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Obama's To-Do List

Howard Zinn on President Obama's successes and failures

| From Alumni Notes | By Seth Rolbein

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In the video above, Howard Zinn answers a question from the audience: what would he urge Barack Obama to do? Watch the entire video of the panel discussion.

The topic of the October 22 Howard Zinn Lecture Series, which kicked off Alumni Weekend 2009, was The Promise of Change: Vision and Realty in Obama's Presidency. The analysis came hard from the left, with Zinn, a BU professor emeritus of political science, staking out the far post.

Zinn was joined by a panel of three writers: James Carroll, a National Book Award winner and Boston Globe columnist, who first met Zinn during his years as Catholic chaplain at Boston University, from 1969 to 1974, before he left the priesthood; Ellen Goodman, a Pulitzer Prize winner, who has written about social change in America since 1976; and Mary Gordon, New York's official state author.

Zinn gingerly took up the cudgel.

Everyone wants to support Obama, he said, or at least everyone in his circle. Everyone wants to love Obama. But let's face it: "His presidency doesn't measure up. I have to say that. But why? How? How come?"

Militarism, he answered. Obama has kept the troops in Iraq. He's sent more troops to Afghanistan. "He's continued a military foreign policy."

Not to be a know-it-all, Zinn said ("though I do know it all," he joked), but those who expected great change from this president were fooling themselves. Look at history, he urged, invoking his mantra: Democrats are as aggressive as Republicans.

The Howard Zinn Lecture Series, made possible by the gift of Alex MacDonald (CAS'72) and Maureen A. Strafford (MED'76), is an annual talk on contemporary issues from a historical point of view.

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