tv David Gergen Hearts Touched With Fire - How Great Leaders are Made CSPAN July 18, 2022 4:36am-5:38am EDT
that you know poland check republic etc. they can all be yours that that's his that's the nightmare scenario. so that's i think we need to end it there. it's a it's a grim forecast from somebody who knows putin's russia. extremely well, so to be taken seriously bill brader. thank you so much for joining us on washable. so i've talked about your book and talk about the issues. we're all following. thank you. thank you. so we'll be back with future wash both live programming if you want to see what we've gotwr virtual program with david gergen coming to you from president reagan's private office at the reagan library joined in conversation by reagan
foundation and institute executive director john highbush. david bergen just what a pleasure it is to have you online with us not just to talk with you but most especially about a terrific book, you know, i as you know, well know there are must be tens of thousands of books out there on leadership leadership and i read this cover to cover. it's terrific and i you're really to be congratulated for this work together. well, thank you very much john. i i did hope that it would be a book. that would not only be read by why spectrum of people but especially by the young the emerging young leaders of tomorrow because i think so much in america rests upon how successful they are and i think those of us who are older have a duty responsibility to help them grow and mature and become great leaders of on their own. so the book was intended to do that one one lesson i ever
learned from president reagan among many is have some good stories available. so, you know, he always did and i you know, i've been living off the bringing stories for love these many years now over 40 years and but any event the this is not the ideal time to write something and there's urgency because the country is obviously on an unsustainable path. i tell people it's like we're driving on the edge of a cliff and a car without a headlights and rain beating down on us and you never know what you're gonna go over the edge. that's as long as you're on the friday as long as you're on top driving along you can get very complacent. we should not be complacing about what we're going through now, and i know i know for certain although i'm sure they'll be people who disagree i think president reagan would have had a very different take on this and would have had been pushing to the values that he represented and embraced values that were more traditional american values. that's so much in the mainstream in many many ways, but i think he would have been repelled by
some of the radicalism that we're seeing on both sides of the aisle. yeah. yeah. well you your opinion certainly credible and this one you work directly for the man for several years and well i did i was not as to be honest, but i was not as conservative as he was i was pro-choice for example, but i i did find it to be a privilege to work for him and i've always regarded even though i have my some differences on politics. i think he was the best leader we've had in the white house since jack kennedy. yeah. yeah, i couldn't agree more. let's talk about leadership david you. i i think you know the answer given the subtitle of your book, but i'm going to ask the question anyways arts touch with fire how great leaders are made. so in your opinion or great leaders born, it's just something that with the genes or can they can someone actually
learn to be? oh, i think that great leaders early on do they do have a they have the makings of leadership, you know, and you got it and we it's hard to spot them, but i once had a fascinating conversation with lee quan you he visited from singapore to the kennedy school where i where i teach you and i asked him. what's the secret here to singapore success under your leadership because here yeah, it was a third world country. it was going nowhere and suddenly, this is cosmopolitan center in big trading center, and he said, you know, it's easy really have to spot the upcoming league up and coming leaders. he said it's like a sheep her going out and visiting the puppies and sort of looking at each one very closely and examine it and then say yes this one and this one and those are the ones we're going to work with and i do think that finding young leaders identifying them encouraging them and working with them. i think. can make a difference but i to go to your point. i think some people have the
predilections that he is some of the strength, but i do think after that. it's a lot of hard work about becoming a leader and developing your values developing your sort of a true north as bill george likes to say it is a and i think that's the work of a lifetime so that i think in the long run the great leaders are self-made. they're people who have recognized that they're become aware of their strengths and weaknesses and tried to master some of the weaknesses and try to build the strengths, but that right from the beginning. it's a journey to leadership is about a journey and it's never over but you can always improve yourself and you should continually be trying to do that. yeah, i think in your book david you you note that there's something like at least you found over 200 definitions of what he's to be a leader. yeah.
