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Union University Dept of History

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Pulitzer Prize Winner Serves as Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lecturer on October 29

Oct 29, 2009
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer, University Professor and Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University, served as the Thirteenth Annual Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lecture Series speaker at Union University on October 29, 2009. He gave two lectures and was the guest of honor at a special dinner.

In an afternoon lecture presented to more than 100 people, Professor Fischer spoke on the topic of “A Great French Leader in North America: Samuel de Champlain among the American Indians.” Fischer pointed out that early in his life Champlain participated in the sixteenth-century French Wars of Religion as a soldier fighting for French King Henry IV. As a result of his experiences, Champlain came to hate war and to embrace toleration. Fischer showed how Champlain took his ideas to the new world (Canada) where he encouraged peace and toleration among peoples of different cultures. In his efforts, Champlain established a system of co-existence between the French and North American Indian tribes, where young Frenchmen lived among the Indians and took Indian brides; Champlain’s hope was that they would eventually become one people. In his conclusion, Fischer stated that while New France became less tolerant after Champlain, the French leader did leave behind a sense of humanity that became deeply ingrained in the Canadian spirit.

Dr. Fischer presented another lecture in the evening on “Leaders in an Open Society: The Presidencies of Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama.” Fischer began by pointing out that Americans on a number of occasions have stated that the three presidents they most respect in U.S. history are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. The keys to these three presidents’ success were their ability to lead according to principles that inspired large numbers of Americans, to include political rivals in their cabinets, and to provide governance from somewhere close to the political center. According to Fischer, President Barack Obama is aware of the leadership styles that these three presidents used, and he has attempted to govern with a similar approach in his own presidency. Fischer added, however, that it is too soon to reach a verdict on the success of President Obama’s administration. Over 700 people from Union University, area high schools, and the West Tennessee community at-large attended this event.

In addition to his lectures, Dr. Fischer attended a special dinner in his honor and did a book signing that included his Pulitzer Prize-winning work Washington’s Crossing.


Dr. Stephen Carls, the coordinator of the Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lecture Series, introduces Dr. David Hackett Fischer at the October 29 afternoon lecture on Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec.


Early in his talk about Samuel de Champlain, Professor David Hackett Fischer asks attendees a question about where they live.


A crowd of more than 100 people listen to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer talk about Samuel de Champlain on October 29.


Dr. James Patterson (front left) and Dr. Michael Hayes (front right) listen with great interest to Professor David Hackett Fischer’s lecture on Samuel de Champlain.


History major Savannah German gives complete attention to Dr. David Hackett Fischer’s October 29 lecture on the French leader Samuel de Champlain.


Dr. David Hackett Fischer makes a point while having coffee and conversation with history department faculty members on October 29.


Professor David Hackett Fischer talks about his life as an historian at a special dinner in his honor on October 29. Seated by him at the head table are (starting on the left and going clockwise) Dr. Terry Lindley, Mr. Harbert Alexander, Dr. Carla Sanderson (Union’s Provost), Dr. David Dockery (Union’s President), and Dr. David Thomas. Dr. Judy LeForge (left) and Mr. Robert Briley of Jackson’s North Side High School are visible at the back table.


Union University President Dr. David Dockery welcomes the more than 700 people attending Dr. David Hackett Fischer’s October 29 evening lecture on “Leaders in an Open Society: The Presidencies of Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama”


Pulitzer Prize Winner David Hackett Fischer talks about presidents in an open society on October 29.


Union student Hannah Morgan and Dr. David Hackett Fischer exchange greetings as he prepares to sign a copy of his book Washington’s Crossing for her after his evening lecture on October 29.