#AASLHMMA2016 “The Spirit of Rebirth”

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend my first conference at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) joint annual meeting with the Michigan Museums Association (MMA).  Before my trip and during I learned a few tips that I found helpful to anyone attending a conference.

  1. Look for Scholarships

I was able to attend  the annual meeting due to a scholarship for full-time students.  It is a little known scholarship and not many students take advantage of it.  As a full-time student, in exchange for volunteering eight hours, you are able to attend the rest of the conference for free, leaving only lodging, transportation, food and any extras to pay for. There were also other scholarships available to others through both the AASLH and the MMA

.img_4976

  1. Have Business Cards

A big part of the AASLH annual meeting is making connections, and the best way to make and keep those connections is through business cards.  Some find it a personal goal to collect more than last year.  If you don’t have a business card from a job, you can easily make one (Vistaprint has them really cheap).

  1. Bring a Notebook

At AASLH there were three sets of sessions Thursday and Friday and two sets on Saturday. I was able to attend many of these sessions, all of which had their own style ranging from presentations to roundtable sessions. No matter what type of session I attended I was glad to have a notebook.  Many of the sessions are led by professionals in the field, and what they have to say are things you might want to remember later.

  1. Do the Extras (if possible)

I understand that sometimes money and time are a problem. But if the conference you are attending as some extra activities I would highly encourage you to attend.  The AASLH holds their annual meeting in a different town each year.  Many of the extra activities are a way to explore the host city and their history.  It is also a really great way to make connections.  I think I made most of my connections at the night events. Plus, I got to see some really cool museums in Detroit

.img_4983

  1. Dress to Impress

First impressions count and as a graduate student, you may be looking for a job from the people you are meeting, or may work under them in the future.  You want to make a good impression; this does not mean you have to be dressed up in formal attire.  I would say business casual; boys’ full suits are not necessary (ties are a plus).  You also don’t need to be dressed up the whole time, there may be times throughout the conference that being casually dress is more suited.

img_5030

Riley Hubbard, public history concentration, rhubbard@villanova.edu

2016 Ph.D. Scare-A-Thon

scare-a-thon-flyer

Are you thinking about applying to a Ph.D. program? Do you have questions about the application process? Would you like to know more about furthering your historical education? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should join us on Wednesday, October 19 at 4:30 p.m. in Rofinot’s Lounge for our annual Ph.D. Scare-A-Thon!

Dr. Martinko will join us in a discussion about the Ph.D. application process. We will talk about choosing a program, the writing sample, the personal statement, and a number of other things that will help in your Ph.D. process.

We will also have snacks and opportunities to win prizes! We hope to see you there!

A Few Words on the Passing of Andrzej Wajda

wajda

On Sunday, October 9th, 2016, the 90-year old Polish film director Andrzej Wajda (pron: on-JAY vhy-duh) passed away. News of his death reverberated across cultural centers and news outlets worldwide. In his sixty year career, he directed and produced over fifty full-length films, was awarded with one honorary Oscar, one Palme d’Or, and was frequently nominated for Oscars and Academy Awards, particularly in the Foreign Film category. Considered to be the king of modern Polish cinematography, he was one of several Polish movie directors who formed the so-called “Polish Film School”, and one of the most prominent Polish film directors known worldwide, alongside the likes of Roman Polański, Agnieszka Holland, or Krzysztof Kieślowski.

In addition to his cinematographic contributions, Wajda was a politically engaged individual, known for his public support of the Solidarity movement, which opposed the communist authorities throughout the 1980’s. In June of 1989, he participated in the first partially-democratic elections in the Soviet Bloc in over forty years, won as a member of the Solidarity coalition, and served until 1991 as a senator in the first post-communist government. Despite his minute successes in protecting Polish art and cinema during the transitional period to free-market capitalism in the early 1990’s, Wajda ceased his political career and returned to directing films. Indeed, it is for his cinematographic contributions and successes that Wajda is most revered and celebrated. In short, one can argue that Wajda’s success domestically is due to the ability of his works and films to resonate with everyday Polish life and society of the 20th Century. This is most evident and highlighted upon by his own upbringing and experiences as both a young adult in Nazi-occupied Poland, and an adult whose career and works were constantly under threat by the communist authorities.

