Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Person Project Celebrates Stories of Love

Do you remember the first time you fell in love?

This February the First Person Project, an oral history series documenting the experiences of everyday Georgians, invites participants to tackle the topic of love. How did you meet your spouse? What do you remember about your worst breakup or most awkward date? Find an interview partner and join us to record stories about love, loss, and relationships in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  

Six sets of partners will be accepted for this First Person Project session, scheduled for Friday, February 8th between 9:00am and 4:00pm. Each audio recording session takes one hour to complete. Photographs will also be taken for each session. The Russell Library will archive the interviews to add to its documentation of life in post 20th century Georgia and will provide participants with a free digital download of the recording and photographs. Participants are charged a fee of $10 per group for the session.

If you have a friend or family member with a story to tell, become a part of the First Person Project. Reservations are on a first come first serve basis and can be made by calling 706-542-5788 or registering online at http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/fpp/fpp_register.html.

For more information on this event and other upcoming First Person Project days, please email russlib@uga.edu or call (706) 542-5788.

More About the First Person Project

Modeled roughly on StoryCorps, a national initiative partnered with National Public Radio and the Library of Congress, the First Person Project is smaller in scale but similar in concept, providing tools to would-be oral history interviewers and interviewees, including tips on how to create questions and conduct interviews. The project was inspired by the belief that everyone is an eyewitness to history, and that everyone, sometimes with a little encouragement, has a story to tell.

Free event parking available in the Hull Street Parking Deck. For more information visit:

To learn more about the Richard B. Russell Library, visit:

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Out of Place?

The Arrangement & Description Unit at the Russell Library have been processing the papers of Congressman Ed Jenkins for the past few months. Jenkins was a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1992 representing the Ninth District (Northwest Georgia). So far we have processed over half of the collection (we started out with over 300 boxes!) and have published the finding aid online.

Although the majority of the records in this collection represent the Congressman’s work on the House Ways and Means Committee and Budget Committee, we have occasionally come across folders that seem to pop up out of the blue and seemingly out of place among the rest.

Among the legislation on agriculture, water resources, and immigration laws is a folder entitled “Larry Flynt/Hustler Letters”. The contents of the folder are not as lurid as the popular adult magazine and its notorious creator.  In 1983, the editor and publisher of Hustler wrote to members of Congress offering them complimentary subscriptions to his publication (a practice which he continues today). The folder includes Jenkins’ letter politely declining the offer as well as an article written by Flynt about Larry McDonald, the Georgian Congressman who was aboard the Korean Airlines Flight 007 when the plane was shot down by Soviet interceptors.

What I find most interesting about the letters in this folder is Flynt’s tenacity for exercising free speech.

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies is open for research Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with the exception of University holidays. For more information, please visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/ or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Tammi Kim, Processing Assistant for Arrangement & Description Unit, Russell Library

Monday, December 03, 2012

All in the Family

Sometimes collections end up being related to each other in more ways than one! We are fortunate at the Russell Library to receive collections from different families with roots in Georgia politics. Of these “related” collections, we are proud to announce the opening of:

Walter Stovall Papers
Stovall and McKay Family Papers

E. Roy Lambert Papers
Christine D. Lambert Papers

W. Fred Orr and Fred Orr II Papers

George D. Bennett Papers

Margaret V. Clute Collection of Carl Vinson Papers

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies is open for research Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with the exception of University holidays. For more information, please visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/ or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Tammi Kim, Processing Assistant for Arrangement & Description Unit, Russell Library

Friday, November 30, 2012

Small and Mighty (2.0)

The Russell Library is proud to announce that several small collections are now open for research. The newly-opened collections include:

Jane Webb Smith Collection of "Baldy" Caricature
Paul Broun, Sr. Collection of Jimmy Carter Presidential Campaign Memorabilia
Wood and Associates Political Advertising Material
W. Frank Barron Papers
Cedar Creek Civic Association Records
Georgia Public Policy Foundation Records
Charles L. Bowden Papers

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies is open for research Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with the exception of University holidays. For more information, please visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/ or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Tammi Kim, Processing Assistant for Arrangement & Description Unit, Russell Library

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bittersweet Goodbye

Note: In the post below Russell Library student worker/blogger Beatrice Pollard recounts the time she spent interning for the Obama presidential campaign in 2012, as well as how she spent election night 2012. The opinions expressed here do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the experiences of a college student on the campaign trail.

Like many great goodbyes, the end of a campaign is never quite as predictable as you think. When I reached  the end of the 2012 Presidential campaign trail I was left mostly in a state of uncertainty. On election night as the results flashed across the big screen, I think I felt a little bit of everything -- both happy for the experience and sad it was over, anxious for the outcome and relieved to be finished with the phone calls and canvasing.  And, along with that anticipation came the fear of losing. I realized that I had just become a node in one of the largest, most effective grassroots networks that had reelected the President of the United States – that was a big feeling. For most of us on the ground, this is when it all came full circle, when we as a whole realized that this was bigger than us. Flashbacks to classes in U.S History, America’s revolutionary leaders came to mind as I recognized the cost for this hard fought civil right. In this election year  I mobilized my fellow citizens to participate in their right to vote.

