes profit, advertising and administration.

The plan would be designed to slow the growth in medical costs, inject competition into the private health insurance market, foster payment and delivery system reforms, remedy disparities in access to care and guarantee that high-quality, affordable coverage will be there for individuals and families no matter what happens to their jobs or their health.

For more information visit www.healthcareforamericanow.org

Irreconcilable Differences

President Obama described the opposing sides in the abortion debate as having irreconcilable differences. As I watch California, New Jersey, and many other states struggle to manage their budgets, I wonder if there is also very little common ground when it comes to the debate about state services and funding. More importantly, it may be that the nation has become so polarized on several issues that the process of political deliberation cannot move the nation forward. Has compromise died in American politics?

One of my colleagues has notoriously claimed that it is better to have a benign dictatorship than a functioning democracy. My optimism has led me to resist accepting that premise. I believe there are ways to generate broad public consensus on almost every issue. I fear that too few elected officials are committed to finding that level of agreement in the Congress or the state legislatures. When voters choose to risk state bankruptcy to resist one-day furloughs for state workers or to encourage the release of felons, popular perspective on the fiscal needs of democracy has been lost. These events are the consequence of irresponsible calls to reject all taxation over the last forty-five years.

In Pakistan, the Army and the clergy are fighting for control of the country. The lack of strong civic institutions like a consistent judiciary, widespread public education, responsible banks, trustworthy legislators, and an insightful academy make the possibility of a failed state under Taliban rule a threat to global peace. In Philadelphia, reformer politicians propose to slash municipal services in one month, then expand income, property, and sales taxes in the next, before returning to plans for service reduction in the last few weeks. Murder, arson, and robbery continue to afflict the most vulnerable in the city and its suburbs.

We need to find common ground about local, state, and national politics in the United States. The achievement of transparent, accountable democracy with an array of functioning, national institutions provides the most succinct statement showing the inadequacy of Islamic fundamentalism. Supporters of the President and his agenda must take additional steps to make this achievement real. We must build the institutions — financial, educational, political, and cultural — we want to work in this world. We cannot afford the price of failed compromises and irreconcilable discourse.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

Blackness and Whiteness as Historical Forces (new essay)

My review essay covering Kevin Gaines’ “Uplifting the Race”, Nikhil Pal Singh’s “Black is a Country”, Adolph Reed’s “Stirrings in the Jug”, Tim Wise’s “White Like Me”, and David Roediger’s “Colored White” and “Working Toward Whiteness” appeared in the January-March 2009 issue of “Multicultural Perspectives.”

Give it a look if you have the chance.


“At the core of the epistemology of black identity in the twentieth century United States is the assertion that freedom is a human right, not a privilege to be earned. By the late nineteenth century, an ideology of racial uplift had emerged that revolved around four concepts – compassion, service, education, and a commitment to social and economic justice for all citizens, as Kevin Gaines notes in Uplifting the Race. (1996) These elements would form the foundation for black identity and the argument for racial integration in the United States. It was the strength of these ideals that ultimately civilized a plurality of American citizens between 1955 and 1965, resulting in the landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement (the Brown decision, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the confrontations in Selma and Birmingham (Alabama), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965). For the first time in American history, white Americans publicly rejected the legitimacy of white supremacy as a pillar of civilization. This is no small accomplishment.”


Tim Wise and a precocious youngster share a laugh at Ursinus College.
Tim Wise and a precocious youngster share a laugh at Ursinus College.

New Encyclopedia of African American History

I’m very proud to announce my contributions to the Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896-present. It is an outstanding work that will help everyone understand the significance of the 2008 election and the way race issues continue to shape structural power in the United States and around the world.

I hope you will recommend the encyclopedia to your local library, church, or community organization.

Thank you!


Oxford University Press is pleased to announce the recent publication of the Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present, a beautiful five-volume set documenting important events that have shaped African American society and American culture. Its publication marked a special moment in history; you might be interested to know that Oxford held press to be able to include and commemorate Barack Obama’s groundbreaking victory in November’s presidential election.

We are extremely pleased by the reaction to this set by the public. Over the past year, we’ve been busy reaching out to scholars, researchers, students and readers with an interest in American and African American history with great success.

We’d also like to extend a special offer to your friends and colleagues.

