The penultimate week of the Political Studies Program examines statesmanship. Statesmanship is distinct from ordinary political leadership. It suggests a certain quality of excellence in leadership, character, and judgment.

The first section will examine the thought and political strategy of two of America’s most consequential presidents – Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan – with a particular emphasis on how national leaders assemble electoral coalitions and then use those after the election to change the country’s trajectory. The second section will consider a range of classic and contemporary authors – from Aristotle to Churchill, Edmund Burke to Václav Havel – to explore the phenomenon of statesmanship as it relates to other political phenomena including virtue, founding, revolution, war, and dissent. Both sections will conclude by considering the statesman’s role in a democracy and whether political greatness is still possible today.

Image: Winston Churchill at the Europa Conference in The Hague, 1948

Flagg Taylor on Havel & dissent


Henry Olsen

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. Mr. Olsen is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post, where he writes daily pieces focusing on politics, populism, foreign affairs and American conservative thought.

Flagg Taylor

Flagg Taylor is an Associate Professor of Government at Skidmore College, and serves on the Academic Council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He is editor most recently of The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Václav Benda, 1977–1989. He is currently writing a book on Czech dissent in the 1970s and 1980s.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

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