Obama transition: expectations, pressures and pitfalls

(Contributed by Clifton Parker)

President-elect Barack Obama will inherit an agenda of staggering uncertainty as the nation struggles with a fading economy while stuck in two wars overseas.

His success, UC Davis scholars say, depends in large measure on temperament and the decisions he makes after taking office Jan. 20. Some historians compare Obama’s challenges to the grave ones facing Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt when they took the reins of White House power.

Dean Simonton, psychology professor and the author of the books “Why Presidents Succeed,” and “Greatness: Who Makes History and Why,” says a president’s personality is as critical to how they perform on behalf of the country as the situational factors involved.

A conversation with Freeman Dyson

Thinker, physicist and author Freeman Dyson spent two weeks at the end of October, 2008 on the UC Davis campus. His visit was sponsored by the Department of Physics as part of their Centennial Speaker Series.

Dyson was born in England and served as a researcher for the British Royal Air Force Bomber Command during the Second World War. In 1947, he moved to the U.S. and was a professor of physics at Cornell University and then at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, where he is now professor emeritus. He is the author of several popular books about science and the future, including Disturbing the Universe, Weapons and Hope, Origins of Life, Infinite in All Directions, Imagined Worlds, and The Sun, the Genome and the Internet.

Post-election roundup

The Obama/Palin ticket: Law professor Vikram David Amar asks, why not have separate votes for President and Vice President?

Dancing in the streets: Professor emeritus of history Ruth Rosen writes that the last time Americans danced in the streets was 1945.

Conceding gracefully: Bob Ostertag, professor of technocultural studies, asks why politicians seem to give their best speeches when conceding defeat.

Blogviating: More post-election blogging from UC Davis historians at The Edge of the American West.

Obama, Snapple and Rumors

What do presidential candidate Barack Obama and Snapple Iced Tea have in common? Patricia Turner, professor of African American and African studies at UC Davis, will answer that question in a presentation at the American Folklore Society in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday, Oct. 23.

Turner, whose research focuses on urban legends and conspiracy theories, notes that Snapple had to grapple with two false rumors when it became a sensation in 1993. According to one, the company had ties to pro-life extremists. According to the other, it was owned by the Ku Klux Klan. Similarly, Obama has had to confront false rumors that he is Muslim, refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag and exchanges terrorist hand signals with his wife.

UC Davis experts on the Wall Street meltdown

(Contributed by Dateline editor Clifton Parker)

With America facing the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression and markets worldwide reeling from the deepening crisis, it is time to ask UC Davis economics experts two questions:

What happened, and what happens next?

Steven M. Sheffrin, professor of economics and dean of social sciences, likens it to a giant financial belly ache.

“Our financial system ate a bad meal,” he said. “Unsound mortgages are still working out the rather painful effects in our economic system. Unfortunately, we have digested and spread this bad meal” throughout the financial system.

Following Teddy Roosevelt

Republican presidential candidate John McCain styles himself as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. UC Davis historian Eric Rauchway (an expert on the TR era) thinks he might be drawing the wrong lessons from the first President Roosevelt.

Young voters see Obama’s race as an asset

Barack Obama’s support is strongest among young voters and declines in older age groups, according to this AP story. It’s not just that race is not an issue for younger voters who have grown up with black celebrities and politicians: his biracial background actually seems to be an advantage.

Patricia Turner, a professor of African-American studies at UC Davis, says that race is just one factor that appeals to Obama’s supporters.

Campus and local Tibetans ready to protest

The Olympic Torch is due in San Francisco tomorrow. During the European leg of the torch’s world tour, events were disrupted by protestors demonstrating against China’s rule over Tibet. Now it’s the turn of the Tibetan community in the Bay Area.

For days and weeks, dozens of young Tibetans and their families have prepared for this week’s Olympic protests throughhours-long meetings, training sessions, e-mails and prayer. They have also used technology to call upon thousands of peers — from as far as Minnesota, Connecticut, Utah and Canada — to travel to San Francisco as China’s Olympic torch passes through on Wednesday.

Five Years

UC Davis historian Eric Rauchway joined a discussion on “Five years in Iraq” on Minnesota Public Radio yesterday. Listen online here.

Crying at work: Good for your career?

Getting misty-eyed in a diner may or may not have helped Hillary Clinton win the New Hampshire primary. But crying at work is an “enormous burden women have that men don’t,” UC Davis business professor Kimberly Elsbach tells the New York Post. Numerous studies show that women are more likely to cry at work than men, and Elsbach has found that every woman she has interviewed on the subject has cried at work at some point, although most take great pains to hide it.

Executive coach Peggy Klaus says that crying can make a woman look unprofessional, but on the other hand it can be a way to get through to a boss.