While we all had our separate roles, in the final moments of the campaign we were working under a single heartbeat. After a while, “Fired up and ready to go” became more than a call to action used to motivate supporters, it was embedded in our hearts. The experiences I had working for a campaign this election season were the most valuable part of the process. Listening to stories from Georgians across the state, Atlanta to Augusta to more rural areas, showed me the true diversity that exists in the state population. And our group grew because of what we saw. The melting pot of people on the campaign all found a way to look past individual differences and connect through personal stories about what brought them out to support the President. We were real people working together. It was enough to believe that we as ordinary citizens making phone calls and knocking on doors were making a difference in determining the direction our country might take next. By the end of the summer our team had hosted numerous Get out the vote events and organized dozens of neighborhood teams around the state; that excitement spread and the people we met became dedicated to hosting their own events and getting the word out. We were able to rally Women for Obama, Hispanics for Obama and other diverse segments of the population into coming together as one big support group. Headquarters became busier and I watched as our enthusiasm spilled over into downtown Atlanta and the greater Athens area.

The final days of the campaign became increasingly busy as the race heated up, and I think for most of us the results of the debates and the increasingly close polling numbers were unexpected. But our team continued to work, canvassing neighborhoods, making more phone calls and taking road trips to the battleground states of North Carolina and Florida;  we were determined to make a difference.
I joined with my fellow Obama for America workers and Young Democrats of Athens to watch the election coverage at the Georgia Theater. To have contributed my blood, sweat, and tears for months, it was humbling to sit and watch the early returns, afraid my contribution wasn’t enough. We all sat watching, fixated on the screen as each state was called for Romney or Obama. The race appeared so close and we didn’t know what to expect. Nevertheless, decked out in our Obama pins and unyielding faith, our hopes rose as the numbers began to turn in our favor. In the end, our team helped to win those battle ground states. The biggest feat of all was Florida. Members of our Georgia team had spent dozens of weekends in the undecided state, forming neighborhood teams to talk to undecided voters. . I can’t forget the hours spent forgoing the Georgia-Florida football game festivities to canvass the Florida suburbs. And the phone calls – I’ll never forget the thousands of phone calls. But this was grassroots, and this was real. WE had a lot of reasons to be proud for the big win, but most of them were because we knew first-hand the hard work that goes into a campaign.

In any campaign, beyond all the glitz and the glamour there are real people making calls and logging in the data so we can make the calls again. Never once could I imagine how empowering it would be to have the opportunity to actively participate in election process. When I first signed up I was attracted to the glamour, but I left the experience humbled that someone from Augusta, Georgia could become a mechanism for change. I’ll carry the intimate conversations, the skills, and the optimism to any field I go into in the future. If you have the opportunity to give back to the community whether it is public service or campaigning – go do it. It won’t be the most financially rewarding, but it will definitely change your life.

Post by Beatrice Pollard, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Election Day on the Ground in Athens, GA

Note: In the post below Russell Library student worker/blogger Lori Keong recounts how she and many of her fellow UGA students spent Election Day 2012. The opinions expressed by the variety of people Lori interviewed and gathered feedback from do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the way some students on our campus experienced the 2012 Election.   

On Election Day, after sending several texts to friends about their cable services, I lamented the fact that my roommates and I had chosen to skimp on cable TV. Instead, as my roommate and I cozied up around the space heater with a laptop and a bowl of popcorn and as the US map was slowly dyed red and blue with votes rolling in, it was apparent that the race would be as close as recent polls had suggested.

Election Day was the summit of so many months of campaigning from both candidates and personal campaigning from the citizens who supported them. It finally drew a popular victor in candidate debates waged on issues like foreign policy, job creation and unemployment, taxes, healthcare and gay marriage.  Without quite the same oomph as the monumental 2008 election—it was more of a celebration of continuity than of new beginnings—but was still a great day to appreciate the rights that we have as American citizens, most importantly our right to vote.

On Election Day 2012, people rushed to the polls to cast their votes, if they had not already voted early or were voting absentee. Recently, my Facebook newsfeed has been littered with Instagram shots of people boasting peach stickers on their breast emblazoned with “I’m a Georgia voter!” 

After surveying my friends on Facebook before Tuesday, many said they would be spending their day at the polls and then going to class. Others said that they skipped class to vote, while even more dedicated citizens skipped class and traveled home to vote there. One friend joked that he was going to watch Facebook implode since he had already voted early, while another made this tongue-in-cheek comment: “I'm gonna spend the whole day figuring out which of my favorite candidates to vote for! I wish there was a way to elect ALL the candidates!” 

For many friends, it was their first time voting in the general election.  Most of us turned 18 after Obama’s first landslide sweep into office. The older I get since I turned 18, though, the more it becomes apparent to me how socially unacceptable it is to choose not to vote. In the college environment, people who don’t vote, for whatever reason, are openly shamed. “I don’t care which candidate you vote for,” said one of my roommates.  “Everyone should be voting. It’s your civic duty. That’s what I believe.”  Especially with the candidates being so close—even in Georgia, where Romney was expected to win by a large margin, numbers were tight between the two candidates—it seemed even more imperative to cast a vote.

Despite the ever more important role of voting in this close election, there were still many Americans who didn’t vote.  Of friends polled who didn’t register to vote, some said that it was a sign of their discontent with both candidates, others expressed ambivalence about the election, while one or two said that they would have voted Republican in a state that was going to swing that way anyways. 
 A report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004. This year’s voter turnout, however, was still higher than in 2000, when the turnout rate was as low as 54.2%.

