Stef Lage Venterink (middle)

TRAHA 2024 Winner: Stef Lage Venterink

Every year, the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies has the privilege of organizing the Theodore Roosevelt American History Award (TRAHA), an accolade that recognizes the most outstanding MA thesis on an American history subject composed at a Dutch university during the past academic year. Initiated in 1987, the TRAHA has been a beacon of academic excellence, fostering the study of US culture and society, and serving as a launchpad for many promising academic careers. The Jury of the 2024 TRAHA was composed of Damian Pargas (RIAS), Viola Müller (Wageningen University), and Pip van Zanden (winner of TRAHA 2023).

Unanimous

This year the jury received seven submissions. The jury members were unanimous that all of the theses that were submitted could and should be published. These were outstanding pieces of scholarship. After much deliberation, the jury reached a unanimous verdict assigning this year’s award to  Stef Lage Venterink for his thesis “Acquiring Acquiescence: On President Bush’s (Ab)use of Private and Public Powers,” completed at the University of Groningen. Stef’s thesis seeks to combine both frameworks of the rhetorical presidency and the unitary executive in an attempt to better understand how the Bush administration was able to dramatically expand the executive office’s powers.

The thesis specifically focuses on the way that the executive office witnessed a transformation of its foreign policy and war powers under the Bush administration. To do so, it considers two cases that comprised the full range of public and private mechanisms of power used by President Bush. The first case study discussed the administration’s strategy of securing the 2002 AUMF, which saw Congress hand over its war-making powers to the president. The second case study revolves around the issue of the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, which were authorized by the Bush administration as part of its larger War on Terror.

The jury found Stef’s thesis very well-written and forcefully argued. We applaud Stef’s exploration of what on the surface appear to be two incompatible models for explaining the expansion of presidential powers under Bush administration, and revealing how they are actually compatible and mutually reinforcing in practice. The jury found the methodology excellent and the conclusions pathbreaking.

Cowboy Years

TRAHA winners not only receive eternal fame and the good graces of American history scholars throughout the country, but they are also sent packing on a week-long trip to the Badlands, to Medora and Dickinson in North Dakota, where they are provided an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of TR during his “cowboy years.” A visit to a special conference on TR at the TR Center of Dickinson State University is also included in the program this year, a special treat.

U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Shefali Razdan Duggal presented the award to Stef Lage Venterink on 30 May 2024.

We express our warmest gratitude to the generous sponsors of the TRAHA: the US Embassy in The Hague, the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation in Medora (ND) and the Dickinson State University.