Wajda was born in 1926 inter-war Poland in Suwałki, a region in the northeast of Poland co-inhabited for hundreds of years by ethnic Poles and Lithuanians. In the mid 1930’s, his family moved to Radom, a city located halfway between Warsaw and Cracow in the center of Poland. His father, a captain in the Polish Army, was mobilized in early September 1939 as a result of the German invasion of Poland, never be reunited with his family again; captured and held as a prisoner of war at the conclusion of the September Campaign in 1939, Wajda’s father was transferred from German hands to the Soviets in April 1940, and executed by the latter during the Katyń Massacre.

During the war, a young Wajda attempted to continue his education by participating in the school system established by the Polish Underground, yet was forced to work due to the family’s dire financial straits. From mid-1942 to the autumn of 1943, the 16-year old served as a liaison officer in the Polish Home Army, the primary and dominant Polish anti-Nazi resistance organization. Following the infiltration of his battalion by the Gestapo, Wajda hid in Cracow for half a year until early spring 1944, only to learn that most of his compatriots were executed by the Gestapo.

Following Cracow’s liberation in January 1945, Wajda enrolled as a painter at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts. Since the early years of the war, Wajda was interested in and displayed talent in painting. His paintings – although lesser known compared to his cinematographic accomplishments later in life – were largely influenced by surrealism, and were largely representative both abstract and naïve art. However, by the late-1940’s Wajda grew increasingly interested in cinematography and film, and in 1949, he dropped out of the Matejko Academy. He moved to Łódź just south of Warsaw, and enrolled in the newly-established National Film School, subsequently graduating in 1953.

Wajda’s initial cinematographic amateur works were rather insignificant. In 1955, he produced his first successful film, simply known as A Generation. The film carefully balanced historical fact and complying with state-mandated socialist propaganda; it portrayed the lives of young Poles enlisted in the Polish People’s Guard – a communist resistance organization of historically small significance and combat experience – and the resistance they posed to the German occupation. Despite the fact that the film was well-received by English-speaking critics for its acting and filming, the film wascriticized by Polish émigrés living outside of communist Poland precisely for its historically inaccurate overemphasis of the influence of communist resistance in Nazi-occupied Poland. On the other hand, Wajda was not spared by the communist authorities either, who criticized the film’s deviation from state-mandated socio-realist representations of art.

The mid to late-1950’s proved extremely productive and successful for Wajda, who created and produced films almost every single year, nearly all themed on the Polish experience of World War II, particularly Polish resistance to the German occupation. For example, he broke through into the international scene in 1956 with Kanał. Kanał portrayed the heroic struggles, sacrifices, and eventual tragedy of the Home Army during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The film’s international success was highlighted through its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France and being awarded with the Silver Palme d’Or.

However, his successes in this time period culminated and were most represented by his 1958 film Ashes and Diamonds. The film received global fame and praise – as well as condemnation by the communist authorities domestically – for its portrayal of inter-ideological relations between the Polish non-communist and communist resistance movements in 1945 Soviet-liberated Poland. More specifically, Wajda negotiated in his film the difficult and often tense relations which existed in the immediate post-war time period between Soviet-backed communist sympathizers and non-communist Poles, who were weary and distrustful of their communist compatriots. The work is considered one of Wajda’s most prominent expressions of symbolism and romanticist cinematography, a genre of art that has been highly influential in the formulation of Polish tradition, culture, and the Polish Weltanaschauung.

wajda_6100243

One of the difficulties of outlining and describing Wajda’s successful cinematographic career was his constant production of and output of films. One may joke, but the truth is that in a good decade, Wajda would easily work on at least ten films. The sheer quantity of films produced is impressive, yet one must also take into consideration the politics of Polish cinematography and film business at the time. Specifically, one must be aware that Wajda’s films were often controversial, criticized, and held in “development hell” by the communist authorities. One such example is that of the 1976 film Man of Marble, whose manuscript was written and completed in the early 1960’s, yet was forbidden by the communist authorizes from production and filming due to its controversial theme and topic. Specifically, the film was one of the first in the Soviet Bloc that highlighted the failures and inadequacies of the communist system, as well as the hypocrisies of socialist authoritarianism and elitism. As a result, much of Wajda’s career – as was true with not only many other Polish artists, but the Polish population in general – was often held back and progressed at a snails pace due to political pressures from the communist authorities; although not impossible, social and economic mobility, however, was difficult to achieve for the common person if they were not Party members, not to mention if they had openly and publicly criticized the system and/or authorities at any point in their life.

