Ira Shapiro, “The Last Great Senate”

The Last Great Senate
May 8, 2012

On May 8, 2012 Ira Shapiro came to the Roosevelt House to discuss his book entitled The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis. In examining the Congresses of the 1960s and 1970s, Shapiro reminds us that the Legislature can be a vehicle for great national reform and leadership. Jonathan Fanton introduced Professor Shapiro and The Last Great Senate. This event was part of Roosevelt House’s “Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges on the Way to the Election of 2012” series.  

Good Evening, I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the historic home of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Tonight’s conversation with Ira Shapiro on his book The Last Great Senate is part of a Roosevelt House series on the Road to the Election of 2012. Please pick up a flier which describes other programs which we hope will be of interest to you. We began the series with a conference on the domestic accomplishments of Lyndon Johnson, a preview of what the Last Great Senate accomplished.

I think FDR would be pleased that we are having this conversation in his home this evening, moderated by Jonathan Alter who gave the very first talk in the Roosevelt House book series on The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.

FDR understood the importance of a great Congress. Hear his words, in a June 1934 Fireside Chat on the record of the Seventy-third Congress: “Congress displayed a greater freedom from mere partisanship than any other peace-time Congress since the Administration of President Washington himself. The session was distinguished by the extent and variety of legislation enacted and by the intelligence and good will of debate upon these measures.”

While FDR would not be happy about our current Congress, which, according to a recent Gallup Poll, has the support of only 10% of all Americans, he would have admired the Last Great Senate. And used it.

Ira Shapiro has written an important book that reminds us there is more at stake in this fall’s election than the Presidency. The Last Great Senate is a call to action. As Ira Shapiro put it so eloquently: “What is most urgently needed is for Senators to act like Senators, not partisan operatives. They should not mirror, and even exacerbate, the nation’s divisions. They were sent to Washington to overcome them.”

It is my pleasure now to introduce Peter Osnos who will open tonight’s program. He is an active member of Roosevelt House’s Board of Advisors, and we benefit enormously from his experience as a journalist, editor and publisher.

Early in his career he was both foreign and national editor of the Washington Post, then a senior editor at Random House until he founded PublicAffairs in 1997. PublicAffairs is the leading publisher of books that advance our understanding of public lives and policies they have shaped including books by or about Robert McNamara, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Barack Obama.

And about issues important to our democracy including the government response to 9/11 (William Shawcross’ Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and/or Aki Peritz and Eric Rosenbach’s Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed Bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda), global antipoverty initiatives (Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee’s Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty) education policy (Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All), and corporate decision-making (George Soros’ Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States and/or Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele’s The Betrayal of the American Dream). The Last Great Senate deepens the tradition.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the best publisher of our time, Peter Osnos.

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