By Allison Schuster
President Ronald Reagan managed to revive the Republican Party, beat the inflation that had plagued the U.S. economy, and checked the Soviet Union’s drive for global dominance during his time in office. To understand his accomplishments, adjunct lecturer Henry Olsen examines Reagan’s political skills in building a new voter base and making key decisions in economic and foreign policy in his class for the Van Andel Graduate School of Government.
As many of the courses in the graduate program focus on the statesmanship of particular political figures, this class examines the presidency and statesmanship of Ronald Reagan, and his influence on American politics.
Olsen, who received his law degree from the University of Chicago, also works as an elections analyst and American political commentator, Washington Post columnist, and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Graduate student Christiana Reasor said she appreciates Olsen’s approach in outlining Reagan’s more abstract qualities of statesmanship, as well as how students can apply them in their work.
"Professor Olsen's class is centered on case studies from Reagan's time in politics, offering not only a way to identify attributes of a statesman, but also the opportunity to learn the practical application of those attributes,” Reasor said. “With historical context and insightful questions, Professor Olsen humanizes a conservative legend and in doing so, gives students tangible skills to pursue in order to become statesmen."
In analyzing the major challenges Reagan addressed during his time as president, the decisions he made, and the political circumstances he had to navigate during those times, students learn to determine what elements are essential to successful political statesmanship.