Foreign (and other) Affairs


October 13, 2011
Sidney Buchannan’s class has arrived at an opportune time, as representatives from the nation’s political  parties are debating the size and power of the federal government

Buchannan’s class delves into the important subject of constitutionality, exploring each branch of the federal government and the powers it can exercise.  In particular, he will examine the constitutionality of forced detention of aliens (and US citizens) without trial, the use of military power without formal declarations of war, recognition of foreign governments, and more – all of which are have occurred in recent years. We asked Professor Buchannan to tell us the particulars about his class, and his propensity to burst into song at unexpected moments.

WIH Reporter: Why have you chosen this particular subject for your class?
Buchannan: I have chosen The Constitution and Foreign Affairs as my topic for the current fall season because if fits neatly with the present foreign affairs issues that confront our nation. This course also gives me a chance to show how difficult it often is to even get the Supreme Court to review a case.


WIH Reporter:  We understand that you often sing in your classes, placing your own lyrics into well-known songs to get the point across. Can you tell us more about this?  
Buchannan: From childhood forward, I have thrived on putting my own lyrics to familiar tunes. As I surged through boarding school, college, and law school, I did this frequently, and it became a regular habit as I entered my adult years, a habit from which people could not escape even if they wanted to.  And so, at family birthday occasions, in the law school classroom, and in various church activities I belt out songs with lyrics appropriate to the situation at hand.   It is advantageous to me in that, because of the settings in which these songs occur, no one expects me to sing in operatic tones.  It is like the dog that can stand on three legs: it is not that I do it well, but that I do it at all.  In any event, it has brought me great joy to sing my lyrics to the various audiences that have been subjected to them over the past decades!  

WIH Reporter:  Can you tell us what books are on your night table?
Buchannan: I am currently reading “How Would a Patriot Act” by Glenn Greenwald and “The Land of Painted Caves” by Jean M. Auel, the last in her excellent series on Earth’s Children.  The strongest influences on my life are too numerous to list but certainly include my family, my church, my close friends, and my teaching career at the University of Houston Law Center.  I think most people who know me well would describe me as a joyous person, and I plead guilty to that charge!  Finally, as a child, I was a fervent fan of the Oz books authored by L. Frank Baum and later by Ruth Plumly Thompson.  I am “joyously” happy to share that fact with the world at large.