The Presidency and the Constitution

March 10-12, 2017

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When the Founders drafted the Constitution in 1787, they had some understanding of what executive power was and how it differed from legislative and judicial power-but the approach to executive power they endorsed in Philadelphia was new and one of the truly novel features of the new Constitution. This seminar focuses on the idea of the presidency under the Constitution and how that office has evolved over time. Special attention is placed on early understandings of the presidency and how they differ, sometimes in rather dramatic fashion, from more contemporary ideas regarding the office and the occupant.


Seminar Scholar

Russell Riley, associate professor and co-chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program, is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on elite oral history interviewing and on the contemporary American presidency. In his time at the Center, he has logged more than 1,000 hours of in-depth, confidential interviews with cabinet officers and senior members of the White House staff reaching back to the Carter and Reagan administrations. Since 2003, he has led the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project, interviewing more than 100 former Clinton-era officials, including leading members of Congress and foreign heads of state. He has lectured extensively on American politics and oral history methods across the United States, as well as in China, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, and (by videoconference) the West Bank.
Professor Riley studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and then received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, where he was a research assistant at the Miller Center. He subsequently taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown. He helped found Penn’s Washington Semester Program and from 1994 to 1998 was its resident director and a lecturer in American politics. From 1998 to 2000, he was a program director with the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Salzburg, Austria, and he continues on an adjunct basis to help direct occasional programs for the Seminar. He returned to the Miller Center in January 2001.