Learning from History

On Andy McLeod’s Historic Matters podcast, Batten professor Gerry Warburg explores how lessons from the past can inspire the best policymaking for what’s to come.

Professor Gerry Warburg in the classroom.
Professor Gerry Warburg in the classroom. 

In a time of deep political divisions, how does a public policy professor like Batten’s Gerry Warburg maintain a positive vision for the future? The answer lies with his students. “I liken them to first responders,” Warburg tells Historic Matters podcast host Andy McLeod. “These are the young people who are running toward the problem quite bravely.”

In the two-part podcast, Warburg and McLeod cover everything from Warburg’s path to working in the U.S. Senate to the policy intricacies of the Cuban missile crisis. The frame for their conversation is Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May’s book Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers. When it comes to policymaking, Warburg says, history teaches us to “avoid false analogies,” to remember what we’re assuming in any given situation, and to keep skeptics close at hand. 

The last item in that list might be the most difficult for today’s leaders to embrace. But Warburg says his students at Batten—many of whom have a passion for history—make him feel optimistic about the future. “We’re going to have to repair our parties because they don’t represent our core principles,” Warburg tells McLeod. “I think there are extraordinary lessons in the study of history that can inform us in that process.”

Listen to episode one, "Gerry Warburg and the Uses and Misuses of History," and episode two, "Uses of History in the Classroom and Beyond."

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