David M. Kennedy

Biography: 

David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945.

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Recent Commentary

Thinking Historically about Grand Strategy

by David M. Kennedyvia Analysis
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

David M. Kennedy places the group’s work within a historical context, showing that “[i]solationism was, arguably, the most long-lived and successful grand strategy” in the nation’s history. One lesson from that history that might prove instructive today is that sharp calculations of cost should be weighed against the prospective benefits of any foreign policy initiative.

David M. Kennedy

Bring Back The Draft

by Peter M. Robinsonwith Edwin Meese III, David M. Kennedyvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Under President Nixon, in 1973 the United States abolished the draft, moving to an all-volunteer armed forces. Now some—most notably New York congressman Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—have called for a reinstatement of the draft. Is this a good idea? What lessons from history can we call on to help answer this question? And what impact would the reinstatement of the draft have on society as a whole and the military in particular? Peter Robinson speaks with David Kennedy and Edwin Meese. (33:11) Video transcript

THE RELUCTANT EMPIRE: Is America an Imperial Power?

with Niall Ferguson, David M. Kennedyvia Uncommon Knowledge
Thursday, October 16, 2003

George W. Bush, during the 2000 presidential campaign said that "America has never been an empire... We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused." Was then-candidate Bush right when he made those remarks? Or has America become an imperial power in all but name? How do America's unique historical circumstances predispose it to handle the unrivaled power it holds in the world today? And what lessons can we draw from our nearest historical antecedent, the British Empire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?

IN DEFENSE OF LIBERALISM: American Liberalism in the Twenty-first Century

with David M. Kennedy, George McGovernvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Fifty years ago, critic Lionel Trilling declared that "in the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition." Today, however, even most Democrats avoid calling themselves liberal. What happened to the liberal tradition in the second half of the twentieth century? What does liberalism stand for at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Can liberals reclaim their once-dominant position in American politics, or is their ideology history?

LEADERSHIP IN WARTIME: Civilian Leaders in Time of War

with Eliot Cohen, David M. Kennedyvia Uncommon Knowledge
Thursday, January 16, 2003

In the modern democratic era, it's not uncommon for elected leaders to have little or no military training or experience. It has become an accepted notion that political leaders should therefore leave battle plans and campaign decisions to the military commanders and avoid "micromanaging" war. But is that notion correct? Or was Clemenceau right when he said that "war is too important to be left to the generals"? What lessons can we learn from studying the greatest wartime leaders, such as Lincoln, Churchill, and FDR?

DONKEY KONG: The Future of the Democratic Party

with David M. Kennedy, Susan F. Raskyvia Uncommon Knowledge
Monday, May 21, 2001

In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won reelection to a second term in one of the biggest landslides in American history. The outcome was a clear mandate in support of FDR's New Deal—an agenda of large-scale social and economic programs administered by the federal government. Sixty years later, in 1996, William Jefferson Clinton also won reelection to a second term, after declaring earlier that year that "the era of big government was over." How did the Democratic Party get from FDR to Bill Clinton? Now that the Democrats are out of the White House, will they continue the move to the center that Clinton initiated, or will they try to reinvigorate the traditional liberal base of the Democratic Party? Does that traditional base still exist?

ELEPHANTS ON PARADE: Conservatism in Modern America

with David M. Kennedy, Sam Tanenhausvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, October 3, 2000

For the last half of the twentieth century, the conservative movement in the United States was defined by two prominent doctrines: first, containment of the Soviet Union, and second, an effort to roll back the expansion of the federal government that began with the New Deal. With the first adversary out of existence, and the second in retreat, what does American conservatism stand for today? We look back to the roots of the conservative movement, its guiding principles and its leading proponents, including William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. We look to the future of American conservatism: Will it remain a unified movement or will internal tensions break it apart?

THAT '70S SHOW: The Meaning of the 1970s

with David Frum, David M. Kennedyvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Some argue that all of the major cultural trends that we associate with modern America entered the mainstream in the 1970s. What was unique about the 1970s? Should we emphasize the impact of '70s over that of the '50s and '60s?

THEY'RE COMING TO AMERICA

with Peter Brimelow, David M. Kennedyvia Uncommon Knowledge
Thursday, November 13, 1997

Peter Brimelow, author, Alien Nation, and media fellow, Hoover Institution, and David Kennedy, professor of history, Stanford University, air their divergent opinions on immigration.