Presidential CourageLast night, Susan and I attended a lecture at Elmhurst College by Michael Beschloss. The speaker is an author and presidential historian. He is a regular on NBC's Meet the Press and Today. The lecture was called, Presidential Courage.
For roughly one hour, Beschloss discussed issues that challenged American president's throughout the history of our country. Some were serious, and many had a humorous twist. Throughout the evening he mentioned: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Harding, Buchanan, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Clinton, Bush Sr., and Obama. A recurring theme was whether or not a president would make a decision based upon what was best for the country, or best for his popularity.
My favorite story of the evening was about Adlai Stevenson. He was talking about how Stevenson realized he was failing to connect with voters. He turned to his staff and asked him there was anything he could do to change that fact. Someone on his staff told him that he needed to reconsider things he said. He went on to provide an example.
"You remember when we were in Florida this morning and the little girl gave you her stuffed alligator?"
"Yes," Stevenson said.
"You should have said something like 'that would look great in my office,'" the staffer said.
Stevenson asked, "What did I say?"
The staffer said, "For Christ's sake, what is this?"