This year, the group estimated 126 million people voted in the election, meaning that as many as 93 million eligible citizens did not cast ballots. (Read more about it HERE).

For Election Day coverage, many friends went to the Georgia Theatre and Little Kings Shuffle Club downtown, or to the Tate Center on campus, to watch the results with the UGA Democrats and other organizations. “The girls in my apartment are hosting an election party Tuesday... the day after we host a Guy Fawkes party,” said one friend. Others had the same idea as me: settling in with a bowl of popcorn to watch the election results at home.

When it became apparent that Obama would win the election, my friends rushed back from a viewing party, with some celebrating and others merely accepting the news. Facebook did not implode, but filled with exclamations of relief, “told-you-so’s,” and some disappointment.

Just a few responses from my newsfeed, posted here:

“so the lesser of the two evils won. oh well. our loss that we don't have the good luck of living under ron paul's presidency.”

“Clear eyes. Full hearts. Four more years.”

“Very upset about who will be leading our country for the next four years.”

“Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we get back to work. Here's to all you world changers out there.”

“How "For the People" is our government anyway?”

What do the results of the election tell us, though?

A recent article, “The New America,” from CNN paints a good picture of the national atmosphere that rendered the results of this election.  The article noted how progressive the nation has become, as shown by the legalization of marijuana by two states, a record 20 women serving in the US Senate, and the record number of minorities being elected to Congress. According to CNN, the election shows that country is far less conservative than popular belief suggests. However, election results also show a continually fragmented electorate who are still divided on race despite a larger and more diverse population in the United States. (Read more HERE).  

For a larger map of how Election Day played out and people’s favorite moments, check out this Storify of Election Night: 2012 #ElectionDay Highlights http://sfy.co/eAvk  #storify #voting #polling

* In the post above Russell Library student worker/blogger Lori Keong recounts how she and many of her fellow UGA students spent Election Day 2012. The opinions expressed by the variety of people Lori interviewed and gathered feedback from do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the way some students on our campus experienced the 2012 Election.   

Post by Lori Keong, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Upcoming Events at Russell Library!

We are entering the final week of our Ready, Steady, Vote! program series. Be sure to join us for these events at the Richard B. Russell Building for Special Collections Libraries.

Free event parking is available in the Hull Street Deck. For more information, call (706) 542-5788.

Thursday, November 1, 2012, 6:30PM-9:00PM
Film Screening, The Candidate (1972)
Auditorium, Room 271, Richard B. Russell Building for Special Collections Libraries

Doors will open at 6:30PM for light refreshments. The program will begin at 7:00PM with brief introductions from Dr. Brian Drake, Professor of History at the University of Georgia.
Film run time: 110 minutes.

Monday, November 5, 2012, 5:30-7:00PM
Art Opening and Reception, "Doors"
Richard B. Russell Library Exhibit Gallery, 2nd Floor, Richard B. Russell Building for Special Collections Libraries

In 2011, the Russell Library commissioned acclaimed painter Art Rosenbaum to create a mural in its new gallery space. The result, titled “Doors", traces Georgia’s modern political history from 1900 through the present and depicts many of the major figures and events that shaped the state. This reception will serve as an opportunity to dedicate the finished mural, with commentary from Art Rosenbaum and Russell Library staff. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 12:00-2:00PM
On the Stump! Classic Campaign Speeches
from the Demosthenian Society
Richard B. Russell Library Exhibit Gallery, Richard B. Russell Building for Special Collections Libraries

Members of UGA's Demosthenian Literary Society will re-enact classic campaign speeches in the Russell Library Exhibit Gallery, atop the mighty stump inlaid in the lobby floor. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidential Debates: Strategy & Importance

Historically, the presidential debates have been the end of the road vehicle by which candidates nail down their positions on issues before voting begins—especially for independent voters—and attempt to solidify their claims of being the most reliable candidate to steer the nation. 

How effective are the debates though?  According to Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post, unless a definitive, overwhelming victory is secured by either candidate, the debates won’t mean much. Cillizza continued, saying, “Most people who tune in will have made their minds up about who won (and who they are going to vote for) before a word is uttered by either candidate — and, in the post-debate analysis, they’ll tune in to whatever commentary best fits that view. For the tiny sliver of undecided voters, it’s hard to imagine they will find a reason to choose either candidate.”

However, today’s town hall style presidential debate at Hofstra University, catered to the American people, will perhaps have more sway on the undecided.  A group of undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization will have their chance to clarify pre-election qualms by asking candidates questions on foreign and domestic issues. The two candidates will then each have two minutes to respond.

This debate, commented a recent Politico article, will take place in an environment “more suitable for share-your-pain moments than aggressive attacks” where candidates will need to come off more personably, connecting with the audience and answering questions more directly. Additionally, “because candidates are free to walk about, town halls are body-language danger zones.”

Al Gore in a past debate, for example, was criticized for rolling his eyes while Bush was speaking, which translated poorly with voters.  As it is critical to convey a respectable impression, antics like Biden’s jovial laughter and frequent interruptions during last Thursday’s VP debate—behavior that was criticized as condescending and disrespectful—would not be well-received.

