For Mr. Obama, who will be sworn in for another four years in a quiet ceremony on Sunday and then again in more public fashion on Monday, the lessons were familiar if daunting. Embarking on the next half of his presidency, he and his advisers are developing a second-term strategy intended to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors with a robust agenda focused on the economy, gun control, immigration and energy…

“In general, the historical record is not one of great hope,” said Robert Dallek, one of the historians at the dinner. “He’s fully aware of the circumstances he confronts, but he’s also upbeat about the fact that he won, and won convincingly. It wasn’t a landslide, but it certainly was a convincing victory.”

Indeed, during the course of a free-ranging two-and-a-half-hour conversation, the historians were struck by how much Mr. Obama had thought about his second term in the context of his predecessors. He was focused particularly on Dwight D. Eisenhower, another president who ended a war and tried to curb military spending. “His knowledge of what other presidents did in their second terms, what happened in their second terms, it’s very impressive,” said Robert A. Caro, the Lyndon B. Johnson biographer…

“You hope for a year and a half. You understand it could be half that,” said Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary who worked on the re-election campaign. “You’ve got to have a really, really good plan for 12 months in hopes it lasts for 16 or 18. But you have to be mindful that every day the window gets a little narrower and you’ve got to seize the moment.”