Wajda will forever remain dear to Poles particularly due to his reanimation of pre-WWII Polish romanticism in a dull and tepid communist Poland, his relationship to Polish traditions and culture and his expression of patriotism, and especially his contributions towards embedding Polish martyrdom into Polish “pop-culture” through the medium of film, as well as its dissemination and popularization all over the world. Perhaps this is most evident in his 2007 film Katyń, which depicts the Soviet massacre of over 22,000 Poles in the spring of 1940. Polish military officials and members of the Polish intelligentsia were the primary victims of the 1940 massacre, and it remains a contentious matter in Russo-Polish history and politics to date. Although the film does not rival artistically the works of Ashes and Diamonds, Man of Marble, or Man of Iron (1981) – the latter having won the 1981 edition of the Palme d’Or at Cannes – it is the portrayal of an event that is considered to be exemplary of Polish martyrdom in recent Polish history.

It is also a monument to Wajda’s own father, one of at least 21,768 Poles executed in the jails of western Ukraine or the forests of western Byelorussia by the Soviets. Perhaps Wajda’s prominence and importance to Polish cultural life – and society in general – is because of his depiction of historical events that, in reality, have touched the lives of each and every Pole for the last century; the depiction of the Polish experience of World War II, the Cold War, and the communist regime, as it was truly experienced by the vast majority of Poles. For the most part, there has been no other individual that has been as vital in the reconstruction and portrayal of Polish experience, memory, and history, and whose works have been so widely disseminated and known since the romanticists of the 19th Century – Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Henryk Sienkiewicz, or Wincenty Pol, to name a few. In short, Wajda was the continuation of the Polish Romanticist legacy. Much like the 19th Century Polish Romanticists who experienced and expressed in their works the nature of life under foreign occupation/rule, Wajda and his works explored these very same facets in relation to communist authoritarianism, the latter as being something that is inherently foreign. Along with the sadness that accompanies his passing is a sense of loss and uncertainty – loss in the death of one of the few remaining representatives of Polish Romanticism, and uncertainty in who will continue its legacy.

14650220_10202342366196127_8663788757714126691_n

Polish Cinema’s Finest, Cannes Film Festival, 1990. From left: Andrzej Żuławski (1940-2016), Andrzej Wajda (1926-2016), Agnieszka Holland (b.1948), Roman Polański (b.1933), Ryszard Bugajski (b.1943), Krzysztof Kieślowski (1941-1996). Photographer: Micheline Pelletier.

 

This blog post was written by Adam Staszczuk, a graduate history student at Villanova University. He is a student of European history, particularly modern Central European history with a specific interest in modern Polish history.

Individuals interested in reading more about Andrzej Wajda and his artistic work are highly encouraged to visit the biographical webpage compiled and written by Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, accredited by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Please visit http://culture.pl/en/artist/andrzej-wajda

Research

Hoberman, J. “Remembering Andrzej Wajda, Unflinching Observer of Modern Poland.” The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2016. Retrieved Oct. 13, 2016. Web. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/13/movies/remembering-andrzej-wajda.html?_r=0

Karol, Tom. “Letter: Andrzej Wajda obituary.” The Guardian, Oct. 14, 2016. Retrieved Oct. 14, 2016. Web. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/oct/14/letter-andrzej-wajda-obituary

Lubelski, Tadeusz. Wajda. Portret mistrza w kilku odsłonach. Wrocław, Poland: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, 2006.

Mokrzycka-Pokora, Monika. “Andrzej Wajda – Biography.” Culture.pl, January 2016. Retrieved Oct. 13, 2016. Web. http://culture.pl/en/artist/andrzej-wajda

Mondello, Bob. “Filmmaker Andrzej Wajda Dies at 90, Celebrated Resistance to Authoritarianism”.