be in a sentence or to so i'll put that discipline on you a sentence to define for me. what how you would define leadership? well the leader the shorthand version that i have embraced for a number of years is a leader is someone who mobilizes others. in the pursuit of shared goals leaders a person who might stirs up others and motivates them to pursue shared goals. so what we're talking about here is you have to have a leader, but you have to have followers. you know who knew whether reagan do that better than almost anybody else. he built a huge following and it made his presidency much more effective because there's so many people who believed in him and followed him before he got to the white house and that was an important part of his development, but i think true leaders are made and bad leaders are broken by their early
experiences. i mean, let me contrast reagan, but i just had about reagan with richard nixon. he was the first president i worked for and i was on it's an honor for an american to be in work for any president. so i've been very blessed in life, but what i found about nixon was that he was actually the best strategist. about international relations have anybody i've ever met and he just generally thought strategically he had a sense of the division. what a leader needs is a vision and then a strategy for carrying it out and the value is to keep it to keep going and uphold it and nixon is a bad strategist. he could figuratively go up on a mountaintop and look toward the past and see where we come from and then look out the other way into the future winston churchill once said that he who can see farther back and see farther ahead and that was certainly true for nixon and had that been everything about nixon. we needed to know he would have been one of the better
presidents but in fact as you well know john he had demons inside him that he had never learned to control and they derailed him, you know in the end of the day. he was the author of his own failures and it's harsh to say, but it other is kind of learn from that if you don't develop your your values and have some sense of the difference between right and wrong and be thinking in those terms you can get yourself in deep trouble pretty quickly in the in a game of politics, which is a it's it's ain't bean bag. it's not you know, i don't think this is a contact sport and you have to be tough. you have to have tough skin. you got to grow into it, but you got you gotta have that inner strength. think about this we're bringing again when he came to washington as president to be president, you know, he was well formed by that there was not a lot of growth it was coming because that's one of the reasons he was so successful is he he was well
for me he was well developed and by the way, it was also important to come from a big complex state. i know some place which is requires the leader the governor, whoever may be to work with the other side to see more than one perspective and about right and what's wrong? so those those i think this leadership development. is one of the most important things that we who are in older and people who were in the private sector have to sort of think about how are we going to train up the next generation? how do we how do we help them have those lessons the truth? is that one of the most important training grounds for leadership in our society is a military, you know, the west point is probably i would say west point is the best leadership development center. in the country because it's all on the line for them. it's colin powell once told me
you know, one of the things about about the military is when they need a new person at the top or somewhere around command of something they have to choose from within they can't do a worldwide search as a as a private company can looking for a ceo when the military you've got to turn to somebody else in the military. so it's in everybody's self-interest. to make sure the people who come up and are two three four star generals are extremely well prepared to handle whatever may come their way, and we've been fortunate that way. i think the military has become has in vietnam was so, you know derided it's now our most one of our most trusted institutions. that's right. yeah. yeah. you're absolutely right in the military. you better be good at succession planning because you don't have any other choice. yeah, exactly exactly right in the book now. i don't think i recall that you label them this way i will but the three c's in the weather courage the three, oh three
seas. yeah courage capability in character. yeah, you know and and if churchill argue to courage was the most important of those three, he said without that you had nothing else. there's a historian that i used to read a lot who's now no longer with us. to who argue that if you look at how as barbara tuchman was her name, she wrote a book called a march of folly examining society since going back to the the classical period and so greeks and romans going way way back, but she traced it from our political development what happened in society after society right up to vietnam. and she raised the question. is it possible to prepare people for governance for successful governance? and she said well many societies have tried and she went through
this historical record on that but you know and as they going from the trojan horse days to vietnam, she's had many societies of have tried to develop leaders. well if it has lasted only a short time in every society, it's a usually they've given way to corruption. she said but if there's one thing that you know, we should be training people for in leadership. it's character. it is character and i think that goes to i think courage and character actually go together in a lot of ways. yeah, how do you teach those critical ingredients courage characters that do you feel like it's at the end of the day. it's really derived from your upbringing and your family or nope down in a class at a leadership training school at harvard. and here you go. there's some courage. well, you know if you don't know who's courageous until the trouble hits do you and it's not
always the person who's got a lot of ribbons on our on their on our lapel. it's not always the person who's you know, had 20 years. it's often i found and navy. i was in the navy for three and a half years it was and and had 50 young -- who reported to me. it was it was one of the best learning experiences. i could possibly have had. but what i discovered was you didn't know who was really tough who really had the inner strength until till there was a crisis and then in a crisis you began to see who's good and who's not good and who's got scared and and i you know, one of the things i found was the best people often are ones who sort of her don't show their cards. they don't show all those cards about encourage until trouble hits and then they stand up in their terrific and look at zelensky, you know and ukraine perfect example of someone who is you know, he came out of he came out of the entertainment world who would have thought he would be his brave as he is. yeah, but it's you know, he
stirred and not only the people of ukraine he stir people all over the world. and in fact, i think in america one of the questions we should be asking because we've had so many leadership failures. where are our silinsky's where are the people we can look up to and as he rose we tend to we tend to unfortunately, i think we tend to hear care down when they get to the is real it's like it's a sort of king of the mountain kind of game. and when you get to the top that's when people come after you then again, it's very very it's easy with social media being and it's easy to get instant attention. you know, you do you say something outrageous and you probably get some attention on it, but it's very and so it's easy to get the and to get what appears to be power, but it's really hard then to execute the power, you know, look at aoc and she came out of nowhere you have to give a credit for that. i disagree with their politics, but i respect the fact that she's she's so passionate about change.
