Our goal with the “Great Figures of the 20th Century” Weekend Seminars series will be to examine the worldviews and leadership styles of four key individuals – Churchill, Reagan, Thatcher, and Ben-Gurion – in order to surface underlying questions about statesmanship. We will ask questions such as: What is statesmanship? How does one recognize it? And if one can, in fact, speak of statesmanship, what are (or should be) its fundamental constituent components?

These seminars are not intended to be mere biographical surveys of great lives well lived. Our goal, ideally, will be to spend some time covering the basic narratives of what transpired during each figure’s career, but then to engage in extended, thoughtful seminar-style discussion of the issues that these events and narratives raise, exploring their unfolding in our past and reflecting on their implications for our future. We will hope not to simply learn about our figures, but from them.

Photos courtesy U.S. Department of Defense |  White House Photographic Office

Steve Hayward on the statesmanship of Ronald Reagan


Steven F. Hayward

Steven F. Hayward is a senior resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute, and a visiting lecturer at Boalt Hall Law School. Hayward is the author of a two-volume narrative history of Ronald Reagan and his effect on American political life, The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964-1980, and The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counter-Revolution, 1980-1989.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session



Discussion Questions: 

  1. What did Ronald Reagan’s rise reveal about the changing character of the Republican Party and the American electorate at large?
  2. What are the distinctive aspects of “A Time for Choosing” that make it “vintage Reagan”?
  3. What was the core of Reagan’s critique of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society?
  4. How did Reagan differ from conventional Republicans?



Discussion Questions: 

  1. What was the perception of the balance of power between the East and West when Reagan took office in 1981?
  2. What was Reagan’s strategy for reorienting America’s approach to the Soviet Union? In what ways did it represent a counterintuitive revision of the historic bipartisan consensus of post-war “containment”?



Discussion Questions: 

  1. Why was Reagan’s “strategic defense initiative” proposal so controversial with nearly everyone?
  2. What was Reagan’s strategy for hastening the collapse of Communism? What weaknesses in the Soviet Union did Reagan and Gorbachev both perceive?
  3. What long-term lessons should be learned from the end of the Cold War, and Reagan’s strategy for ending it?

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