The True Flag:
Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire
in conversation with STEPHEN M. WALT
This event includes a book signing
February 2, 2017
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome award-winning foreign correspondent STEPHEN KINZER—author of All the Shah’s Men, Overthrow, and The Brothers—and STEPHEN M. WALT, the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard, for a discussion of Kinzer's latest book, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.
About The True Flag
The bestselling author of Overthrow and The Brothers brings to life the forgotten political debate that set America’s interventionist course in the world for the twentieth century and beyond.
How should the United States act in the world? Americans cannot decide. Sometimes we burn with righteous anger, launching foreign wars and deposing governments. Then we retreat—until the cycle begins again.
No matter how often we debate this question, none of what we say is original. Every argument is a pale shadow of the first and greatest debate, which erupted more than a century ago. Its themes resurface every time Americans argue whether to intervene in a foreign country.
Revealing a piece of forgotten history, Stephen Kinzer transports us to the dawn of the twentieth century, when the United States first found itself with the chance to dominate faraway lands. That prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. Their debate gripped the nation.
The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst pushed for imperial expansion; Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie preached restraint. Only once before—in the period when the United States was founded—have so many brilliant Americans so eloquently debated a question so fraught with meaning for all humanity.
All Americans, regardless of political perspective, can take inspiration from the titans who faced off in this epic confrontation. Their words are amazingly current. Every argument over America’s role in the world grows from this one. It all starts here.
"[A] gripping narrative . . . Kinzer ably conveys the passion and ferment of this brief period, situating this grand debate in the context of U.S. foreign policy history and convincingly arguing that the imperial/anti-imperial dichotomy remains a dominant feature of the American psyche." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Even in the pages of a novel, it would be impossible to find more extraordinary characters than Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain. That these two men locked horns over one of the most fundamental issues facing a young nation is a stunning turn of events, one that Stephen Kinzer, through meticulous research and masterful writing, has turned into a fascinating, fast-paced narrative." —Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt, Destiny of the Republic, and Hero of the Empire
“Stephen Kinzer’s lively and incisive history takes us back more than a century to a fateful turning point: the moment when the United States first assumed the right to overthrow or build up regimes in distant parts of the globe. I hope American leaders will read this book, and think long and hard about the warning it sounds." —Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts and King Leopold’s Ghost
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.
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