i think it's a healthy thing. we have people like her in our system. but the you know, all of this goes to say that. we simply have to i think focus on who is likely to do well and i have found in one of the things i'm more more. hope one of the reason i'm more hopeful is but in the short term i think we're in for real trouble still. i think we're proceed few years a few more years of real trouble, but i do think that the prospects for the long-term are brightening. and that is because we do have a number of people who are coming through now young people who are resisting the direction we're going and really want to bring the country to a better place this they are going to inherit this country after all and they want to climate they want to inherit a climate that you know does not broil us to death or just you know, this is brings far fire and fires all over california, you know, you just
don't want to live in a society like that very long. so all of us have the self-enters and coming to grips with these things, but we're so paralyzed with the older generation. is so paralyzed that i i'm less and less convinced. the older generation can solve these problems. i think it's going to be the younger generation. that we're going to rely upon heavily. i also think and i think reagan was a person personified this so much. you know, he took this age issue seriously as president. he was you know, he wanted to make sure and you know, i always felt that. you know he as he grew older he did he did lose some of his stuff, but he left actually, you know, he was the the his age when he left office. was lower than the first day of any of some of the people running for president now, i i really think it's a mistake to have people running the white house or 80 years old, you know,
85 years old. i you know as much as i admire people who are elderly and they can be sages and they can help in all sorts of important ways. they're still roles to be played by older people, but i think people who are in the oval office i think you need you need people and reagan to realize that he got reagan was not afraid to have some really smart people working for it. that's right. yeah. yeah, he did. he didn't feel uncomfortable with that at all. yeah. yeah. we wanted the hallmarks of this success was attracting terrific people, right? yeah exactly in the in your book david you well, i'll quote you sure you wrote leadership at its best is service to others. yes. do you think that someone can be defined as a great leader if their services really to themselves. i mean they might really be talented, you know, no.
no, what would greatness comes from those who are able to do big things? it's not only that you have a set of values and you you moral purpose. but it is that you can find ways to actually get things done. i mean, it's it's it's empty if you're having a moral purpose to be proclaiming all these things and then not work for them. yeah, that's it. and so it's it's important to fill that out and i think there's a real question of what we do to help young people do that. they obviously you know so many people coming out of college today. i find all over the country, and i'm very encouraged by they're an awful lot of people who want to get into service jobs. they they find the capitalism. somehow doesn't fit their their i don't know who they are very well. it doesn't sing to them, but they very very committed to to serving but they just don't know how to it don't and hi, i'm a bit. i become a big believer and not
right about this in a book a big believer in national service. and you know, john mccain came big believer in this bill buckley reagan would like this, you know was a big advocate of national service. he wanted to he wanted to involve involuntary. he wanted to have a draft in effect and have people come in but the whole point is if you give a year back when you're young or maybe even two years we year back in your young to your community and you really, you know, get involved in a nonprofit organization or even with the government but in a way that you give back then i think you should have your tuition debt reduce by a year so that you're you not only a paid amount of salary, but that you can work off your debt because peter my people who are who heavily in debt really have a hard time engaging in service? you know, they're just too pressed trying to keep food on the table and making sure their kids go to decent schools. yeah. yeah, let's talk about the difference between a good a
great manager and a great leader. you like your book you quote warren bennett who says the manager does things right? the leader does the right thing exactly expand on it. well when they're more important it was a grand wonderful guru. he was a mentor of mine and a dear friend and i miss him in this book is written very much with warren in mind and you'll find his name on many his wisdom. on many pages because he was there he was the man, you know, he was the university of california usc and his last 20 30 years and he was he was a real sage for so many especially in the business community, but he wrote a book on becoming a leader which there are many similarity parallels because i learned a lot for more and about it and we shared a lot of stories together, but the whole point was that that the leader the manager does do the the
right thing i mean, but it's the leader. really? it's a leader. it's the leader who actually leads in the manager bills creates and place an important role, but it's an effective in effect. the the manager is the ceoos the and it's it's the leader. who's a is a ceo and those are different jobs. those are different propositions. yeah, you know doing the right thing is what the leaders doing doing things right is what the manager management doing. i think that's what more and was saying. yeah. got it. you mentioned earlier david the importance of having a north star. i remember in hemingway used to he would call it in every man should have a moral compass as yes exactly. what why is she why does that mean to be at the center of being a great leader? because i think first and foremost, there's been such an
erosion of trust. in our institutions and in our in our leaders that i think it we've allowed them to be politicized far beyond what they, you know deserve and it really paralyzes us in our politics. so i i you know, one of the things about reagan was how much respect he had for presidency as an institution. you know, he would never go in the oval office unless he had a coat and tie on when he was shot as you were call and and they secret service. pull him up to the hospital. he got out of the car on the other side from the press so they couldn't really see him as he got out and worked but what he did was he straightened up his tie and and then he walked from behind the around the car and walked up to the doctors and what and what the press saw was a man who was standing up seemed to be, you know, vigorous seemed
