John J. Slocum, Jr. Memorial Lecture with Michael Gross FLIGHT OF THE WASP: The Rise, Fall and Future of America’s Original Ruling Class

July 31, 2024, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Michael Gross, bestselling author and journalist will present the 2024 John J. Slocum, Jr. Memorial Lecture. His talk will focus on highlights from his recently published book FLIGHT OF THE WASP: The Rise, Fall, and Future of America’s Original Ruling Class.


For decades, writers from Cleveland Amory to Joseph Alsop to the editors of Politico have proclaimed the diminishment of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who for generations were the dominant socio-cultural-political force in America. While the WASP elite has, in the last half century, indeed drifted from American centrality to the periphery, its relevance and impact remain, as Michael Gross reveals in his compelling chronicle of the WASPs in our history.


From Colonial America’s founding settlements through the Gilded Age to the present day, Gross traces the four-century sweep of America’s history through the complicated legacy of American WASPs—their profound accomplishments and egregious failures—focusing on the lives of ten influential individuals and fifteen very privileged, often intermarried families. As the Bradford, Morris, Randolph, Biddle, Sanford, Peabody, and Whitney clans, among others, progress, prosper, and stumble, defining themes of our history emerge: our wide, oft-contentious religious diversity; the deep scars of slavery, genocide, and intolerance; the creation and sometime misuse of astonishing economic, political, and social power; an enduring belief in the future; an instinct to offset inequity with philanthropy; an equal capacity for irresponsible, sometimes wanton, behavior.


“American society was supposed to be different,” writes Gross, “but for most of our history we have had a patriciate, an aristocracy, a hereditary oligarchic upper class, who initiated the American national experiment.” In previous acclaimed books such as 740 Park and Rogues’ Gallery, Gross has explored elite culture in microcosm; expanding the canvas, FLIGHT OF THE WASP chronicles it across four centuries and fifteen generations in an ambitious and consequential contribution to American history.


MICHAEL GROSS is the author of New York Times bestsellers Model, 740 Park, and House of Outrageous Fortune, as well as Rogues’ Gallery, My Generation, Unreal Estate, and Focus. His journalism has appeared in the New York Times, New York, Esquire, GQ, Vanity Fair, and many other publications around the world. Online, he writes for Air Mail and the Daily Beast. Currently Editor at Large of Palmer: The Palm Beach Reader, he lives in New York City.


Wednesday, July 31st

Lecture: 6 pm

Reception: 7 pm


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