Seminars & Adult Ed

Joe casualI’m grateful to Chicago’s Newberry Library and Oakton Community College for the opportunity to lead interesting, engaging adults in programs on topics in history and political thought.

I remind my participants at the outset of each course that I am not a scholar. I have not done full-time, exhaustive research into any one area of history. Like the participants, I am a “citizen reader,” one who relies on the work of scholars to understand the dynamics of human history and the legacies we live under today.

Some of my topics may seem strictly historical, even obscure. However, with few exceptions, they deal with formative thoughts and events which profoundly shaped our country and world, leaving a legacy of ideas and practices which we usually take for granted.

My abiding purpose is to lead citizens in conscious consideration of the origins and progress of our ideas of rights, sovereignty, citizenship, and public morality.  Without this kind of active consideration, we become passive subjects rather than active citizens. We effectively surrender civic rights our forebears struggled to establish.

Here is a list of topics I have presented over the years:


  • Three Writers and Revolution: Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Edmund Burke
  • The Moral Breakthrough to Capitalism
  • Political Economy: Adam Smith and his Contemporaries
  • Debating the Constitution: The Federalist Papers and anti-Federalist Essays
  • The Origins and Adoption of the Bill of Rights


  • The Irrepressible Conflict: The Debate Over Slavery, 1830-60
  • Secession and War: The Crisis of the Union, 1860-61
  • Lincoln’s Road to Emancipation, 1861-63
  • Conscription, Race, and Citizenship, 1861-64
  • The Civil War and Our Constitution
  • The Diplomacy of the Civil War
  • The Moral History of the Civil War
  • Myth, Memory, and the Meaning of Reconstruction


  • Tumult and Transition: Canada, Mexico, and the United States, 1857-67
  • The Challenges of the Habsburgs
  • European Colonial Expansion and Rivalries
  • Mandate for Mobilization: The Franco-Russian Alliance and World War I


  • World War I and the Western Hemisphere
  • Folly and Fury: The Diplomacy of the Mexican Revolution
  • War Without End: Failed Attempts to End World War I


  • US-Russian Relations, 1918-2018
  • Obama’s Favorite Philosopher: Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Realism
  • George Kennan and the American Century
  • Peace in Our Time: How Violence Has Actually Declined
  • War, Peace, and Social Democracy


  • The Political Thought of the Reformation Era