National Public Radio, Oct. 11, 2016. Retrieved Oct. 13, 2016. Web. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/11/497569055/filmmaker-andrzej-wajda-dies-at-90-celebrated-resistance-to-authoritarianism

–. “Andrzej Wajda. Official Website of Polish movie director.” Prószyński Media Sp. Z o.o. in collaboration with Andrzej Wajda. 2011. Retrieved Oct. 13, 2016. Web. http://www.wajda.pl

Villanova Graduate History and the James Madison Foundation’s Summer Institute

Villanova’s Graduate History program is known for its outreach to local secondary educators to provide them with an affordable, flexible Master’s program to satisfy their continuing education requirements. As a student, I have noticed and greatly enjoyed the company and intellectual discourse of many secondary teachers in each of the courses I have taken at Villanova. In fact, I am a certified secondary educator myself and chose Villanova’s graduate history program because of its flexibility, affordability, and recommendation from an alumnus who, like myself, received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship. The purpose of this post is to highlight the James Madison Fellowship and its compatibility with Villanova’s graduate history program for current or prospective graduate students who are interested in secondary education.

Briefly, the James Madison Memorial Fellowship (JMF) subsidizes a master’s degree for one to two secondary teachers from every state that seek to expand their knowledge of U.S. constitutional history. As a result, a James Madison fellow is required to take at least two courses in their graduate program that relate to the Constitution, and also attend a six-credit course on the Constitution and the Founding at Georgetown University during a summer of their choosing. After a Fellow has completed their coursework requirements, they are obligated to teach secondary school for however many years they received funding from the Foundation.

Villanova’s graduate history program has meshed extremely well with the JMF. I have been able to satisfy my constitutional coursework requirements through both formal coursework and independent study just one year into the program.

This past summer, I attended the Summer Institute at Georgetown University and the experience was once in a lifetime. The Institute is a one-month long course on the origins of American Constitutionalism that brings together teachers from around the country (and even one Fellow from Cuba) to intellectually immerse fellows in the primary sources of the American Founding. All four professors were wonderful and very knowledgeable, providing daily lectures and discussions that considered extremely thought-provoking historical inquiry.

img_0989

View of D.C. from Arlington House, Arlington National Cemetery

The experience was truly immersive, as we lived on Georgetown’s majestic campus and traveled around D.C. and northern Virginia to visit some of the places relevant to our study. We enjoyed private Q&A talks with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Secretary of Education John King (a former Madison Fellow himself), and Federal District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

img_0816

Q&A with Justice Kennedy. I’m seated in the first row, second on the left.

secretary-king

Meeting Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr.

We also traveled to the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, Arlington National Cemetery, Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, Gunston Hall, and the Society of the Cincinnati.

img_0878

2016 Summer Institute Class at James Madison’s Montpelier

Best of all, I have made quite a few friends and professional connections that span the nation, several of which I remain in contact with nearly three month’s post-Institute.

 

img_1026

At George Mason’s statue on the National Mall (bet you didn’t know there was a monument for George Mason). 

 

img_1011

Fellows after the annual James Madison Lecture. This Summer’s lecture was given by Edward G. Lengel on his new book, First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His – and the Nation’s – Prosperity

 

img_1086

Me and the Cuban Fellow, Professor Manuel de Jesus Velazquez Leon. We became very good friends and had many interesting discussions regarding the Cuban perspective on events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

 

For current or prospective teachers who are seeking their master’s degree in history, Villanova’s graduate history program and the James Madison Fellowship combine to provide a rich graduate experience in U.S. constitutional and legal history.

Trouble in the Pipeline: Native American Environmental Activism on the Rise

Dakota Access Pipeline

Less than a year after the Obama administration blocked construction of the hotly contested Keystone XL pipeline, environmental activists have forced another pipeline project, the Dakota Access pipeline, into the media limelight.  The Dakota Access pipeline is an 1170-mile, four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline being constructed by Energy Transfer Partners, Inc. to send 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields of western North Dakota to Illinois, where it would be linked with other pipelines.[i]  This and other pipeline projects have been proposed as a safer alternative to rail transport, which has suffered from several significant derailment accidents. In June, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in Oregon, forcing the evacuation of a school and the closure of a highway and in 2013, a runaway train in Canada crashed, killing 47 people and destroying buildings in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic[ii], prompting increased pressure to find a safer alternative.