to be okay when he got to the other side he collapsed into the arms of them the doctors, but that's how much respect he did not want to see he didn't want to have the american people watch a president fall to the ground and be crawling in a way that it was just be a catastrophic and so i i think that that was his north star. i think he always believed in the importance of you know, he had services tried to have a simplified midwestern view. of life and that rotates around, you know honesty and integrity and you know, you can character that you can count on in the long run. it's the harry truman. it's harry truman. it's quite eisenhower you can go through a long list of people who really care about the well-being frankly roosevelt said that at the end of the day that most important thing a president was was a moral leader because and he said in this
sense and that is issues that divide us need to be resolved through a process and a culture that allows for many voices to to express themselves. and reagan really wanted to protect that that approach to leadership and i think it i think it did distinguish him, but you know i've always i've always felt that what i when when charles de gall died in france. it was said that the goal was not great. because he was in france. he degaulle was great because france was in him. yeah. well, yeah and i always felt what was remarkable about reagan was not that he was in america, but america was in him. he sort of he sort of personified and lived in a way again. i didn't share all this is political views, but i thought as as a human being as a leader he was you know, became an
immersely respectful. of his leadership. yeah, let me quote again from the book and andrew the purpose of this quote after i laid out for you is to talk to you about the times we live in and here's your quote you write in my experience the people who have achieved the greatest understanding of their inner selves have been reflective practitioners those who have welcomed a wide array of experience have read history in biographies with care and have had a serious conversations with their inner cells. now the question the question i have for you with that quote in mind. is with the advent of so much social media today and twitter and people quick to the trigger on how they feel about something. do you think i mean social media is a real benefit to our society, but do you also feel like it can be a real?
a, you know, create real difficulties for us because people are not being practitioners as you. and i think that we it's one of the reasons i pushed zelensky because i think he represents the kind of values, but we've had we've had individuals that come through i think of john mccain or i i we wrote about i wrote about kathryn graham of washington post and and and and also ruth bader ginsburg and what i what is i think important understand is there are a lot of young people have never experienced much adversity in life, you know things have gone they especially if you're a middle class suburban product family. you have your you know, you have loving parents. you have a lot of things that are going well for you and you but you've never faced a lot of adversity and the big tests come when when you do have adversity, you know, john mccain going to
pow. longest rpows in vietnam were the longest serving prisoners of war in any of our war. but the way he was tortured and and he right from the beginning or jim stockdale who was a friend of his and you know, they stocked there was also i think a very memorable creature but i find other reflective practitioners. look at general mattis is a warrior leader, but also a warrior scholar. he reads incessantly he is he reads history. he reached biography and he's but he's wise way beyond his years. i have enormous respect sometime if you'd like. a general medicine said he'd like to come out with the two of us come out and doing a couple of events together if you'd like to do that sometime and you know, because he's written not up not far up the road. he's up in stanford. yeah, but you know john when he was when he was like a four star and he had billets he changed
his billets. he would take his books with him. you know, how many books he had with him seven thousand seven thousand and and he makes he argument if you become a three star or four star if you haven't read about something he has some 200 books and you're not ready to leave. you're not ready to bring the kind of advice and you know, and it's remarkable but jim general mattis did endorse for this book. you'll see on the backflam. i was honored again as endorsement, but he's he said i think you're on the right track trying to work with the younger generation. and i want to help all i can yeah, that's neat. i've had the honor of being reducing him here. now. this subject was a big defense forum, but you that i would love to whatever what a program that would be to have the two of you here together talking broadly about leadership. and in fact, let me use him as an example for another point you made in the book and that is that leaders need to have a longer time horizon in essentially think of themselves
as leadership as a lifetime commitment mattis is perfectly represented or that right? yes. absolutely. and i mean, he's in for the long haul. yeah. he wasn't a celebrity, you know, it's easy celebrity sort of come and go pretty quickly, you know, the light comes on them and they and they glow for a while, but you know, they have their 15 minutes of fame, but they tend they tend to pass and it's the it's the heroes we remember. yeah, that's right and people who you know one of the things that changed the public's perception of reagan. was the shooting and how brave he was in responding to it, you know with humor even yeah that may and you know, and as i said respectful of the office, but people walked away with i i was among those who thought, you know, he's a much tougher guy than i thought. need a much stronger person than
