Back to School

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to blog. I spent that time working on a different project, which was a lot of fun. Since this summer was the 40th anniversary of the Watergate burglary (which was my dissertation topic), I was invited to return to my high school to speak about it. I’m a terribly slow writer (I was making edits in the hotel the night before), so it took me all of my blogging time to put together my talks.Tuesday morning I spoke to the high school students at the end of their assembly. It was awfully strange to see several of my old teachers in the audience. It’s been 14 years since I graduated, and I never imagined myself gracing the other side of the podium on that stage with them there. It’s funny, I barely remember having such assemblies, much less those that were moderated by students. I certainly was never the kid who asked for the teachers to stand up if they had any announcements to make. But I guess it really did happen that way.

I remember lots of presentations from high school. They brought in Kenneth Jackson once. He’s a big time historian, and he spoke about what we can learn from cemeteries. That part was fine. It was the field trip I didn’t like.

Anyway, I taught the kids the Watergate story. It’s a topic they never really get to study. US history classes typically have a lot of time getting through anything after WWII before the end of the school year. So I laid out the narrative and threw in a few tidbits why it’s still important to remember. With the presidential election only a few weeks away, it’s topical to discuss Nixon’s abuses of power, the current state of campaign finance reform, etc.

The good news was that I only counted 3 sleeping students.

That night I presented a longer speech to the public. About 60 people showed up, including a few of my high school friends, which was a surprise. I related Watergate much more to current events, assuming that my audience knew more about the actual events. These days, who knows though?

I asked the audience to imagine how Watergate would be treated if it happened today. What would Fox and MSNBC say? Would the blogosphere explode? Would today’s Republicans vote to recommend the impeachment of their own party’s leader? Would Democrats ramrod impeachment through Congress without GOP votes? It’s a very different world than it was in 1972. It’s a very different world than it was in 1998 when Bill Clinton survived impeachment.

On the whole, it was a very successful trip, and I got lots of great feedback. Thanks to everyone who came! I had a great time.