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Multiculturalism and the Bush presidency topic of Stahlman inaugural lecture

Sep. 18, 2008, 12:00 PM

Gary Gerstle, the first James G. Stahlman Professor of American History at Vanderbilt University, will deliver his inaugural lecture Sept. 25 on "Minorities, Multiculturalism and the Presidency of George W. Bush." The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be at 4 p.m. in Wilson Hall, Room 103.

The James G. Stahlman Chair in History is a gift to Vanderbilt from Dr. Mildred T. Stahlman in honor of her father and in recognition of his great interest in American history. "My father had a life-long interest in history, particularly American history, and considered our Constitution and governance the last, best hope on earth," said Stahlman, a professor of pediatrics and pathology at Vanderbilt.

Gerstle, who has published six books and more than 25 articles on American social and political history, will discuss President Bush’s vision for a multicultural world as articulated in his 2000 presidential campaign and the steep challenges it has faced.

"Bush’s multicultural vision was part of a bold political strategy aimed at bringing the nation’s Hispanics and African Americans into a big-tent Republican Party and, in the process, cementing a permanent electoral majority," Gerstle said. "Today that strategy lies in shambles."

Gerstle will discuss the little-known story of Bush’s engagement with multiculturalism, which dates back to his Texas upbringing and includes his success as Texas governor with support from Hispanic and African Americans voters. In addition, Gerstle will share insight on what he considers the international circumstances, ideological rigidities and political miscalculations that have caused Bush to fail on the national stage.

Gerstle’s books include American Crucible: Race and Nation in the 20th Century (Princeton University Press), which received the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award for outstanding book on U.S. immigration and ethnic history in 2001. He is working on a history of the American state from the Revolution to the present and a book on immigration, race and the presidency.

James Geddes Stahlman, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt in 1919, was a member of the Board of Trust for 43 years. He was a leader in fundraising efforts that helped build both the Jean and Alexander Heard Library and Memorial Gym, and he gave an important collection of historical artifacts, as well as his own papers, to the library. For almost a century, Stahlman’s family owned the Nashville Banner. When the Banner was sold in 1976, Stahlman endowed five research faculty chairs at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, and that endowment gift now supports 10 chairs.

Dr. Mildred T. Stahlman, a professor of pediatrics and pathology at Vanderbilt, is a 1943 graduate of the College of Arts and Science. She earned her medical degree from Vanderbilt in 1946 and has spent her career at the university’s medical center, where she started the first newborn intensive care unit to use respiratory therapy on infants with damaged lungs. In addition, she has researched methods to prevent and treat disease, initiated the Angel Transport mobile intensive-care unit for newborns and developed overseas fellowship exchange programs.

She is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a for¬mer president of the American Pediatric Society and the Southern Society for Pediatric Research. She is a past recipient of the Virginia Apgar Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the John Howland Medal, the highest award of the American Pediatric Society. She was Vanderbilt’s Distinguished Alumna in 2004.

Those who plan to attend are encouraged to RSVP by emailing

Archived video of Gerstle’s lecture will be available on VUCast after the event at

Media contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, 615-322-NEWS