20th Century Social Movements & Servant Leadership: Exploring Private and Public Responsibility in American History


Jasper Johns, Flag (1954)


We will spend the first part of the course analyzing and discussing the nature of American identity and character by examining a series of famous American documents, speeches and essays (including the Declaration of Independence to Mark Twain, JFK, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King).  Our purpose will be to fully explore where we come from as a nation and how that has shaped our understanding of our obligations to our country, communities, and ourselves as citizens.  One important question will be to examine the American value of individualism and whether that has caused us to ignore at times our duties to the world around us.  With that foundation, we will then proceed to examine how those American ideals and cultural charateristics have played out in our history by examining social movements of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  We will look at political and civic leaders, as well as the cultural and social conversation that Americans had about government and civic responsibilities (which will include looking at art and literature of the time).  We will then also look at the rise of conservatism beginning in the 1980s, which is sometimes labeled the "New Gilded Age.”