The Improbable Wendell Willkie: David Levering Lewis with Lewis Lapham

Thu. Sep 20, 2018 at 6:30pm EDT
All Ages
All Ages
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Event Description

The Pulitzer Prize winner discusses his new biography of the man who (almost) saved America’s dysfunctional political system and who (almost) unseated FDR.

America 1940: a country poised between the Great Depression and a second Great War. Wendell Willkie, a Republican businessman-turned-politician became the unlikely GOP presidential nominee and gripped the nation with a visionary agenda that transformed his party and, nearly, defeated our longest-serving president. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Levering Lewis discusses The Improbable Wendell Willkie, his latest book, the story never told about a politician governed by principles who seldom allowed rigid categories to stand in his way. Willkie took on Roosevelt during one of the nation’s darkest periods, creating an unlikely alliance of supporters, including anti-big-government business leaders and black voters, who rightly felt excluded from New Deal benefits. He lost the race, but in the process proposed sweeping civil rights reform a full generation before the civil rights era, and championed a vision of America that would balance free enterprise with social responsibility. 

Lewis, a professor emeritus of history at NYU, will be joined in conversation by Lewis Lapham, founding editor of Lapham’s Quarterly and the Editor Emeritus of Harper’s Magazine.

For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. Priority will be given to those who have registered in advance, but registration does not guarantee admission. All registered seats are released shortly before start time, and seats may become available at that time. A standby line will form one hour before the program.

Please send all press inquiries (photo, video, interviews, audio-recording, etc.) at least 24-hours before the day of the program to Sara Beth Joren at For all other inquiries, please contact

ASL interpretation and real-time (CART) captioning available upon request. Please submit your request at least two weeks in advance by emailing

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Venue Details
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Celeste Auditorium at South Court (1st Floor) The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016