For a limited time, your family, friends and colleagues are eligible to receive a 10% discount off of the introductory price of $495.00. Have your contacts visit http://www.oup.com/us and type in promotion code: 27818 in the top right corner of the screen. Please encourage your friends and colleagues to purchase this set by August 1, 2009 to SAVE!

Some of New Jersey's leaders of the National Council of Negro Women in 1941.
Some of New Jersey’s leaders of the National Council of Negro Women in 1941.

President Obama’s Agenda

Six months ago, one of the largest Democratic electoral majorities in the last fifty years delivered the presidency to Barack Obama. His agenda for responsible governance, domestic infrastructure development, global energy alternatives, and the destruction of terrorist networks convinced millions of people to blaze a new path of citizen leadership in the twenty-first century. In suburban Pennsylvania, a coalition constituted from every generation stood together to deliver the entire state for the President, despite the opposition from small-town newspapers and municipal official committed to the failed, fractured politics of sprawl. Now, as schools conclude their academic calendars and families look to the summer break, we have a chance to make the opportunities of the current government real in our daily lives. We can follow the example of the Villanova Wildcats Final Four basketball team in our communities where we and our neighbors can create a metropolitan society greater than the sum of its parts.

Municipal and school board politics must come into clear focus over the next six months. President Obama’s budget and stimulus packages will be implemented through the state legislatures. Citizens who want change in their lives must contact their state representative, state senator, and governor’s office to build a floor under the global financial recession. For the unemployed and underemployed, these contacts are especially important. The benefits that the President has established for us provide the means to continue paying mortgages, covering medical bills, and having a day or a weekend to travel and celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day with our loved ones. We can all use the time and resources our states provide to create a new sense of financial imagination in our homes. Engaging our school boards and municipal councils can change curriculum to encourage more scientific accomplishment in the classroom, leading to the new medical, engineering, and energy industries in our towns. Americans must be committed to developing new small businesses in their homes by using the incentives and stabilization the government will provide for the next two years. A good business can start with $500 and grow to earn $100,000 within that time frame. It could become a serious start-up or micro-enterprise with a gross income nearing $5 million within a decade. For too long, too many of us have been content with a single-salary in our lives. President Obama has opened the door to real wealth for all Americans, especially those who have never had a similar chance over the last century.

The cost of the dramatically expanded opportunity structure is the re-establishment of global political stability. China, Russia, Venezuela, and Iran must find ways to work constructively with the United States in expanding the framework of economic growth beyond the nineteenth century foundations of Europe and North America. Afghanistan and Pakistan represent the most promising areas for collaboration as the world comes together to destroy the violence of religious terrorism. North Korea must also be held accountable for its destabilizing actions in northeast Asia. All of these opportunities offer chances for the largest societies on Earth to demonstrate that peace is the only path to prosperity. President Obama will also have to engage the instabilities on the African continent and establish stronger connections there to compete with China’s aggressive investment. Average Americans must be the engaged diplomats and soldiers of this enormous set of global policies. Joining the National Guard, serving in the Armed Forces, and helping international development through agencies like Habitat for Humanity must become priorities for every American, especially those under the age of 25. These forms of global service could be rewarded with naturalization, financial aid remission, and public capital investment in new ventures. Domestic development becomes international stability.

We can accomplish the President’s agenda most profoundly by dismantling the racial barriers in our neighborhoods and school districts aggressively over the next generation. Too often, suburban communities have replicated the patterns of urban segregation that existed in cities dating back to 1810. The processes of uneven development in our metropolitan regions undermined the stable and efficient growth of our economy, creating distrust and cynicism where there should have been optimism and creativity. In Pennsylvania, the divisions between Bensalem, Norristown, Pottstown, Phoenixville, and Coatesville as communities and Newtown, North Wales, Pottsgrove, Kimberton, and Radnor reflect artificial assumptions tinged with the lies of racism. These metropolitan barriers to growth affect every part of the country — sometimes consuming entire states. It is time for the institutions of wealth and the captains of industry to join hands with the community activists and civil rights organizers to lead the change in building the most efficient, transparent, and accountable economy in world history. Collaboration at the state and local level between macro-economic capital and the social justice infrastructure will transform both the regulatory system at the federal level and the historic denial of opportunity at the school district level. This process begins with conversation, and the social networks of the Internet provide an extraordinary opportunity to realize it.

