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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

History Like You've Never Read It Before: My Freshman History Professor's New Book

         Nine AM, Monday morning, Freshman year, I sat in a tiered classroom with thirty other students ready for History of the United States I, a required class I didn’t choose. Was I excited? Not really. And the professor was teaching three sections of the class that day, so I doubted he was enthused either.
        But then Dr. Alan Snyder took the podium. And I couldn’t rip my eyes away from his PowerPoint slides. 

            I had hated history for the last eighteen years of my short life. Rosemary Sutcliff’s fictional tales of dark love stories set in Roman Britain were as close as I ever came to willingly subjecting myself to history.
            But Dr. Snyder taught that required level 1 American History class in a way that riveted all one hundred Freshman students in our tiny campus body, including me.
            And I didn’t even gripe all the nights I stayed up to midnight trying to make the dates stick in my brain, which was more suited to logic puzzles than memorization. Because during those three hours a week from 9 am to 10 am, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Dr. Snyder captured my imagination with the story of history.
            When Dr. Snyder described how, in 1619, Jamestown imported the first “tobacco” brides, he so captured our minds, that soon after, with the help of some overly-imaginative male students, three-foot-tall balloon aliens invaded the college campus led by the green, inflatable Chairman Icalock, who boldly entreated Freshman girls to attend the spring dance with him.
            I still remember the video Dr. Snyder showed of Lego men acting out a famous battle scene, can’t remember which battle anymore, but it’s been ten years. And every time I salt my eggs, I guiltily hear Dr. Snyder’s voice recounting how Henry Ford wouldn’t hire a man who salted his food before tasting it.
           During my Freshman year, Dr. Snyder mentioned a book he was working on about Whittaker Chambers. And now that it’s going to print, I'm going to interrupt my normal diet of fiction and mental health books to read about history. 

Endorsements for Dr. Alan Snyder's book

The Witness and the President is a fascinating book. The writing, the research, the scholarship, the insights, and an intellectual depth and historical import befitting its weighty subjects, Alan Snyder has produced a superb work. From the book’s title to its final sentences, this is a must-read for anyone interested in not merely the two principal characters but the presidency, the Cold War, international relations, Soviet history, and even the broader history of the 20th century. . . . Alan Snyder has taken us beyond conventional biography, and beyond “yet another” book on Ronald Reagan. His focus on Reagan and Chambers is completely unique. His book, likes its subjects, is without peer.

--Paul Kengor, Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College and author of God and Ronald Reagan and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism

Alan Snyder has written a fascinating dual biography of two remarkable American anti-Communists, profoundly dissimilar in temperament yet united in their conviction that Communism was utterly evil. Each man in his own sphere contributed mightily to Soviet Communism's eventual collapse and thus to the survival of the West in their time. But this probing book is more than a simple biography. It compels us to ponder the religious dimension of the long battle that Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan waged, as well as a disturbing question: does the post-Communist West possess the spiritual resources required to flourish in freedom, or has it sown the seeds of its own demise?
--George H. Nash, author of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 
Alan Snyder illuminates in this fine study that Ronald Reagan's understanding of freedom, and the obligations it imposed on him as a statesman and leader of America, were forged in the Witness of Whittaker Chambers. This book uncovers for us the truth that the path of liberty is a path of sacrifice and love. Every student of American liberty should read this book, breathe in its contents, and think how they might reinvigorate their lives, their families, and their communities with the wisdom of Chambers and Reagan.

--Richard Reinsch, author of Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary

In this thoroughly researched and beautifully written groundbreaking study, K. Alan Snyder convincingly shows the profound influence that Whittaker Chambers had on Ronald Reagan’s eventual political transformation – an influence that continued through his presidency. With the publication of The Witness and the President, Snyder’s reputation as a leading authority on the subject is enhanced even further. Despite all we thought we knew about Reagan already, Snyder’s book is a genuinely new story and must-read to understand the optimistic mindset of our 40th president long before he reached the nation’s highest office. It has been said that Reagan was the right leader at the right time, and – thanks to The Witness and the President – now we understand why.

—Luke A. Nichter, Associate Professor of History, Texas A&M University – Central Texas and author of the New York Times bestseller The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972

K. Alan Snyder is professor of history at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He has also taught at Indiana Wesleyan University, Regent University, and Patrick Henry College. Dr. Snyder is the author of three other books: Mission: Impeachable—The House Managers and the Historic Impeachment of President Clinton, which was a main selection for the Conservative Book Club in 2001; Defining Noah Webster: A Spiritual Biography; and If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Biblical Principles and Civil Government. Two of Dr. Snyder’s upper-level history courses are “The Witness of Whittaker Chambers” and “Ronald Reagan and Modern American Conservatism.”

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