At the center of this protest movement is the Standing Rock Sioux, who claim that the current pipeline path would involve the destruction of a considerable number of sacred burial mounds outside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.  The pipeline, which crosses under the Missouri River upstream of their reservation, would also endanger the water source essential to their way of life if it were to leak. These and other concerns have created a growing protest camp just outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Thousands of environmental activists and tribal representatives from over 200 tribes have poured into the camp in recent weeks, leading daily parades on foot and horseback to block the path where preparatory work has begun on the pipeline.[iii]  This has sparked clashes between protesters and private security contractors working for Energy Transfer Partners which turned violent last week when private security guards employing pepper spray and guard dogs clashed with protesters whom they claim had been throwing rocks at workers.[iv] At least six protesters were bitten, including one child, and over 30 protesters were pepper sprayed. Four guards and two dogs were also injured in the encounter.[v]   The protests have led to over 20 misdemeanor arrests, including that of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, her chief aide, and independent journalist Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow, who filmed the clash[vi].

This protest movement has occurred alongside a legal battle between the Standing Rock Sioux and the Army Corps of Engineers in federal court surrounding whether or not the tribe had been properly consulted on the project.  As the pipeline is constructed almost exclusively on private land and doesn’t pass through reservation, there has been little regulatory oversight by the federal government.  However, since the pipeline crosses the Missouri River, it needs federal approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.  A federal judge ruled last Friday, September 9th, in favor of the Army Corps of Engineers, but immediately after this decision the Departments of the Interior and the Army agreed to a temporary pause in construction at that location until the tribe’s concerns can be heard by the agencies which approved the permit. The Justice Department and other agencies have also called for “serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”[vii]

This fight has deep historical resonance for the Standing Rock Sioux, one of six reservations created in 1889 breakup of the Great Sioux Reservation following the US Congress’ 1877 unilateral annexation of the Sacred Black Hills.[viii]  This is not their first fight with the Army Corps of Engineers. Fifty years ago, hundreds of Native American families lost their homes and land to rising waters after the Army Corps of Engineers built the Oahe Dam along the Missouri River, part of a huge midcentury public-works project approved by Congress to provide electricity and tame the river’s floods.[ix] The tribe has spent more than 20 years trying to gain control of 19,000 acres of waterfront land that was taken through eminent domain during dam construction. 56,000 acres of Standing Rock Sioux land had been condemned for the dams and 190 families relocated, one of 23 tribes affected by the project.[x]  Needless to say, it’s not surprising that preliminary discussions between the Corps and the tribe were perceived as insufficient and the tribe feels a sense of déjà vu.

This protest is part of a recent upsurge of Native American environmental activism starting with the 2015 high-profile protests of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Native American tribes in both the United States and Canada played a central role in the four year battle which secured President Obama’s veto of the pipeline in the days leading up to the Paris talks on global climate change.[xi]  Only time will tell if these protests can take the recent moves by the Departments of the Army, Interior, and Justice and turn them into practical reform over how the federal government handles infrastructure projects affecting Native Americans.  However, the pipeline issue has become a rallying point between Native American tribes and signals an increasingly united and determined native voice in environmental politics.

[i] Jack Healy, “North Dakota Oil Pipeline Battle: Who’s Fighting and Why”, The New York Times, August 26, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/27/us/north-dakota-oil-pipeline-battle-whos-fighting-and-why.html

[ii] Reuters, “North Dakota Pipeline Fight Gives Spark to Native American Activism”, The New York Times, September 7, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/09/07/us/07reuters-usa-pipeline-nativeamericans.html

[iii] Zoë Carpenter, “The Standing Rock Sioux Have Been Heard. Now What?”, The Nation, September 13, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-standing-rock-sioux-have-been-heard-now-what/

[iv] Carpenter. “The Standing Rock Sioux Have Been Heard. Now What?”

