Headline, What It Means to Be American »

Civil War General Oliver Otis Howard Was a Crusader for Ex-Slaves—and a Scourge of Native Americans

By | May 12, 2017

When God first visited him in 1857, Oliver Otis Howard was a lonely army lieutenant battling clouds of mosquitoes in a backwater posting that he described as a “field for self-denial”: Tampa, Florida. Howard had spent his life swimming against powerful tides. Ten when his father died, he had to leave his family in Leeds, Maine, and move in with relatives. Through constant study, he …

Headline, Readings »

The Ghetto’s Complex and Troubled Legacy

By | May 11, 2017

In 2017, we often hear the word “ghetto” come up in music lyrics and casual conversation, out of the mouths of politicians and activists. We know what it means; it needs no explanation. Yet beyond its negative connotations lie 500 years of rich—and relevant—history. Princeton University sociologist Mitchell Duneier, winner of the seventh annual Zócalo Book Prize for Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the …

Headline, Nexus »

Democracy Strikes out at Dodger Stadium

By | May 10, 2017

When Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley opened Dodger Stadium on April 10, 1962, his ticket price structure was simple, straightforward, and inexpensive: $3.50 for box seats, $2.50 for reserved seats, and $1.50 for general admission and the outfield pavilions. That was for every home game, regardless of opponent—whether it was the hated San Francisco Giants, with whom the Dodgers were engaged in an epic …

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How California and Governor Warren Created a Road Map for America’s Interstate System

By | May 9, 2017

In June, Californians should be marking the 70th anniversary of the Collier-Burns Act. But you probably have never heard of it, even though Collier-Burns likely has an everyday impact on your life.
The Collier-Burns Act of 1947 created the California freeway system by substantially raising the gasoline and other motor vehicle taxes and earmarking the resulting revenues for highway construction. If you drive on freeways, …

Headline, Nexus »

After That Infamous Video, Airlines Should Start Auctioning Spaces On Overbooked Flights

By | May 8, 2017

Last month, consumers around the world were disturbed by video showing a passenger being dragged off United Flight 3411 by at least three security guards.
I don’t need to add my opinion to the millions that have been expressed about the incident. But as a professor of operations management, I am interested in the fundamental economic problem that led to the confrontation caught on video: …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

The Faux “Sioux” Sharpshooter Who Rivaled Annie Oakley as a Wild West Sensation

By | May 5, 2017

At about 10:30 a.m. on the morning of August 3, 1901, more than 100,000 people jostled to catch a glimpse of Frederick Cummins’ Indian Congress parade at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York. The crowds shrieked with excitement when they heard the Carlisle Indian Band strike up a tune, and drew a collective gasp when three celebrities appeared on their respective steeds. There was …

Headline, Nexus »

A Getty Online Exhibition Reflects Splendor and Conflict in Visions of Ancient Palmyra

By | May 4, 2017

All places contain history; traces of the past that can be read, contextualized, interpreted, and, with some effort, crafted into knowledge. Some places are so rich in material and textual information that they become archives, deep resources that beseech the senses and necessitate generations of scientific and intellectual exploration.
The ancient caravan city of Palmyra, also known as Tadmor in Arabic, is one such place. …

Headline, The Takeaway »

Pledging Allegiance to Our Different—and Shared—Ideals of Citizenship

By | May 3, 2017

Citizenship in the United States is distinguished by how many different and contradictory abilities and actions it requires of citizens, said panelists at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It Means to Be American” event.
The evening’s discussion, which took up the question, “Do We Still Know How to Be Good Citizens?” unfolded before a large audience at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
“We are at our best …

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In the Amazon Jungle or a California Subdivision, Sometimes Less Infrastructure Is More

By | May 2, 2017

The need for more infrastructure is one of the few areas of genuine bipartisan consensus in the United States. But my experiences working in two rapidly urbanizing regions outside this country have led me to wonder whether there may already be too much of it.
Infrastructure is a double-edged sword. For every case in which it is desperately needed, there is another case in which it …

Headline, Up For Discussion »

What It Means to Be a Good Citizen, From the Revolutionary Era to Today

By | May 1, 2017

The Constitution tells us what makes a citizen of the United States, legally speaking. But over the decades, American citizenship—and the ingredients that make a good citizen in a modern Republic—has been a subject of debate. Voting and serving in the armed forces are part of the equation to be sure. But for some women, minorities, and others, who haven’t always been allowed to …

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