If you’re looking for an engaging speaker to share the oddities and ironies of history with your group, invite Bruce Kauffmann to your next event! An expert on American History, especially the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, as well as a life-long student of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and other “Great Men,” and “Great Moments,” of history, Bruce can work with you to determine what will captivate the interest of your audience.
Bruce lectures to audiences of all sizes, including social and religious groups, business, civic and senior citizen associations and a number of educational audiences ranging from high schools, to junior colleges and even graduate schools. And the Q&A that always follows Bruce’s lectures is often as interesting as the lectures themselves.
Simply choose from the following prepared lectures, or request other topics of interest, and click on “Contact” in the upper right corner to send your email. Bruce, or a member of his team, will be in contact in 1-3 business days to plan your group’s historic event!
Synopses of Prepared Lectures
The Miracle at Philadelphia: The Making of Our Constitution and Bill of Rights:
Arguably the most important historic period of any nation since the birth of Jesus occurred in the United States between May of 1787, when delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to create a new government under the U.S. Constitution, and December of 1791, when Americans added the last critical piece to their new government, the Bill of Rights. This lecture focuses on the key debates at that Constitutional Convention, as well as how the new Constitution it produced radically altered the nature of American government and its relationship to the governed—the American people. Inasmuch as it also radically altered the balance of power between the 13 state governments that existed at the time, and the new national government created by the Constitution, the lecture also explores the fierce debate between the pro-Constitution Federalists and the Anti-Federalists over whether to ratify this new Constitution, as well as the equally fierce debate over whether to add a Bill of Rights to that Constitution. Finally, this lecture explains how this Constitution, unlike any other arrangement of political power in history, managed to meet the one criterion necessary if a government is to be effective without being overbearing. As James Madison, who is featured prominently in this lecture as this new government’s most important creator, put it, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” How they managed to do that is why the Constitutional Convention is called “The Miracle at Philadelphia.”
James Madison: Godfather of the Constitution. This lecture discusses Madison’s leading role in shaping the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention in 1789. From drafting the Virginia Plan on which our Constitution is based, to co-authoring the Federalist Papers that helped persuade Americans to ratify the Constitution, to taking the lead role in creating our Bill of Rights, Madison is rightly called “The Father of the Constitution” and “The Chief Architect of the Bill of Rights.” In sum, Madison was chiefly responsible for two of the three documents on which our nation is founded, which is why he is one of the most, if not the most, underrated of all our Founding Fathers.
Alexander Hamilton: America’s Creator: Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the Treasury, almost single-handedly created the economic and financial system on which America operates even today. While most of his colleagues, especially Virginian landed gentry such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, envisioned America as an agricultural nation in which yeoman farmers tended to their lands, leaving national affairs to their betters (the landed gentry), Hamilton envisioned an activist America of bankers, merchants, businessmen, industrialists, inventors, and skilled laborers plying their trade in many different fields, while also actively engaging in public affairs and civic life. Born poor and illegitimate, Hamilton identified with those who were landless and less fortunate, but who had talent and ambition, so he wanted as many avenues of economic opportunity available to them as was possible. Today, Hamilton’s vision of America—an industrial, commercial, manufacturing nation—is the reality, making him, economically and financially, America’s creator.
George Washington: The Indispensible Man: George Washington is considered a great war leader, but he was also the perfect first president, and in addition to outlining his leadership of the American Revolution, this lecture focuses on his undervalued performance as president — his understanding of the nature of power; his awareness that many of his decisions would set precedents that his successors would follow; his knowledge of the strengths of each member of his administration and his willingness to listen to their counsel; and finally his no-holds-barred fight to accomplish the things he believed in. Yet Washington’s most important legacy may have been his willingness, his desire, to give up power, which he purposely did after the American Revolution and after two terms as president. Ironically, it was that willingness to relinquish power that made the American people confident they could trust him with power. Had Washington not been the commander of the American Revolution, the war would have been lost. Had he not been our first president, that office would today be very different, as would be the country, and the world. He was the Indispensible Man.
Thomas Jefferson: A Great Man and a Great Contradiction: While examining his early life, his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, and his consequential presidency, which included the Louisiana Purchase, the central theme of this lecture is that Thomas Jefferson, while undeniably a great and brilliant man, was also a bundle of contradictions, both in his public and private life. He wrote that “all men are created equal,” yet he held slaves all his life. He was arguably our most fiscally responsible president ever, yet his personal finances were a disaster. He professed to hate public service, yet he spent most of his life in the public eye. He considered himself a “strict constitutional constructionist,” yet ignored the constitution when it didn’t serve his ends. He professed to be a “limited government” politician who thought most political power should reside not in the national government, but in the states. Yet in his position as head of the national government he frequently thwarted the wishes of the states. And finally, given all the important political positions he held, he chose not to list any of them on his tombstone. The three accomplishments of his that are listed on his tombstone his authorship of two documents and his role in founding the University of Virginia. You can watch the video sample of this lecture at the beginning of this page.
Abe Lincoln: America’s Greatest President: George Washington was the greatest American, but Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president. The two greatest crises our nation has faced were the American Revolution and Civil War. Washington handled the first crisis masterfully, but he wasn’t president at the time. Lincoln handled the second crisis equally masterfully and he was president. Also, politically, and certainly militarily, Lincoln was probably the least qualified politician ever to become president, yet he successful met the greatest military and political crisis since the American Revolution. As a moral leader, however, Lincoln had no peer, and his momentous decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation changed the goal of the war from solely preserving the Union to also ending slavery — a decision that was not only morally courageous, but also militarily smart, as it helped win that war. The lecture also explores his two most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, and closes by briefly outlining his assassination, and what that meant for the nation and the Reconstruction period that followed.
Winston Churchill: Man of the 20th Century: The central theme in this lecture is that Winston Churchill should be the “Man of the 20th Century” because, more than any other person, he won the war that defined the 20th Century, World War II. And he won that war despite inheriting a government and nation in 1940 that was woefully unprepared militarily, politically and diplomatically to stand up to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. But Churchill possessed “blood, toil, tears and sweat” — an indefatigable spirit, a gift for inspiring rhetoric, an unmatched capacity for hard work, and a boundless optimism that instilled in his countrymen a defiance which carried the day. Broadly speaking, Churchill deserves “Man of the 20th Century” because from the time he became Prime Minister in May of 1940, until late in 1941 when both the Soviet Union and the United States finally entered the war against Nazi Germany, Britain remained the only nation in Europe either unconquered by Hitler or unwilling to accommodate Hitler’s goal of creating a German empire in Europe. Had anyone other than Churchill been Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940, Germany would have won WWII.
The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler: This lecture traces Hitler from his youth as a frustrated artist in Vienna, to his rise and fall as the leader of Nazi Germany, with a focus on Hitler’s brilliance as a politician and incompetence as a military leader. Hitler had a gift for motivational speeches, an uncanny ability to size up weakness in his opponents, and an intuitive sense of when to bluff and bluster, and when to gamble to get his way. When Hitler became chancellor of Germany it was the weakest nation in Europe both diplomatically and militarily. Six years later Germany was the strongest nation in Europe, without firing a shot. But political brilliance was different from military brilliance. In invading the Soviet Union in June of 1941 and declaring war on the United States in December of 1941, Hitler bit off far more than he could chew, and it led to his downfall. It also led to a supreme irony. Hitler’s two main war aims were to destroy the Jews in Europe, and conquer Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in order to create a “Thousand Year Reich,” populated by a master race of German Aryans. Yet in the war’s wake it was his main enemy, the Soviet Union, that became the master of Eastern Europe, and his main victim, the Jews, who ended up with their own homeland in Israel.