[v] The Associated Press, “Oil Pipeline Protest Turns Violent in Southern North Dakota”, The New York Times, September 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/09/03/us/ap-us-oil-pipeline-protest.html

[vi] Carpenter. “The Standing Rock Sioux Have Been Heard. Now What?”

[vii] Jack Healy and John Schwartz, “U.S. Suspends Construction on Part of North Dakota Pipeline”, The New York Times, September 9, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/10/us/judge-approves-construction-of-oil-pipeline-in-north-dakota.html?_r=1

[viii] “History”, Standing Rock Sioux, accessed September 13, 2016, http://www.standingrocksioux.org/history

[ix] Jack Healy, “I Want to Win Someday: Tribes Make Stand Against Pipeline”, The New York Times, September 8, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/09/us/dakota-access-pipeline-protests.html?_r=0

[x] Ibid

[xi] Coral Davenport, “Citing Climate Change, Obama Rejects Construction of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline”, The New York Times, November 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/07/us/obama-expected-to-reject-construction-of-keystone-xl-oil-pipeline.html?_r=0

 

Daniel Runyon, United States, drunyon@villanova.edu

From Rome to Rio: The Paralympic Legacy

Because of the recent improvement in coverage and attendance of the Paralympic games (although there is room for improvement), some fans might be surprised to learn that this year’s summer Paralympic games is only the fifteenth iteration.  While various clubs have existed for people with disabilities since the 1880’s it wasn’t until after World War II that the Paralympic movement found traction in it’s current form. With such a large number of people (both military personnel and civilians alike) having been permanently injured as a result of the war, the demand for rehabilitation centers skyrocketed.

ludwig_guttmann2

Dr. Guttmann

In 1944, in response to the demand, the British government asked Dr. Ludwig Guttmann to open a spinal injury center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England. Guttmann’s program initially sought to help the injured rehabilitate, but before long it had evolved into a thing of recreation, and eventually became competitive. As a result, Dr. Guttmann organized the Stoke Mandeville Games. The first Stoke Mandeville Games took place on the 29th of July in 1948, the same day as the opening ceremonies of the 1948 London Olympic Games. Gutmann’s games were for wheelchair athletes, and consisted of sixteen wounded service men and women competing in Archery.

Four years later in 1952, wounded Dutch servicemen joined the competition, and the Stoke Mandeville Games became the International Stoke Mandeville Games. From there, the games would continue to grow, with eighteen different teams participating, including the likes of: the USA, Australia, Israel, South Africa, Malaya and Pakistan. And, while the games were well received, even receiving recognition from the Olympic committee, Guttmann’s international games wouldn’t become recognized under the Paralympic banner for years to come.

That said, the 1960’s international games are now widely considered to be the first Paralympic games, despite still being under their International Stoke Mandeville Games banner. They are considered as such, because the games were hosted in Rome in the Olympic venue following the conclusion of the Olympic Games. From that point on, the Paralympic movement continued to grow and expand, going on to open itself up to athletes with a variety of disabilities.

It is thanks to the legacy of Dr. Guttmann and all athletes involved in the early years of Paralympic sports, that today’s spectators are now treated to demonstrations of incredible athletic prowess time and time again. And, if this year’s events are any indication, the trend will only continue to improve, as was evidenced on September 11th when four Paralympians finished the men’s T12/13 (visually impaired) 1500 m race with times that were faster than the time of the Olympic gold medal winner. The winning time for the Paralympic men was 3:48:29 and was run by Abdellatif Baka of Algeria, while the fourth place finisher, Abdellatif’s brother Fouad, finished in 3:49:84. Abdellatif’s win, a world record, was almost two seconds ahead of American Olympic winner Matthew Centrowitz Jr’s time of 3:50:00, meaning that had those men been running in the Olympic version of the event, they would have kept all of the Olympic medal winners off of the podium.

The men of the 1500 m and their accomplishment are undoubtedly impressive, but they are not alone. Six days into the Paralympic Games, 132 world records and 214 Paralympic records were broken. And it is likely that in the last two days more records will be broken and set. For those interested in following the remaining days, live streams, results and schedules can be found on the US Paralympic website.