i that i had understood because that he had that kind of inner strength and it is. when the ships are down, you need to tell a nixon's story. that are illustrates point, you know, i told i said nixon was a very good strategist. and but those demons did him in but he had a he called me just a few weeks before he died and sort of reflective conversation of about his life. and and he said one of his proudest moments came early on when he went to congress. he came back from the war in 45 in 1946. he was elected nixon was elected to congress a house of representatives as a republican and that was the time that the republicans swept the white house took the white house back took the congress back and harry truman was president eventually
it took the white house back, but harry truman was president and you know was was in trouble and but truman in particular in particular saw that europe was going to fall into crisis and and the soviets would take over where we not to intervene with the marshall plan marshall. plan was was actually named after george marshall the most popular person in the country at that time a man of real character and courage i might add but when the marshall plan came out the american people were basically exhausted john, you know, they were mostly exhausted. they thought we'd already sent lots of blood and treasure the europe did we really have to do that again? so when it first came out the first gallup poll on the marshall plan showed it only had 18% support. and so the white house went to work and they reached out democratic white house reached out to nixon. they reached out to other other players incentive senate foreign relations committee and eventually working together in a
bipartisan. what fashion the approval rating for the marshall plan gradually crept up and up and up. so we got to be a point you could actually do it, but it was still a stretch, but nixon said one of his proudest moments as a freshman member of commerce when the marshall plan was put to a vote a democratic plan but to a vote that most people americans didn't want in the beginning when i was put to about he richard nixon stood up on one side of the aisle in favor of the marshall plan and there on the other side of the aisle was a new democratic member of the house of representatives. john f kennedy who was also standing out and makes his point to me was when the chips are down in this country, we stand up together. that was the tradition that we had for so long. it was a reason we sucked together as a people. we've been through some pretty awful experiences very challenging time when a lesser country a lesser democracy would
have collapsed but time and again with one exception as john meacham the historian has pointed out we've had at least four existential crises one in the beginning as a nation when we were threatened to our very core. i mean in the beginning with the fight to established establish republic was a very close call almost went the other way, you know, washington lost the first six out of eight battles that he fought but sometimes we pull ourself together and that we got through that perry. that's one we won. we lost the civil war in terms of the buildup of the civil war and it took an awful lot to overcome that and i just got i just walked the street the battlefields of candy last weekend with james mcpherson. it was one of our best historians and so it was a wonderful experience wonderful experience, but i you could see how close we came to the edge there, but then in the great and the depression the great depression, you know what franklin roosevelt's leadership in a lot of republicans helping
out, you know, we we succeeded in getting done through that crisis and then the crisis of the world were to itself which was existential crisis and we so we came through we've come through three out of four pretty. well. yeah, and that should give us encouragement that you know, because i i firmly believe abigail adams wrote a letter to her young teenage son, john quincy. and she argued that it was in times of adversity hard times. that's when great leaders step forward. yeah. that's what you see. there's people who say i'm here. i'll take the baton. i'll run with it and i think frankly it's time to pass the baton to a new generation. yeah and well put well put you make a point in the book about if you're trying to grow as a leader the need to find your authentic self and and in it, you say look be careful.
you don't want to just pick out leaders and try to copy them. this is gonna be all about you and i wanted you to just comment on the it's a little leadership model i made up on my own as i went through my career and that is as i found myself working for people. i admire to i felt were great leaders, but it was just try to take one aspect of that person one strength. yeah and you know i and i just want you to talk about the authenticity when it comes to leadership. well, i i there is a school thought that you just can adjust just your personality and everything to the the people you're talking to. i i think that today we live in a society in which we need more straight talk. and and stop stop yelling at each other and started listening more to each other. but but keep it straight. keep it keep it. we need to we need to be able to
talk about bad things tough things. we need to be able to talk about race. and gender in ways that people don't feel threatened but honored and and it's particularly important with all the inequities and inequalities that exist and i think this is something reagan embraced. was at you know that we need to we need to be a fair society aside in which people have an equal break an equal chance in life. it's not that everybody kind of should come out the same way and have the same benefits because you have to earn them. here we shouldn't be giving things to people i student debt personally. i would like to see west reduces student debt, but i think i think you ought to be giving something in return to do it. yeah, that's why because that's why i talked about national service. you ought to be giving back to your community. you shouldn't be just a gift. you know, and i think it's going to be said you're gonna have some skin in the game. yeah. yeah, and you gotta have some sense of commitment, but this true north thing is a it does
have roots in and in the past obviously bill george who is a very good friend and i think is also he's sort of a peter trucker warren bennis protégé, and he talked he he's written to three books about. a moral compass and your true north finding your true north and his argument is authenticity. is is the way to get to your true north but really when you're authentic about to yourself you as a self as a practice as a reflective practitioner, let us say yeah, if you're 25 years old you should be starting to think about. how am i what do i really believe in? what what values do i what are my core beliefs? what do i want to see to accomplish in this life? well, how can i working out? where do i fit into it? that's about finding your true north in it. can be complicated. there and it by the way you can