My employer, Ursinus College, ranked among the top ten institutions in the United States for providing value to our students based on our tuition. (Smart Money magazine, January 2009) We are an enterprise dedicated to the process of global engagement and the transformative leadership of the individual in a dynamic world system. In many ways, Ursinus has pioneered the strategies that President Obama proposes for the United States and the world. The paradigm shift the President represents must not remain strictly symbolic. The only way it can transcend the imagery and rhetoric is if every person takes her responsibility to live a new life of international awareness. Six months is a long time. I believe we have seen a template since November. I believe we can all make change real before October.

Groovy but Smoother than Moves by Villanova

Nas wrote this lyric after the Kerry Kittles and Eric Eberz Wildcat team of 1994 won the National Invitation Tournament (not to mention the Big East title in 1995). Kittles led a team of resurgent Villanovans, establishing the team’s local and regional dominance after the difficult transition from Rollie Massimino to Steve Lappas. Those teams will always be my Wildcats first because they were on campus with me.

When sports radio asked who were the five greatest Wildcats of the last generation in basketball, I said Kerry Kittles, Randy Foye, Ed Pinckney, Doug West, and Malik Allen. My five respects the different eras of success under the three coaches who characterized excellence for Villanova University. It is a team that could complete against the ten greatest teams of all-time from any school in the country. More importantly, each man is a distinctive examplar of honor and integrity who shows that it is possible to balance athletics and academics with leadership to craft successful careers in whatever field they chose. They are role models in every sense of the word.

Jay Wright reflects the cumulative greatness of the Wildcat’s all-time best players. He has seized his rightful recognition as one of the top five coaches in American basketball today. His offensive and defensive designs defeated a fading program at Duke and one of the toughest teams this year in Pittsburgh. Wright balances discipline and creativity on offense, while channeling intensity into performance on defense. I applaud his achievement this past weekend and celebrate his standing as the best coach at Villanova yet, regardless of the outcome in Michigan next weekend.

As long as these 2009 Wildcats continue to play every possession on defense as a smothering unit dedicated to creating turnovers and securing rebounds, they will have the chance to create more magic moments like Dwayne Anderson’s three-point shot and Scott Reynolds’ driving layup. Jay Wright is a better coach than Roy Williams. Villanova is a better team than North Carolina. Many of us already know these facts. More have the chance to learn this weekend.

It ain’t hard to tell.

The Big Time for Jay Wright

Phil Sheridan wrote about Jay Wright’s Philadelphia legacy in this weekend’s Philadelphia Inquirer — http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/homepage/20090322_Phil_Sheridan__Wright_establishing_his_own_legacy_at__Nova.html

Wright has a much larger opportunity in front of him this week. By beating Coach K in the NCAA men’s basketball regional semifinal, he will take a major step forward as a leading coach on the national stage. His successes at Villanova have been notable largely because his defeats at tournament time arrived at the hands of eventual champions.

The same result must not occur this year.

Villanova University has transformed itself from a provincial island of an educational institution into a dynamic, world-class university over the last twenty five years. The prominence of the basketball program contributed heavily to this transformation — both in terms of public relations, budget revenues, and alumni giving.

Wright does not have to win a national title to affect a new level of capital success for University President, Father Peter Donahue. However, a Final Four appearance in one of the most competitive tournaments in recent memory would provide an enormous lift to the school.

It could also provide a leading light to Philadelphia as a resurgent city over the next year. The Phillies baseball championship broke William Penn’s curse (along with the small statue at the top of the Comcast Building). Metropolitan Philadelphia continues to grow dramatically as the cultural and economic hub between New York and Washington. Villanova could position itself as one of the top five schools in the region — with increased national and international appeal — if next weekend is as victorious as this past one.

For Wright, the implications are much more personal, however. He is a charismatic and creative leader of young men. He is probably the most popular of the local coaches right now. However, he has not shown the same strategic command of X’s and O’s on the court that Phil Martelli or Fran Dunphy has. Wright’s imprint of toughness and athleticism shines on his players as they challenge and overcome bigger, stronger opponents. It is time for him to bring that same edge and attitude to this confrontation with Coach K.

Beating Duke establishes Jay Wright as one of the nation’s top 5 coaches for the next decade, especially with the outstanding recruiting class he has compiled for the 2009-2010 season.

I stand behind you, Jay. All of Nova Nation does.