Image - James Kirchick and the U.S. Capitol

San Francisco

James Kirchick: The Hidden History of Gay Washington

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For decades, the specter of homosexuality haunted Washington. The mere suggestion that a person might be gay destroyed reputations, ended careers and ruined lives. At the height of the Cold War, fear of homosexuality became intertwined with the growing threat of international communism, leading to a purge of gay men and lesbians from the federal government. In the fevered atmosphere of political Washington, the secret “too loathsome to mention” held enormous, terrifying power.

Utilizing thousands of pages of declassified documents, interviews with more than 100 people, and material unearthed from presidential libraries and archives around the country, James Kirchick's Secret City is a chronicle of American politics like no other. Beginning with the tragic story of Sumner Welles, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s brilliant diplomatic advisor and the man at the center of “the greatest national scandal since the existence of the United States,” Kirchick illuminates how homosexuality shaped each successive presidential administration through the end of the 20th century. Cultural and political anxiety over gay people sparked a decades-long witch hunt, impacting everything from the rivalry between the CIA and the FBI to the ascent of Joseph McCarthy, the struggle for Black civil rights, and the rise of the conservative movement. Among other revelations, Kirchick tells of the World War II–era gay spymaster who pioneered seduction as a tool of American espionage, the devoted aide whom Lyndon Johnson treated as a son yet abandoned once his homosexuality was discovered, and how allegations of a “homosexual ring” controlling Ronald Reagan nearly derailed his 1980 election victory.

Join us for a talk with author James Kirchick and the story that could transform our understanding of American history.

About the Speaker

James Kirchick has written about human rights, politics and culture from around the world. A columnist for Tablet magazine, a contributing writer to Air Mail, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, he is the author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. Kirchick’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. A graduate of Yale with degrees in history and political science, he resides in Washington, D.C.

Notes

This program has 2 types of tickets available: In-person and online-only. Please pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream event.

Safety Protocols for in-person attendance:

• We follow best practices laid out by the CDC and state and local guidelines.
• All guests, staff, and volunteers must be fully vaccinated. Guest must show proof of full vaccination with photo I.D.
• Masks are encouraged while indoors (if you do not have one and would like one, inquire at our front desk for a complimentary mask).
• In-person capacity is limited.

Our LEED Gold-certified building is designed to cool with outside air, using digitally controlled moveable windows and large ceiling fans. We are deploying additional HEPA filters inside to scrub the air. This is all in addition to increased cleaning of surfaces throughout the building.

This program is free thanks to generous supporters of The Michelle Meow Show at The Commonwealth Club.

We welcome donations made during registration to support the production of our programs.

See more  Michelle Meow Show programs at The Commonwealth Club of California.

Author photo courtesy the speaker; main image background image is detail from Secret City book cover, published by Henry Hold and Co.

Mon, Jun 13 / 6:00 pm PDT

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Taube Family Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

Speakers
Image - James Kirchick

James Kirchick

Journalist; Author, Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington; Twitter @jkirchick

Image - Michelle Meow

Michelle Meow

Producer and Host, "The Michelle Meow Show," KBCW TV and Podcast; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors—Co-host

Image - John Zipperer

John Zipperer

Producer and Host, Week to Week Political Roundtable; Vice President of Media & Editorial, The Commonwealth Club of California—Co-host

Format

5:30 p.m. doors open & check-in
6–7 p.m. program
7 p.m. book signing
(all times PDT)

COST

Free for members and nonmembers