The President’s Breakfast and the Westmont Downtown Lecture Series
The focus of our series featuring prize-winning historians, Moral and Ethical Leadership in the American Presidency, served as the theme for the President’s Breakfast this year with Doris Kearns Goodwin and also for one of our Westmont Downtown Lectures.
A few weeks before the breakfast, superb presentations at the Westmont Downtown Lecture Series by Dr. Tom Knecht, a political science professor who challenged the idea and effectiveness of a bully pulpit, and Dr. Rachel Winslow, a historian who discussed the contribution of popular historians like Goodwin, stimulated a robust question-and-answer time with an actively engaged audience.
Dr. Goodwin gave a remarkable talk touching on significant milestones in our nation’s history between the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Focusing especially on the characters she knows best (Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt), she highlighted the necessity of a galvanizing ideal driving the country forward. She continued themes we’ve heard during our year-long series: presidents always build on the past; their legacy is tied to the work they accomplished in office that endures long after they’re gone; and they have a responsibility to advance the country’s noblest intentions even if these efforts don’t come to fruition during their tenure. Her remarks at the breakfast wove together a beautiful tapestry of historical insight, personal reflection and the enduring values that sustain each one of us.
On Thursday night, at a reception for the event’s sponsors, she answered questions in an intimate and fascinating exchange. Her remarkable intellect roamed across a vast array of issues that confronted earlier presidents as well as our current leader. Her time with the student panelists on campus during convocation after the breakfast offered her a great opportunity to draw upon the past while giving us hope and direction for the future.