The President and the Assassin Feb. 20

Center for the Humanities celebrates Presidents' Day with author Scott Miller

Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century, will discuss McKinley’s presidency and assassination Feb. 20. Drawing by T. Dart Walker, 1905. (Credit: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
Despite war, terrorism and international expansion during his presidency, William McKinley is frequently overshadowed by his charismatic successor, Theodore Roosevelt. Yet McKinley’s presidency was arguably the more action-packed, with lasting implications for American power and its role in the world.

So argues Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century (2011). At 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, Miller will discuss McKinley and his legacy for the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

The talk — the center’s third annual Presidents’ Day Lecture — is titled “William McKinley, His Assassin and the Emergence of the U.S. as a Global Power.” It will take place in the Formal Lounge of the Ann W. Olin Women’s Building. The event is free and open to the public.

The Women’s Building is located a short walk north of Olin Library. For more information or to request a parking sticker, call (314) 935-5576 or email

A longtime reporter, Miller spent nearly two decades in Asia and Europe as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, covering topics as varied as the Japanese economic collapse, the birth of a single European currency and competitive speed knitting.

The President and the Assassin stems in part from Miller’s researching and writing about global trade. Elected president in 1896, McKinley would face a series of key foreign policy decisions — war with Spain; military intervention in China and Nicaragua; the annexation of Hawaii — that together helped announce the United States’ arrival as a world power.

But in 1901, less than a year into his second term, McKinley was shot dead by Leon Czolgosz, a seething young anarchist and former factory worker, who was outraged by the rapidly changing economic landscape.

In tracing the years leading up to McKinley’s murder, Miller explores the particular histories of the president and his assassin — each pursuing what he considered the right and honorable path — while also crafting a rich narrative portrait of turn-of-the-century America.

“William McKinley’s presidency, and the era it spanned, tends to be forgotten, yet it was in those years that the modern American nation, economy, and presidency were forged,” says Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

“Scott Miller describes these years through the world of McKinley and the man who assassinated him,” Zakaria says. “The result is a marvelous work of history, wonderfully written, told from the top down and the bottom up.”

Calendar Summary

WHO: Author Scott Miller

WHAT: Presidents’ Day Lecture, “William McKinley, His Assassin, and the Emergence of the U.S. as a Global Power”

WHEN: 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20

WHERE: Ann W. Olin Women’s Building Formal Lounge

COST: Free and open to the public

SPONSOR: Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences

INFORMATION: (314) 935-5576