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The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life

Recorded on May 24, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

In this first post-9/11 account of the career of the man who established himself as "America's Mayor" in the dark days after America was attacked, Fred Siegel shows how Rudy Giuliani's successes in New York - restoring law and order, cutting taxes and radically reducing the welfare rolls - demonstrated that Gotham was indeed "governable" (a matter of doubt until his election) and that our major cities might again become vibrant and dynamic places to live.

As someone who has worked with Giuliani as well as studied him, Siegel describes this colorful figure as an "immoderate centrist," who, like the city he came to embody, evokes contradictory emotions. For some, he was a ruthless autocrat; for others, he was a heroic figure. Siegel regards Guiliani as a shrewd tactician and artist of the possible who could have stepped out of the pages of Machiavelli's The Prince. A self-promoting, self-absorbed man, the mayor made his own enormous ego serve the city's well-being. He promoted the virtues of duty and sacrifice, but was sometimes unable to honor these values in his personal life. He was suspicious of those outside his immediate circle, but he also placed this tribal ethos in the service of ideals that transcended New York's ethnic politics and business as usual. 

The Prince of the City is at once a fascinating character study, a history of New York over the last forty years, and a classic inquiry into the issue of how cities thrive or die.

FRED SIEGEL is a Professor of History at the Cooper Union for Science and Art in New York City and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, DC. Among the country's leading authorities on urban politics, his writings appear frequently in the nation's leading newspapers and journals of opinion. His book, The Future Once Happened Here: New York, DC, LA and the Fate of America's Big Cities, has been called one of the 100 most important books about the United States in the 20th Century.