take a long time it to become a true leader. can sometimes be the work of a lifetime and you just changes hard we go all the way back to machiavelli and who made the point that you know, those who benefit from the status quo are going to oppose change and those who actually say they like change actually are fearful underneath. it won't work out very well for them. so he said it's really really very very hard to put together a coalition in favor of change and it's you know, he goes on to make some arguments about you know, the end is justify the means that i don't accept as readily but i think machiavelli was right it is to change. you know, i i went through the 60s i i thought pursue or that we were going to change about civil rights, and i thought by the time i by the time i die, i'm sure that i'm currently i'm i have to believe in the united states will have solved inspiration. it's underlying racial problem. and we haven't you know, we
still have elements of systemic racism. it's we're a lot better than we were and i think we there's some people who run us to whatever we do. they run us down, you know, the americas always the is sort of the favorite. yeah target now for a lot of people are for colonial fathers and so forth and i think we're we're too ready to you know tear down the statues we ought to we have some we ought to be respectful of what jefferson represented as opposed to. yes. it's important that he had this black woman who was slave and then he had children by her exactly extremely important that we know that history but topless jefferson stand for so much more than that. and so much more so many more accomplishments and i think if you go through our great leaders. that's true one of the things. i don't mean to gaston too much chance on let me turns back over but the i would point out something more in venison used to ask me he's and and i
couldn't i didn't have a good answer. he said he pointed out that when we were young country of three million people back in colonial times. the united states managed to produce six world-class leaders six. we had a george washington. we had john adams. we had jefferson. quit hamilton. we had madison and whom i leaving out but the franklin so we had six world class leaders today america's 330 million many many times more than we had then. and yet we have our time finding any world-class leader. yeah. well, there's something in the water these days. yeah. yeah, we're tearing people down or they or they they get beaten up. so so easily it's it's i don't know why people would take such pleasure and i and i go back to your point about the social media. i do think social media is very much a two-edged sword. it can help you create a sense
of national conversation. but it can also be assessed pool. it can be a sewer line running through your you know, you're down or you're living here with something because this stuff it's on there. it's just so oh, come on. give me a break, you know it. yeah, and so, you know, i'm mature society should be able to overcome those things. so i i look but i want to come back to it. i i am i can't tell you how. i balance off my sort of like fear of what's coming next three or four years because i think it's going to be pretty gruesome, but i do think that there are so many signs now of a younger generations stepping me and stepping up and saying i'm here i want to help i see two big great streams now people coming through my classrooms and other institutions who were so helpful who gave me so much hope and that's young people coming back from afghanistan and iraq who went over there as volunteers and fought over there, but their lives on the line and they come back and they
remind me so much that world war two generation. yeah, and and and i'm part of of an organization called with honor. so it's a nonprofit. it working we're identifying people we think coming back military veterans coming back who would like to get into most i'd like to get into public service, you know, and i want to do something. they may take a job with the corporation, but they want to do something on the side. they're really dedicated to that and i there are terrific young people coming through that and they're with only with honor we try to help people on both sides of the aisle when their congressional seeds so that a couple years three or four years ago. we had 20 people who won one seats 10 were 10 were democrats and ten were republicans. and they all sound pledges to work in a bipartisan fashion. so we have the veterans coming back, but the other thing on the other hand of the spectrum. there's so many young black women now who are stepping
forward becoming reformers the they act with moral purpose. they have environment they to a significant degree have the moral high ground and there, you know they and they invented to me too movement. they invented black lives matter movement. they've given the black community. hope that they can they we can turn things around when we've had we've had record-breaking marches now on various issues. it used to be people who march for people of color. most specially black now, you see the white young white people millennials, you know, right up there demonstrating too and i think that's very very encouraging before we go. i want to talk about one of the things that's the importance of humor but but your show unless he let's keep going you're doing a great job. i was getting in fact before, you know, you hit it right as you well know from personal exper. is ronald reagan knew how to use humor in his own leadership
experience as well? but i want to ask. about leadership and mistakes leadership where and leadership and mistakes as interesting. yes. do you think that leaders learn more gain more from their defeats or from their victories. oh, it's a really good question. i think you gain more when you're young. from defeats. i i don't trust anybody frankly when people were running for office for high office. i wanted to know somebody about their friendships do their friendships. are they something we're like to happen ten minutes ago when they became celebrities or their friendships and their values something that you saw were there before they became, you know became prominent and if somebody had has no friends when they were all the friends, you know came into their lives when they got rich or got prominence. i don't trust that person.
