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Learn about American history 'A to Z'

Kyle Longley
January 10, 2013

Kyle Longley presents five-part series tracing critical timelines of American history

History isn’t just an academic discipline for Kyle Longley. “History is at the heart of everything we do in a university,” he asserts. “If you understand history, you understand where you come from, and you understand where you are.”

For five weeks this month and next, Longley will share his approach to history with a group of non-traditional students as part of the ASU Foundation’s Presidential Engagement Programs (PEP). His course, “American History A to Z: From the atomic bomb to Emilio Zapata – and a lot in between” is his 11th PEP offering. “I hold the record for the most PEP presentations,” he says enthusiastically. Longley is also one of PEP’s most popular presenters, and anyone interested in participating – community members and ASU students – should secure a place soon at The course runs from 10 a.m.-noon, Wednesday mornings, Jan. 30-Feb. 27, at ASU SkySong.

“American History A to Z” is for anyone who wants to better understand the United States and how it developed into a global power. Such understanding comes not from recounting individual, momentous events, Longley says, but from examining them as parts of a continuum. It is an approach he chooses because it “attests to the value of looking at things critically,” he says. “You can look at single events, but underlying them are long timelines.”

He notes an instance from one of his previous PEP courses in which a discussion of the U.S. occupation of the Philippines surprised class participants with the fact that “enhanced interrogation techniques” are not a new source of controversy in America. “Kirkegaard had it right,” Longley says. “Life can only be understood backward, but we have to live it forward.”

For this PEP series Longley will look at the history of the U.S. from 1900 to today, exploring environmental, social, cultural and economic patterns that have evolved the comparatively unique American character. The class will emphasize important events and people, familiar and famous as well as nearly unknown, to provide an understanding of how the U.S. became a global power.

“These PEP courses are something I enjoy doing immensely,” Longley says. “It’s so much fun to be in front of an enthusiastic, well-traveled group that asks great questions. They understand how rewarding it can be learning just for the sake of learning.” He attributes much of that reward and enthusiasm to the classes’ participatory format. “The attraction is not just about the class, but about the interaction; about the relationships,” he says, adding, “And those relationships are not just between me and the class, but with other class members as they meet and discover similar interests and experiences. Some of those friendships have continued outside the classes, even from year to year.”

“American History A to Z” will include five sessions: “Grandstanding on a Global Stage, 1902-1919”; “From Picture Shows to Breadlines, 1920-1941”; “The Greatest Generation as Global Leaders, 1941-1963”; “The Winter of Our Discontent, 1963-1981”; and “A New America, 1981-2013.” The classes will meet in Enterprise Room 151 at ASU SkySong, 1475 N. Scottsdale Road. Cost for the series is $200. For information visit, or call Sally Moore, PEP director, at 480-965-4814.

Kyle Longley is the Snell Family Dean’s Distinguished Professor and associate director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He also serves as a professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies at ASU. He is the author of five books, one of which was awarded the A.B. Thomas Book Prize from the South Eastern Council on Latin American Studies. In 2003 the Associated Students of ASU named Longley the Centennial Professor as the outstanding teacher of the year.

The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and School of Politics and Global Studies are  academic units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

Erik Ketcherside,
Communications Manager | Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University