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Honors students will present advice to the President-Elect
Monday, December 08, 2008

On Thursday, Dec. 11, students taking an honors seminar in American History from Dr. James Hurtgen will present a 35-page "Memo to the President-Elect," based on research they conducted throughout the fall semester.  Their presentation will take place from 9:30 to 10:50 in the

The Prince by Nikkolo Machiavelli
Nikkolo Machiavelli's "The Prince," written to Lorenzo de Medici, was his letter of advice to the sovereign of Italy. 
English Reading Room, 127 Fenton Hall. All are welcome to listen and participate in the discussion after.

The 27 students taking the seminar set out to answer one question: how must a president conduct himself to be effective in his office?  Answering that question required them to think about quite a bit more: What kind of person is the president-elect? What are his goals? What personal qualities seem likely to lead to success? What qualities may hinder his performance in office? 

Furthermore, the students had to gauge the domestic and international environment in which he will conduct his presidency, including challenges the new president will face down the road.

The students worked toward producing a "joint statement," Dr. Hurtgen said.  Their memo is divided into several chapters: economic recovery, foreign policy, environment/energy, and education.

"Their principal task was to prepare a lengthy memorandum, call it a short book, modeled after another short book, 'The Prince,' by Niccolo Machiavelli," Dr. Hurtgen said. "This enigmatic little book contains a great deal of advice to a new prince, Lorenzo de Medici. That book has long been criticized, even reviled, as profoundly immoral. Machiavelli's name has been turned into an adjective for deceitful, cunning, manipulative, murderous. But he was instructing a Prince, not a president elected in a system of democracy."

In addition to "The Prince," required reading for the course included Michael Genovese's "Memo to a New President," and David Gergen's "Eyewitness to Power." Students were also advised to read both candidates' autobiographies (John McCain's "Faith of our Fathers," and Barack Obama's "Audacity of Hope.").

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