you know, i i just sort of my instinctively. i had more faith and trust in people who? you've been friends for years, you know go back. i think i try to go to my high school reunions. i think it's important. to to show up there even though you know with all drifted so far apart and but nonetheless i i think that the the leadership is about more than trying to run a program or a policy. i think leadership is about creating a culture. and a following that you know can sustain hard times and can help you get through things and people try to work together. i mean it made such a difference. in the world war two that you had a you know assault install from massachusetts who was saluting some polish kid from, brooklyn. you know that we were democratizing in a small d way
in a very very effectively and we don't we just don't see a lot of that now, i i'm sort of hung up on a military in that sense because i think they are one of the unified forces in our country can be one of the unified enforces and we need we need more like them one of the things about the the world war two generation which started with in terms of power with jack kennedy when he was elected in 1960, but went through george hw bush when he was last elected and in 1988, and we had seven presidents during that period starting with kennedy ending with bush senior every single one of the more war military uniform. and jimmy jimmy carter they bore into while he was still and and the naval academy, but he went on to serve honorably as a marine officer as you know, so i thought if you look at that group. they brought so much to the table. they were they were not perfect.
they did give us vietnam. they gave us watergate. so you have to you have to have some some caution here, but nonetheless when they left office when they started leaving the stage as they started to do now and i think more of them leave the stage. but in and when they let when they started leaving him stage, but world war two they left behind a nation. that was the strongest. since rome economically culturally militarily, you know, we were the world looked to us. with all they didn't always like what they saw, but they were awed by it. you're now you know the baby boomers get ready to leave. it's not like that at all that we have crisis after crisis has gone on, you know, not for food not solved and and we're exhausted emotionally exhausted and people are losing faith. they're losing their we've lost so much trust one of the
reasons. i think this whole abortion issue with it. it's the supreme court is now, you know getting battered over these kind of issues and being accused of being politicized and you know that they're not basing their decisions on the laura sorry decisis or based on you know, what pressure is there under from whatever backgrounds in there, you know, so i think we have a lot of work to do but i think we can do it with a good heart and i think we can do it with a sense of let's let's work with this you these younger generations. that's really help them and and they'll do great things for us and we'll put you know, there's a an adage that i'm sure that you've heard about and it goes never meet your heroes. and they you know, i think it stems from the fact that all of us. i mean even great leaders like you'd reference, you know, richard nixon have our flaws, right? yes. the leaders are not perfect people.
are they? no, and i think it's really really important point. i i tried to you know, i've tried to tell people who are gonna you know, young people who went into politics. we're going to go work in washington or better yet working in a state houses or local mayor's offices and that sort of thing that you're not going to meet a perfect person and you have to be prepared for the fact that people have almost everybody has feet of clay and what you want. and what what you desire is a person, you know nelson nelson nelson mandela was the first to tell you that he a flawed individual. but he lived a perfect purposeful life right and you know the moral purpose at mandela represented, you know, i think justifies everything he stood for and it's one of the reasons we should continue looking to him. they're not a lot of people you look you can say stand out for their moral courage and nature bonoffer would be another for
example, and you know, who is a lutheran pastor he went back to germany and you know, sure death and in fact, but he was standing up against hitler that was more a purpose that i think you go for and i do i do people find her moral purpose. usually in defeat and adversity because they have to figure out okay, what are really believe in and what we're what legacy do i want, you know as you get older you ask yourself. i'm of that age. now know about okay. what what legacy is involved here? and let's keep it simple. yeah, yeah. you you focus in in one chapter. i thought was interesting on the concept. of stoicism. yes, and how great leaders often have this? yes. yeah. well, i i didn't know much about the stoics until like i got i i was was hurt. i'd read some stuff but i epictetus i didn't really quite you know, i didn't read a lot of
it. marcus aurelius was also a very very important figure in this so the stoicism is a concept goes back to the greeks in the romans and it is the notion that to put it to put it simply the notion that i would listen. we're always all of us are under a lot of stress some people just taking on the world's problems. and a huge amount of stress but you need almost to have like a buddhist type view of things. there are certain things you can't control in life. and the things that you can't control you should stop worrying about them. there's not much you if so, you can't control it. don't don't take this and don't destroy yourself, you know worrying about something. you can't control what you need to do is work on what you can control and to make that central to your life and care about that and you can then withhold and withstand almost any adversity, you know, but i mentioned who
was a prisoner of war i wrote beautifully about we came back to stanford. a lot of this came out of his work at stanford, but he ran up on the stoics and when he was flying over north vietnam is playing was shot out from under him and he was parachuting down into north vietnam and hanoi. he told himself that he was entering the world of the stoics. that he was he was going to be in a very strange new world and he simply in order to get through it. he had to be stoical and the torture and the brutality that they faced and the number of people snapped as you well know it was like going it was like the same thing was true people people who went through the holocaust. they they had to find victor frankel, you know, it talks and written has written wonderfully about that. but what the people who endure were the people who had that sort of inner.
peace? and then come. to what they could change in what they couldn't and the certain money of them survived. i'm not some of them survived. yeah, there's i want to pull another is another another great line in your book david. you've read itself. well, i'm terribly grateful. this one's stuck out for me you notice and an old african proverb that patty stone saver at the gates foundation long ago. yeah. yes if you want to go talking about leadership if you want to go fast go alone if you want to go far go together. yes, what is that all about? well, it is no an old african proverb and penny stonecipher. who was a first ceo of the case foundation used to use this frequently, but i think it points to a larger reality. that or much of history.