Obama, feeling the pressure to perform after reviews of the first presidential debate painted him as ‘lackluster’ and  ‘uninspired,’ headed for debate training camp this weekend in Williamsburg, VA. He promised his supporters a more aggressive performance in Tuesday's rematch with Romney, and will have to compensate for his slipping lead in the polls. 

Poll results by Gallup following the first debate show Romney catching up to Obama by a few points, suggesting that Romney has improved his public image, something he has struggled to polish throughout the campaign.  According to a Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll, 51% of likely voters now view Romney favorably, compared with 44% who view him unfavorably. Before the debate, the poll results showed 47% having a favorable view and 49% unfavorable.

Comparing presidential debates through history, an article by the San Francisco Chronicle says that Romney’s win in the first debate falls in line with history. “It’s much, much easier to be the challenger. In all the debate cycles since 1960 — 10 of them — the candidate of the party NOT in power came out of the debates having scored points eight times: Kennedy over Nixon, Carter over Ford, Reagan over Carter…”

Even so, this debate will be an opportunity and a risk for Romney to convince voters that he is in-step with the middle-class and the poor. While the economy and unemployment will likely continue to be a central issue in Tuesday’s debate, others have suggested that last week’s vice-presidential showdown will likely inspire a rehashing of issues such as Libya, abortion rights, and Romney’s now-infamous “47 percent” quote.

For Athenians interested in local debate action, consider joining the Russell Library for a debate watch event tonight, October 16th, starting at 8PM. Free coffee and snacks, and commentary from Professor Jamie Carson of UGA's Political Science Department. Plus, live tweeting! #RBRLelection

The Full Debate Schedule: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/10/am-alert-with-california-bill-deadline-come-and-gone-its-on-to-election.html

Post by Lori Keong, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Voting! (Some Reminders)

Your vote is your voice in the governance of your city, county, state and country and the 2012 Election Day is just around the corner (Tuesday, November 6, 2012). As a citizen, you declare your rights and privileges with your vote and that single vote can make a difference! The following are a few reminders/tips to help you navigate procedures at the polls...

When do I vote?
Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on each election day. However, any voter who is waiting in line to vote at 7:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Peak voting hours are historically from 7:00 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. until 7:00 pm, and during the mid-day lunch hour.

Thinking of ways to beat election day traffic at the polls? Learn more about early voting HERE.
Where do I vote?

Each voter must vote at the polling place designated for the precinct in which the voter lives - the location of your polling place is located on your precinct card. If you have misplaced your card or do not know where your precinct is located, please use this poll locator

Voting on Election Day
When you arrive at your polling place, you will complete a voter's certificate which asks for your name and residence address. You will then present the certificate and proper identification to the poll officials who will verify that you are a registered voter in that precinct by checking the voters list for that precinct. Voters are required to present identification at their polling place prior to casting their ballot. Proper identification shall consist of any one of the following:

(1) A Georgia driver's license which was properly issued by the appropriate state agency;

(2) A valid voter identification card or other valid identification card issued by a branch, department, agency, or entity of the State of Georgia, any other state, or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification containing a photograph;

(3) A valid United States passport;

(4) A valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the elector and issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, this state, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of this state;

(5) A valid United States military identification card containing a photograph of the elector;

(6) a valid tribal identification card containing a photograph of the elector

A first time registrant by mail may also provide one of the following additional forms of identification: a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the name and address of the elector.

If the elector is a first time registrant by mail who did not provide one of the acceptable forms of ID at the time of registration this voter must show proper identification. If the elector is unable to show identification at the time of voting they may vote a provisional ballot which will be counted only if the voter presents identification within the 2 day period following the election.

If your name is found on the voter list, you will be issued a voter access card and admitted into a voting booth to cast your vote using an electronic touch screen voting unit After you cast your ballot the machine will automatically eject the voter access card and you will return the card to a poll official. Instructions on how to operate the electronic touch screen voting unit are posted at each polling place and you may ask a poll official for assistance.

All this information and more is available at the Georgia Voting Information Website. For national voting registration information OR for more information about military/overseas voting, voting as a student, or voting as a felon, visit rockthevote.org. We hope to see you all at the polls on November 6!

Post by Lori Keong, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thoughts on Watergate

My name is Krishna Patel and I anticipate earning my degree in international affairs and journalism from UGA by May 2013. I recently began working at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, and I am already hooked. The majority of my time has been spent looking through the seemingly infinite collection of documents from U.S. Senator Herman Talmadge. The collection is expansive, particularly the hundreds of boxes with constituent correspondence, dubbed the “Flexys.” Among these are thousands of letters to the Senator during his years in Washington ranging from complaints to accolades reflecting Talmadge’s work in Congress. Already a respected politician in Georgia, he earned national recognition for his work on the Senate Watergate Committee investigating one of the most infamous periods of American history.

Constituent opinions were extremely diverse in terms of Watergate—many deemed themselves a “silent majority” who supported the President while another group vehemently urged impeachment. The scandal erupted in June 1972 when five men were arrested while trying to plant a bug the Democratic National Convention offices at the Watergate Hotel and Office Complex. The White House denied all involvement and Nixon won the upcoming November election in one of the largest landslide victories in history—he had the support of every state but Massachusetts and Washington D.C.

