The former presidential adviser offers wisdom, perspective and bipartisanship during his visit to Lesley
Monday, October 15, 2012
Gergen, who directs the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, is a senior political analyst for CNN and served as an adviser to presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. A Cambridge resident and Lesley neighbor, Gergen infused his talk with humor and wit to a packed house in the Washburn Auditorium on Lesley’s Brattle Campus.
During his talk, Gergen reminisced that the World War II generation truly cared about the country and thought of themselves first and foremost as strong Americans, not strong Democrats or strong Republicans. Gergen predicts that the current partisanship - compounded with international issues including increasing hostility from Russia, Europe’s continuing underlying problems, and the situation in Iran - will make the next four to five years tough for whomever wins the election.
And yet, despite the acrimony and partisanship plaguing the nation and problems across the globe, Gergen sees cause for hope.
“People are sick of the sandbox squabbling that’s going on and want to build a better country,” said Gergen.
He cited American innovations and game-changing technologies in areas ranging from medical science to renewable energy, and said many young people are willing to go into public service and make the country a better place.
“One of reasons I’m so hopeful about the next generation is I think they’re going to sweep a lot of this aside,” said Gergen. “I think long-term optimism is still warranted.”
Gergen offered a unique take on global citizenship. He implored the students in the audience to broaden their perspective, live in other countries, and learn other languages. By possessing a sense of responsibility to the world in areas ranging from climate change to poverty, we also become better citizens and stewards of the United States, he said.
“One of the best things we can contribute to the world is to reform America,” said Gergen. “If we live better lives here, we can be more of a model to show people not how democracy can not just exist, but thrive. There is a lot here that needs to be done on behalf of the world that will also fix us. It’s a win-win situation.”
Gergen is among the leading thinkers and activists Lesley welcomes to the 2012-2013 Conversations to inspire thought-provoking discussions in the Lesley community and beyond.
He was introduced to the audience by James Florentine, a junior political science major at Lesley. Following the lecture Gergen engaged in a question-and-answer session with the audience moderated by Lesley Assistant Professor Bryan Brophy-Baerman, Division Director of Social Sciences, and he fielded an array of questions from Lesley students and community members.
During a welcome address, Dr. Mary Coleman, dean of Lesley’s College of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, noted that the Conversations series provides Lesley students the opportunity to “listen to and interrogate opinion leaders” and to explore the notion of global citizenship.
Past speakers in the series include Princeton professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, winner of the 2011 National Humanities Medal and an authority on ethics and culture; Harvard professor William Julius Wilson, an expert on race and social policy; and Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, who discussed the impact of early adversity on children’s development as part of Lesley University’s groundbreaking Child Homelessness Initiative.
Other noted speakers who will be welcomed to this year’s Conversations include author and leading American environmental activist Dr. John Francis, known world over as the “Planetwalker,” who will offer his unique perspective on the environment and how each person can make a difference in our world.
The series is free and open to the public.
About David Gergen
David Gergen is a professor of public service and the director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. He joined the Nixon White House in 1971 as a staff assistant on the speech writing team, a group of heavyweights that included Pat Buchanan, Ben Stein and Bill Safire. Gergen went on to work in the administration of Gerald Ford and as an adviser to the 1980 George H.W. Bush presidential campaign. He served as Director of Communications for Ronald Reagan and as adviser to Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher on domestic and foreign affairs. In his private life, Gergen has worked as a political journalist and analyst for organizations and programs including U.S. News & World Report, CNN, the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and Parade. He authored the best-selling book, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton, and lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Anne, a family therapist.
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