Michaela Smith, American History, msmit133@villanova.edu

Oil, Corruption, and Uncertainty: The Impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff

blog-photo

On August 31, the Brazilian Senate voted 61-21 to formally impeach President Dilma Rouseff, who had been ousted in May amid charges that she illegally “[moved] government expenditures around within the Brazilian budget to make her government’s financial performance look better overall than it actually was.”[1]  Her impeachment comes at a time of economic difficulties and political scandal.  Rouseff and her Worker’s Party, which has held presidential power in Brazil for thirteen years, was at one time seen positively by the working class due to the importance she gave to labor issues, including the passing of a number of labor laws.  Those successes have apparently been forgotten as Brazil has been experiencing “its worst recession since the 1930s, with GDP falling for six straight quarters.”[2]  Combined with a number of corruption scandals, including a $3 billion scandal involving the country-owned oil company, Petrobras.  Despite the impeachment, it is uncertain whether the new president, Michel Temer, will be able to improve conditions.

While the movement of government expenditures is cited as the official reason for Rouseff’s impeachment, it is the Petrobras scandal that has most drastically affected her support among Brazilians and which had placed her in the most danger of facing impeachment.  The company was founded in 1953, with the government owning a majority share and smaller shares being held by groups in São Paulo and New York, as well as private citizens in Brazil.[3]  After being partly privatized by centrist party President Fernando Enrique Cardoso, state control was restored by Worker’s Party President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the 1990s.[4]  In 2007, while Lula da Silva was still in power, a large deepwater, offshore, pre-salt oil field was discovered and the Worker’s Party, in an attempt to keep the oil out of private hands, created a “new regulatory regime that made Petrobras the sole operator of pre-salt discoveries.”[5]  The scandal involves the placing of Worker’s Party officials in the most prominent Petrobras executive positions, which they then used to divert funds and make profits for themselves which some estimates claim amount to billions of dollars thanks to the large interest and investment in the pre-salt fields.  While she has not personally been charged with corruption related to the scandal, Rouseff came under suspicion and lost trust among Brazilians because she had been the chairman of Petrobras from 2003 to 2010.[6]

While Rouseff was impeached on charges of corruption related to the reallocation of government revenue, she and her supporters describe the impeachment as a coup and that the movement of money is not inherently illegal, particularly if it is not for personal monetary gain.[7]  While Rouseff had seen low approval ratings as a result of the country’s economic crisis and political scandals, Temer faces his own wave of backlash connected to both the Petrobras scandal and the few measures he has enacted since taking office in May.

One of the biggest complaints among Brazilian’s is Temer’s cabinet, which has no female or Afro-Brazilian ministers, which is supposed to represent a country in which 51% of citizens identify as black or mixed race.[8]  Just the same, some cabinet ministers, including the anti-corruption and planning ministers, have resigned amid claims they actively tried to impede the Petrobras investigation.[9]  Temer was also recently found guilty of violating campaign finance laws, which may result in his being ineligible to run for political office for eight years.  There are also significant groups of Brazilians who see Rouseff’s impeachment and Temer’s appointment as counter to the country’s young democracy.[10]

For now, the country’s future is uncertain.  Rouseff is planning to appeal the impeachment decision to the country’s Supreme Court, although many believe that they will uphold the vote, if they choose to intervene at all.  Coupled with low approval ratings of the siting president, continued charges of corruption, and continuing economic crisis, it is too soon to know if Temer will be able to make positive changes or if the Worker’s Party will be able to take back control in the next election.

[1] Editorial Board, ”Exit Rouseff: Brazil impeaches a president, but will carry on,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 2, 2016.

[2] Matt Sandy, “Dilma Rouseff’s Impeachment is the Start of Brazil’s Crisis—Not the End,” Time, September 1, 2016.

[3] Joe Leahy, “What is the Petrobras scandal that is engulfing Brazil?” Financial Times, March 31, 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Exit Rouseff”.

[8] Romero.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

Jessica Chrisman, Atlantic World, jchrisma@villanova.edu