By January 1973, events were getting heated. Two former Nixon aides were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping. In May, the Senate Watergate Committee began its hearings. Senator Talmadge later joked that he was given a place on the investigative team because he was one of the handful of senators that did not aspire to the Presidency. At first Talmadge claimed the hearings failed to reveal anything of importance; in fact, he was curious as to why television stations were airing the proceedings from gavel to gavel each day. This was until the testimony of John Dean—former counsel to President Richard Nixon who revealed the names of all of those involved in the cover up. The six-hour testimony and subsequent interrogations kept citizens nationwide glued to their TV screens. Throughout the entire investigation and its aftermath, Talmadge received thousands of letters from constituents, some eloquently worded and written in an elegant cursive script, some hastily written on the back of a hotel postcard, and others typed and signed by groups of pro-or anti-Nixon Georgians. One constituent’s letter read, “Be damned forever those who contributed to the impeachment of our President Nixon.” Another admired Senator Talmadge’s work on the Watergate Committee: “More power to you as you seek to influence any who may be needing to see the light.” These letters, newspaper clippings, and other highly relevant historic materials are organized and available at the Russell Library.

The Watergate scandal unfolded against the backdrop of a grave energy crisis and economic shocks both at home and abroad as the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 had sent gasoline prices skyrocketing. Due to the impending domestic issues, many Georgians were concerned that the time and money spent on Watergate investigations were better allocated to simply making milk and other groceries more affordable. Many of Talmadge’s constituents encouraged him to spend his energies legislating rather than “hounding President Nixon.” Constituents complained of being “sick to death” of hearing about the case and preferred that Nixon be free to pursue foreign policy and energy legislation.

Another major issue was the role of the media. News outlets were highly involved in the entire Watergate affair—in fact, two Washington Post journalists were responsible for breaking the story. Moreover, all of the events were televised so that Americans could watch the Senate hearings regarding wiretapping and the role of Nixon in the cover-up. Based on my reading, reactions to the media coverage were mainly negative in the constituent correspondence. Georgians thought the media were unjustly incriminating the president and impugning him before evidence was sufficiently gathered.

The events and the corresponding historical significance of Watergate are reflected in the carefully preserved documents that make up the Herman E. Talmadge Collection at the Russell Library. They are reminiscent of an era when constituents as young as high school students took the time to write letters to their representatives. The Flexys illustrate an era when letters were stamped and posted rather than nameless online petitions and they represent an era rich in political strife, patriotism, and a changing identity for Americans. The Watergate affair marked the end to a generation that unwaveringly trusted in our country’s president and opened the floodgates to doubts and groups of fact checkers that are playing an important role in today’s election cycle. The letters contained in the Flexys represent Americans who had resounding faith in their elected officials rather than today’s suspicious breed that demands minutia like birth certificates or tax returns of its politicians. It is fascinating to sift through these documents seeped in emotions and the drama of the period—see for yourself, at the Richard B. Russell Library.

Post by Krishna Patel, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The State of the Economy

Just as the Arab Spring attuned the collective imagination of the world to the possibilities of revolt and protest, the world slowed its tracks about a year ago to watch its economic institutions beset by masses of Guy Fawkes masks and discontented people bearing signs of the 99% vs. the 1%--the haves and have-nots. Even here in Athens-Clarke county, people in North Campus pitched their tents, rolled out their blankets and prepared to protest local and national economic conditions. But on the first anniversary of the Occupy Movement, the issues that incited the revolution still remain. The recession, though improved since recovery efforts began in 2008, has tightened purse strings and diminished prospects. Gas prices are rising with no sign of coming back down. Many recent graduates find themselves idling without a stable job prospect in sight. In Europe especially—as the fight to save the Euro rages on and the economies of several countries (e.g. Greece, Ireland, Spain) are still on the down and downs—it is apparent that the economic pressure America faces continues to be felt by the rest of the world as well.

The Fed released reports Monday saying that uncertainty over the economic outlook increased the unemployment rate by one or two points to where it is now, around 8 percent. According to an article from the Arizona Times, one of the job market’s main problems is a mismatch in skills and training, with jobs becoming increasingly technical. Others say that outsourcing has killed domestic tech and manufacturing fields. This bears bad news for Obama’s campaign as he struggles to relate his competency concerning the economy over this past term, but doesn’t bode much better for Romney, who, if elected, will inherit the same Sisyphean struggle of stimulating and maintaining economic growth.

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was trending all over the web recently for his statements urging for increased intervention from the Fed to boost the economy. To his credit, by September 14, stock prices were already showing signs of improvement after the Fed stepped in again to aid the ailing economy.  The Fed's action followed a decision by the European Central Bank to support debt-ridden euro zone nations by purchasing their debt.

“Policies from Congress, not more short-term stimulus from the Fed, are the ingredients necessary for restoring growth in the American economy,” statement Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) after Bernanke’s speech.

In response to this statement, though, can we even overcome partisan politics to enact lasting economic change?

An article by the Christian Science Monitor compares ways the two presidential candidates differ on issues like the government’s role in job creation, outsourcing, labor unions, and the minimum wage. Obama proposed last September to set aside about $450 billion to cover funding for teachers and improving rundown schools (citing education as most important for job creation) but the bill was quickly shot down in the Senate, which couldn’t determine how to pay for this plan. Romney has said repeatedly that Washington is an impediment to economic growth, but for different reasons. Saying that government regulation only harms the job market, Romney has said he will instead cut the corporate tax rate by about 10%.

