Summary | David Gergen opens the A&L lecture series in Santa Barbara

There’s something very refreshing these days about an iconic 80-year-old political figure saying we should have age limits on serving in Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidency. David Gergen, the former White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, delivered the 2022-23 UCSB Arts & Lectures season-opening lecture Oct. 11 in Grenada, kicking off the theme of Leadership and Vision series with a talk based on his new book, Hearts Touched by Fire: How Great Leaders Are Created.

Among the stickiest takeaways for me were Gergen’s statements regarding the current state of our union. “Those who fear that our democracy is in jeopardy are absolutely right”, and a few minutes later: “Mark me as a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.” He said he was deeply encouraged by the number of young people called to service, citing Stacy Abrams, Amanda Gorman, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai as examples of young women of color who are helping fuel his optimism.

Gergen, who is currently a senior political analyst for CNN and a professor of public service and founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, argued for an aggressive exploration of a national service program and a reimagining of the Peace Corps as a way to help reinvigorate our leadership ranks. “Now is not the time to retreat, especially not – this is the time to rally,” Gergen said, further urging our aging leaders on both sides of the political aisle to gracefully pass the torch.


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Angela C. Hale