Hamilton: Presenting the American West

Presenting the American West

By Willie Kiernan


Westerns have come a long way from black and white horses and cowpokes.

"For more than two centuries, no region has loomed larger in the American imagination than the West," said Joanne Geyer, a volunteer member of the board of the Lifelong Learning Program.

The Myth and Reality of the American West will be presented as a class from 4 to 5:15 p.m. on May 5, 12 and 19 by Wendy Wall, assistant professor of history at Colgate University. The course will be held in the Class of 2003 Events Room on the third floor of the Colgate Bookstore.

"From the writings of Thomas Jefferson to the speeches of Ronald Reagan, from dime novels to Hollywood films, America's political and cultural landscape is littered with the iconic figures of the American West: cowboys and Indians, 49ers and pioneers," Geyer said. "At the same time, textbooks have often portrayed the West as a region that had little to do with the most important developments in U.S. history: urbanization and the rise of industrial capitalism, the working out of race and labor relations, and the growth of the federal government."

Dr. Wall has recently been selected as co-winner of the Ellis W. Hawley Prize, awarded by the Organization of American Historians, for her book "Inventing the American Way: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement."

"Different groups had different ideas about what the American way should be," Wall said. "Eventually it became democracy, free enterprise, and religious and political liberty, business groups in a tri-faith society, diversity getting along."

Wall has traveled through out America extensively and worked for a stint as a journalist for the Wall street Journal out of Chicago.

The Lifelong Learning Program is a membership organization run by its members, all of whom are students. The desire to learn is the sole criterion for membership; there are no educational requirements. Scholarships are available.

"I'm a member of the board of the Lifelong Learning Program, which is sponsored by the Upstate Institute of Colgate University," Geyer said "The LLP is staffed by local volunteers."

To join or to enroll in a course, please call 228-6623. Applications for membership are also available in the Hamilton Public Library lobby.

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