But what do tax cuts and budget cuts mean in the grand scheme of the national economy?

Last week’s Russell forum on national security highlighted just how complex the issue of the national budget can be for the American people. Economic figures are tricky. They are difficult to digest and it’s hard to get numbers in context even when they are understood.  Though forum participants were very certain that the defense budget needed to be cut, no one was sure by how much. The same could be said of other sectors of the budget—including education, labor, and industry. Which sectors would we taper to balance the budget? What are the tradeoffs of these cuts? How should we stimulate the economy while keeping our costs down? Should we change our international trade policies and put more investment into American industry?

There is no easy answer. However, if you think you have some answers to these tough questions and want a chance to weigh in on the discussion, come out to the Russell Library’s economic forum on Tuesday, September 18, to engage in balanced discussion with members of your local community.

Post by Lori Keong, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library

Monday, September 17, 2012

So Close Yet So Far (from the DNC)

I spent most of the day on Wednesday September 5, 2012 daydreaming; in less than twenty-four hours I would ride to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

I had found out only the week before, tipped off by a cryptic phone call from campaign staff in Atlanta asking for my mailing address. One of the perks of working for any political campaign is the opportunity to attend catered events and receptions where administration officials speak. But when the ticket arrived, a ticket that would admit me to the Bank of America Stadium to see President Obama accept the nomination of his party -- this particular opportunity was the best yet!

I chose my clothes for the next day carefully, ironing each piece and laying them out for the early morning drive. I packed my bags and charged my camera in preparation for the festivities. It wasn’t until about 9 p.m. Wednesday night that I heard plans might change. Staff from Obama for America called to say that unfortunately, due to severe weather forecasts, the convention would be moved to the indoor Time Warner Center, a venue with more limited seating. He assured me the decision was for the safety of all attendees.

Even with this disappointing news, some fellow summer staff members and I decided to wing it, making the drive to Charlotte to see what else might be in store. When we arrived early Thursday, excited and boisterous fans filled the streets—all ready to celebrate this official moment with the delegates, political leaders and community organizers. 

Once in town, we confirmed with campaign staff that our community credentials would not guarantee us entry into the Time Warner Center. Instead, we were invited to a conference call with the President at 1:20 p.m. and were promised an additional opportunity to attend a more intimate event with the President at a time closer to the November election. Once on the line, the President assured us that while a phone call couldn’t replace seeing his speech in person, this moment was what campaigns were really all about -- community, fellowship, and the undying perseverance that comes from those with a common goal.

While we couldn’t see Barack Obama in person, he reminded us of the work we had left to do in this hard fought political race. And in the end, I think he was right. It is often the little moments that make the campaign trail so special. I spent most of my day in Charlotte talking with other convention hopefuls as well as local citizens. There was the pastry shop owner who had seen her highest sales ever since the convention started. Also, there were crews of volunteers who had flown in from Tennessee, Ohio, New York and more hoping, like me, for a chance to meet the President they campaigned hard for all summer long. That night we all gathered together for a watch party and although we didn’t see the speech live, we were all inspired together and felt connected to a campaign dedicated to change.

Post by Beatrice Pollard, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Campaign Staffer

All that jazz - some campaign ephemera from the collections
Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.
While a typical day for a campaign staffer isn't quite as glamorous as Jim Messina's job (campaign manager for the Obama for America) it can definitely get exciting. Beyond the glitz and the glam you might see on TV -- campaign jargon, catchy slogans, patriotic t-shirts and banners-- the behind the scenes work of campaigning is very different.

I started volunteering for the Obama campaign in the summer of 2012, glittery eyed and star struck thinking I might even walk hand and hand with the President himself. I had a rude awakening my first day. Not only was I highly unlikely to meet the President, but most of my time would be spent making phone calls – lots of them!

From the outside looking in, the campaign trail can seem like a breeze. You see staff members running around with political leaders and walking through crowds of rallying Americans excited to cheer the candidate (and you) on. In reality, a campaign is a lot of work and it takes a while to get to the rallies and election night. Not only do you have to believe in your cause, but you have to show others that they can believe in it too. That task requires lots of resources, stamina and sleep.

As staffers, our job was to connect with people by telling them about the candidates strengths. Through various one-on-one meetings with people in communities throughout the Southeast region, making phone calls, hosting catered events, and door-to-door canvassing, I was able to connect with people on a more intimate basis. Essentially, just letting them know we were on their side and that the candidate needed their help. The citizens appreciated the time we spent reaching out and as we planned events and talked with voters, campaign staff members, as a group, became more unified in working toward our common goal.

Most of my time on the campaign trail was focused on communication. That meant making phone calls to gauge people’s support or stance on key issues, communicating this collected data to campaign HQ, and sharing the importance of voting using tested Get out the Vote methods like door-to-door canvassing and community outreach initiatives. This was not a journey for the shy or weak hearted! Campaign staff and volunteers must be prepared to talk a lot, share experiences with others and use their hands! So, here's a quick break down of the day-to-day...

