Past Present Podcast: Presidential Health, Free Pre-K, and Star Trek

Star Trek

In this week’s episode, Natalia, Neil, and Niki debate secrecy and presidential health, New York City’s universal pre-kindergarten, and the legacy of Star Trek.

Presidential Health

Hillary Clinton’s team announced she has pneumonia after she fell ill at the 9/11 commemoration. Neil argued anxiety over Clinton’s health was really partisan politics, fueled by internet conspiracies like the “Hillary Clinton Parkinson’s” videos. Natalia responded the Hillary health stories didn’t operate only on the fringe, noting Sean Hannity has been pushing the rumors for weeks on his Fox News program. Niki contended that the long history of cover-ups regarding presidential health issues and illnesses meant that stories about Clinton’s health were really about the issue of trust, something she’s written about for U.S. News & World Report. Natalia pointed out the importance of the visual in shaping American ideas about the presidency, including photos of FDR in his wheelchair and JFK posing in Sports Illustrated to mask his own ailments. Neil raised the issue of mental health, citing a Politico article about the prevalence of mental illness among the presidents.

NYC’s Pre-K

New York City now offers a universal Pre-K option for the city’s children. Natalia outlined the significant features of the program and distinguished it from the federal Head Start program launched in the 1960s. Niki remembered how a proposal for other universal childcare programs in the 1970s had been stopped by the Nixon administration.

Star Trek

2016 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek! Niki contended Star Trek reflected a certain progressivism in domestic politics – including one of the first televised interracial kisses – but also was notable for how it promoted a “universalism” on the foreign policy front during its Cold War era. Neil observed that Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry had pitched the show to producers as a “space western,” a concept that spoke its Space Race-era setting but also the popularity of television westerns. Niki recommended the documentary Trekkies for understanding the show’s particular fandom.

What’s Making History

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