we thought of leadership as this leaders a sort of a singular individual the night on a white horse coming into rescue us and is what if you think about john kennedy one of the pictures that is haunting from his presidency because of kennedy alone in the oval office had dusk lean over a table and i think a globe and you felt he was all alone. and a lonely position and you felt that you know, he is he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. and we call that the great man theory of leadership and he was at kind of person. but if you think if you go fast forward down to barack obama and think about what the most memorable picture one of the most memorable pictures in his presidency. it's when he was down in the situation room late at night as we were chasing osama and you know and obama's there, but he surrounded by eight or nine of his top peoples secretary of
state secretary of this secretary of that and i see and it became very apparent that we had this great man idea versus constructive collaboration is an alternative way of looking at it and and the truth. i think we now we we do need to we do leaders do need to be able to work across boundaries. it's not just it's not enough just to get yourself up and strengthen yourself, and then just have a small family of small organization of your own. but how do you work with how do you bring a lot of people who are in a different organization? where somewhere else? how do you how do you create systems change? it's not enough to. go into startup a nonprofit as somebody wonderful people have and in serve 500 people over 10 years time. it's such a small number that you have to find ways to really change the system itself. and that's me and me more thoughtful about that.
and how do you work with others? so this is constructive collaboration as a role model as i as a theory of how to get things done. the that you work with out through a lot of parties through networks and through creating a culture, you know as much as many reservations as i have about republicans these days if the truth is they there were a lot of people have been working on this portion issue for 20 30 50 years and i disagree with him, but i i must say i i respect them for working so hard on something they care about pushing any issue and you know, i think we ought to the rest of us all the engage in the struggle to overcome it but i think people talking to each other over across boundaries and living together and cross boundaries is really important. that's what happened when people went to the war to fight and
they fall under the same flag and they became bonded. how do we create bonds today bonds of trust empathy understanding? i think we need. more focus from our leaders unless less conversation about money, you know all the other things that don't get very far. i mean we've done no favors to universities to take presents of universities out of the role of being moral role models to how much money has that person raised. yeah that we're doing them. no favors. yeah doing that. yeah, totally. yeah one university. i remember the president every year in a freshman had a freshman seminar on ethics. and that may start that struck me as that's really smart. yeah, you bet. we're almost out of time. so i wonder question sure and involve a little bit of entry i
introspection. but before you answer i want to pull another quote from your book because this one's really now, let's salient here. this is ronald reagan's words about you. when you were just about to leave the white house under his leadership, and he he wrote in a letter to you for three years. david has served me with exceptional creativity and loyalty and dedication president ford would have shaken his head. yes in agreement because he would have known from his own days at the white house. dave is devoted to honest open and decent government and we shall miss him the boy. those are those are some really kind words from a great leader. and i i i'm sure. you know, we're just words like that had that have really made your career and your life worthwhile.
yes, i i agree. i those that kind of commentary for that kind of feedback or response of courses, very welcomed. but again, i think i think whatever whatever i participated in in the reagan administration and in others, but especially the reconstration was because with the you know at the end of the day we did have a team people who worked together the reagan brought people together, very different backgrounds. i mean the fact he wanted me to work for him, i guess even though i think he knew i was pro-choice and and had other issues on which we were somewhat disagreement. i but you know, i must say that i also find it one of the most gratifying things about teaching is there was your your ability to meet students along the way and then see them change and grow and you know and thrive and that's that's been a very
sustaining for me to watch and as i say and as i run in the book and i think so important about this, you know, we really we shouldn't be discouraged by what we see today every day. we shouldn't serve throw it over and say it's not gonna you know, we can't get any better we can we are better than what we're going through we can make it through this and with you know, we've had leaders in the past and we can have leaders in the future who can bring us together and you can become one of them you you have a chance when you're in your 20s and 30s to begin a journey that you really can make a difference in this country and keep that in mind have role models look for courage. look look for capacity, but look for character, too. yeah, well david. hey, thank you for your time b. thank you for teaching us such a great deal with this wonderful book about leadership.
and thank you. really honestly david for your lifetime of service to this nation. it's it's really remarkable on i hope that you're as proud of your accomplishments as the world is. oh, you're very kind and thank you. good luck. my name is mark and on behalf of book soup. i'd like to thank everyone for joining us for our virtual event tonight with anna gifty opaku agumon in conversation with michael tubbs discussing the black agenda bold solutions for a broken system. for regular updates on our upcoming events. feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter. you can find that at our website. this evening's virtual event will end with a q&a. so to submit a question just use the ask a question button at the bottom of the screen if you see a questio o