Day-to-Day Campaign Staffer Run down (The Less Glamorous Side)
•    Making Phone Calls
•    Performing Data Entry using Vote builder, valuable data software of all registered voters
•    Soliciting Donations in person through catered events
•    Canvassing door-to-door
•    Communicating on Dashboard (a Social Network for supporters and interested volunteers)
•    24/7 hr. work days. Lots and Lots of pizza, chips, cookies and other quick junk food

The Perks:
•    Meeting political leaders in the community
•    Attending fundraising receptions
•    A chance to attend the party convention AND Inauguration
     (should the candidate be elected)
•    Friendships forged with fellow staff members
•    Feeling like I made a difference!

So if you’re interested in volunteering for a political campaign, try to remember while you are out there canvassing and making phone calls that your work is not all in vain. Adopt an alter ego, become a super hero taking on the challenges of a new world, and remember to get some sleep! Wanna get involved in a campaign this season? Check out your local political party headquarters for more information on candidates running for office and how you can volunteer.

Post by Beatrice Pollard, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Monday, September 10, 2012

Redefining U.S. Foreign Policy

“Sometimes to understand where you are, you need to ransack the past,” says Tom Engelhardt, acclaimed author and Fellow of the Nation Institute, where he runs a news commentary website called Tomdispatch.com.

America’s role in the global community is a double-edged sword. The United States has had a hand in so many different countries, whether with an open palm to provide aid or a clenched fist to proclaim war—or a dangerous combination of both, that it is hard to determine all the costs of our dominance abroad.

What we do know is that with continually shifting international trends comes the need for a redefinition of American foreign policy. Previously, “waves of democratization and sectarian strife across Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa” at the end of the Cold War pushed America—as the reigning superpower—to the fore in an “experimental era of international peacekeeping,” said a recent GulfNews article. Later, 9/11 encouraged another shift in diplomatic strategy towards combating international terrorism. The destabilization of some regions of the world with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction also forced us to become more aware of our international adversaries, strengthening our desire to control and influence exterior forces.

In a thorough article that he wrote for Tomdispatch, Engelhardt explains his personal viewpoint on the troubles America faces with national defense now. Recalling the language of emperors of the Hellenic past, Engelhardt describes the recent international counterinsurgency regimes under Bush/Cheney and Obama as attempts to impose a Pax Americana on the world through dominion overseas, in nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Engelhardt counts these as the components and effects of the Pax Americana:
•    A commander-in-chief with almost unlimited control over domestic defense policy (even at the expense of the American people and the welfare of foreign civilians)
•    Cooling of international relations in response to America’s global peacekeeping attempts
•    Expansion of covert ops--Special forces can be sent wherever the president wants and whenever the president wants; Expanding use of drone air forces against foreign nations can be lethal, given their destructive effect and the president’s extensive power to launch them
•    Expense of millions of dollars to national defense, while other sectors like education are being cut in the national budget
•    Growing detachment of American people to wars and operations launched on America’s behalf

Today, in response to these controversial defense tactics and criticism over continual global peacekeeping efforts, in what ways could we reform our foreign policy? How do we respond to pertinent international trends like the Arab Spring (particularly the continuing crackdowns in Syria), the collapse of the Euro, and the emergence of Africa as a strong trading partner? Can our new president redefine our international policy to adapt to these changes?

According to political reporter Kurt Shillinger, “an abiding feature of foreign policy is continuity from one president to the next,” so he said that though Romney’s plan of action was uncertain, Obama would likely deliver a fairly straightforward plank building on nuclear containment in Iran and North Korea, encouraging continued reforms in budding democracies like Myanmar, continual combat of Al Qaeda members, and strengthening economic partnerships with  the big players on the Pacific Rim.
    The key to asserting influence abroad, though, he said, would be determined by whether the incoming president could find a healthy balance between the rising U.S. debt and the cost of infrastructure and education, with the presidential debates in October providing “the last big opportunity for candidates to address these issues.”
To discuss what global security means in the 21st century and possible solutions to our global relations issues, come out to the Russell Library’s national security forum, “America’s Role in the World,” on Tuesday, September 11. 

Post by Lori Keong, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library

Thursday, August 30, 2012

PolitiFact’s “Settle It!”: An App Review

Since websites like Snopes.com were created to assess the truthfulness of urban legends, chain e-mails, rumors, and other misinformation spread online, people have been looking for a quick and easy way to settle the truth once-and-for-all.

A new app from Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact could do just that, settling debates and silencing know-it-alls. Called “Settle It!,” the free app, available for iPhone and Android devices,  is based on the PolitiFact website—founded and run by the Tampa Bay Times since August 2007—which has become the largest political fact-checking website on the web.

The app draws largely from PolitiFact’s constantly updated content and borrows its main functions, like PolitiFact’s signature Truth-O-Meter system. The Truth-O-Meter relies on a few ratings for checking facts: True, False, Mostly True, Mostly False, Half True, and Pants on Fire (reserved for only the most ridiculous falsehoods). 

However, to improve on its new app, PolitiFact got together with a handful of “journalists, technologists, and idealists” for an idea session—hosted by NPR—to figure out what concepts and features they wanted to have.

Here are the fruits of their labor:

The app has a simplistic Twitter-like interface and search feed that focuses on being user-friendly.  Searches using key words bring up a scrollable list of relevant quotes next to images of the people who said them. A search with the key words “same sex marriage,” for example, presented statements from well-known politicians/pundits to the not-so-well-known—among them were quotes from Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, senate delegate Bob Marshall, and popular Facebook posts.

