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UW to host symposium on Melvin Laird’s legacy

April 11, 2008

On Tuesday, April 22, at 7 p.m., the University of Wisconsin–Madison will host a symposium on the career and legacy of Melvin R. Laird, a longtime member of Congress from Wisconsin and Secretary of Defense. The event will take place at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on the Capitol Square.

“Mel Laird was one of the most influential figures in the Republican Party in the 1960s and one of America’s most effective secretaries of defense, if not the most effective,” says symposium co-organizer James Baughman, UW–Madison Journalism School Director and a historian by training. “The university is proud to be honoring him.”

“This event will offer a unique window into the remarkable career of Melvin Laird and his legacies for the twenty-first century,” adds symposium moderator Jeremi Suri, UW–Madison professor of history and author of “Henry Kissinger and the American Century.” “Our state and nation have a lot to learn from Laird’s biography and the history of his times.”

The symposium marks the publication of “With Honor” (University of Wisconsin Press), the first-ever biography of Laird, by Dale Van Atta. Drawing on exclusive interviews with Laird, Henry Kissinger, Gerald Ford and numerous others, Van Atta offers a sympathetic portrait of the man who, as a congressman, fought to greatly expand federal funding for health care and medical research and, as Nixon’s Secretary of Defense, sought to extricate our country from the quagmire of the Vietnam War.

Filled with new revelations about the Nixon administration, and detailing Laird’s behind-the-scenes role in helping Gerald R. Ford assume the presidency, “With Honor” adds immeasurably to the understanding of a turbulent era and presents an engaging portrait of a pivotal figure in modern American history.

Others commenting on Laird’s career include:

  • Professor George Herring of the University of Kentucky, one of the nation’s leading historians of the Vietnam War and the author of “America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975.”
  • John Scocos, secretary of Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Reed Hall, executive director, Marshfield Clinic.

This event is presented in partnership with the UW–Madison Department of History, the UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the UW–Madison Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy, the Marshfield Clinic/Laird Center for Medical Research, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, and the University of Wisconsin Press.