Phil Keisling and Cameron Blevins
The Center of the American West Announces our new Virtual Interview series Lunch with Limerick. In these one-hour programs, Patty Limerick will interview a range of guests on current issues and a variety of topics relevant to the West and beyond.
For decades, the Postal Service held the contradictory roles of the most taken-for-granted federal agency and the federal agency with the most consistent impact on the daily lives of Americans. In 2020, the pandemic and the impending presidential election completely overthrew that “taken-for-granted” part. Concerns that in-person voting would enhance the spread of Covid-19 led to a widespread recognition that mail ballots could offer protection and safety. At that point, political polarization and divisiveness of the nation placed the funding and efficiency of the Post Office at the center of the nation’s attention.
In hundreds of American communities, post offices have been centers of socializing and communication. In that same spirit, the Center of the American West turned out to be the place of convergence for people equipped with great insight on the centrality of the Post Office in civic life. As Oregon Secretary of State in the 1990s, Phil Keisling led the movement that made Oregon the first state to shift entirely to voting by mail in 1998. Keisling is the Chair of the Board of Vote at Home, an organization now playing a crucial role in deliberations and decisions nationwide on voting by mail. On another track entirely, a graduate student named Cameron Blevins wrote his dissertation at Stanford on the enormous impact of the U.S. Postal Service on westward expansion in the nineteenth century.
As an undergraduate at Yale University in the 1970s, Phil Keisling endured Patty Limerick’s endless comments on his papers. Forty years later, Cameron Blevins endured pages and pages of Limerick’s commentary as he revised his dissertation into the forthcoming book, Paper Trails: The U.S. Post and the Making of the American West.
Without the Center of the American West, Keisling and Blevins would never have met. In a prime demonstration of the Center’s status as a place of improbable—but actually very logical!—convening, Keisling, the practitioner and Blevins the scholar will get together with Patty Limerick, to unite their understandings of the many meanings of the U.S. Post Office.
We will work with ADA Compliance to attempt to fulfill any disability requests for ASL interpreting and/or real-time captioning for these events. Such requests should be made at least seven days in advance of the event. Requests received less than 48 hours prior to the event cannot be guaranteed.