Think you know your stuff? Other features of the app include the PolitiFact Challenge, a fun game which allows players to test whether they can recognize the factuality of statements. The game, which has users pick between “True,” “False,” and “Pants on Fire” ratings, also works on a point system. Earning points for each correct answer, players can move up through five player levels, from “Intern” to “Aide,” then from “Lobbyist” to “Pundit,” and finally to the highest level, “Wonk.”

Another, the “trending” feature shows the most buzzworthy current statements. The most popular statement at the moment is from Romney—“I didn’t inherit money from my parents”—which received a rating of “Half True.”

The app also allows you to share information with friends or opponents via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.

Even if you can’t find what you’re looking for, the app allows you to submit your own requests for specific statements.

What’s the Verdict?
PolitiFact’s “Settle It!” does what it’s intended to do—and does it very well. Easy to use and easy to navigate, the app effectively draws lines of truth and fiction in tough debates where you need to be up on your facts and figures.

With PolitiFact Challenge and its interactive functions, the app also fulfills its goal of encouraging “engagement in democracy.”

What’s great about “Settle It!” is that the app not only gives you a verdict for individual statements, but breaks down its reasoning in layman’s terms. For those who are looking for a quick answer for a given topic, beneath the Truth-O-Meter, the site gives you a succinct explanation of why the statement was so right or so wrong.  However, the site will also give you a full rundown of the quote’s origin and the facts or misinformation behind it. It even samples excerpts from key documents (like the Constitution and the healthcare mandate) to point out exactly where people have misinterpreted text.

A large effect of the app is the comfort of having an on-demand service of fact checking. The posts are updated very frequently. Perhaps if you had the more convincing argument in a dinner table debate with Settle It!’s help you would even feel a lingering sense of satisfaction.

But the most lasting impression that the app and PolitiFact can give is a sense of accountability for speech and the written word—not only from the policy makers and elected officials that we anticipate will know their facts, but from the average person as well, to think and review their facts before they disseminate “Half Truths” and even “Pants on Fire” rumors to the larger digital world.  

Links to download the app are available at http://www.politifact.com/settleit/ 

Post by Lori Keong, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Swing States

Over the course of American history, voting in swing states, or battleground states, has been a strong reflection of the national mood and has been essential to shaping presidential election outcomes. For example, the swing states of Ohio, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey and New York were crucial to the outcome of the 1888 election. Grover Cleveland narrowly beat Benjamin Harrison with a slim majority in the popular vote after Harrison swept four swing states in the Electoral College. More than 70 years later, in one of the closest elections in American history, Illinois and Texas would boost young, grinning JFK to the presidency.  Florida, after its disastrous voting controversy, was the key to the 2000 election and even more recently, Ohio aided George W. Bush to his reelection in 2004.

The 2012 Presidential election seems sure to be another tight race. Over recent months poll results have begun to even out between Obama and Romney. Both candidates have pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertising in critical swing state cities like Cleveland, Ohio and Tampa, Florida. Politico, a political journalism organization, broke down polling averages in battleground states in a recent chart updated on its website, which shows that Romney, although still tailing Obama in most swing states, is playing catch-up fast – making significant gains across the board.

While Obama’s term has been the most telling display of what he could offer if he were re-elected, all eyes are now on the Romney/ Ryan team and the GOP.  Can Romney pull a fast one in the last bend of the curve? Will he be able to pull off what he has struggled to convey throughout the campaign—a convincing, reliable candidate who America can trust to remain firm and honest in his views?

Recently, conservative Congressman Akin (R-MO) stepped down after his “legitimate rape” comments sparked furor from women’s rights groups and people from across the political spectrum. Though Republicans hastily cut ties with Akin, the comments pushed the abortion debate back into the forefront of the political arena. Ryan has been grilled on his views on abortion, gingerly dancing around the subject, although a spokeswoman for the Romney/Ryan campaign has said the two would not oppose abortion in the case of rape and incest.

Akin’s comments have brought attention to just one of a string of social issues that have divided candidates. Women’s rights have been one of the central issues in this presidential contest, from the contraception clause in the healthcare mandate to abortion, while same-sex marriage remains a topic of contention.

On the other hand, despite his appeals to independent voters that he is the pliable candidate with the will to compromise, Obama’s handling of healthcare, the state of the economy, and the high unemployment rate (still hovering around 8%) could be major roadblocks in his bid to win swing state votes. “The incumbency advantage enjoyed by President Obama,” said Kenneth Bickers, a political science professor at the University of Colorado, said, “though statistically significant, is not great enough to offset high rates of unemployment currently experienced in many of the states." However, of the 12 swing states seen as critical in deciding November's presidential contest, two-thirds have unemployment rates below the national average, and four, including Ohio, have a lower unemployment rate than they did when President Obama took office.

“The fact that the majority of voters in the crucial states that will decide the election believe they are not better off is [also] a challenge for the Obama campaign. That includes 50% of independent voters in the swing states, in addition to 36% of Democrats and 84% of Republicans saying they are not better off [5].” –Gallup.com

Nearly 10 weeks before Election Day, both candidates are still courting battleground states (as the RNC began this week and the DNC begins soon) and touting promises on education and energy, among other topics. Who’s making the biggest gains? You’ll have to keep track of the polls. 

Post by Lori Keong, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library