Michael Duffy continues ASI lecture series

Michael Duffy

Oct. 6, 2016 | ASI |

The Harding University community gained a fascinating insight into the presidents club from Michael Duffy, deputy managing editor of Time magazine, on Monday, Oct. 3 in the Benson Auditorium as part of the American Studies Institute (ASI) distinguished lecture series.

Duffy introduced segments from his book The Presidents Club in which he investigated the relationships between former presidents through personal interviews and research. Duffy spoke about the friendship between Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, who conceived the idea of the “presidents club.”

“The presidents club is really a set of minds.” Duffy said. “It’s a set of shared experiences, it is a set of shared scars and bruises.”

Duffy illustrated the friendships made between former presidents during times of crisis. He shared an anecdote from the night president John F. Kennedy was shot when Johnson received advice from Dwight D. Eisenhower on how to address the nation. According to Duffy, Eisenhower wrote 16 statements on a legal pad for Johnson to tell the people. Johnson continued to ask Eisenhower for advice and assistance on running meetings during his presidency.

“Once you get into this club, there’s all these things that happen to make it easier and to make it better and sometimes make it harder,” Duffy said.

Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were two former presidents who had a close relationship, as did their wives. The presidents worked on 35 different projects together.

“[Ford and Carter] had one of the most remarkable friendships,” Duffy said. “Presidents of different parties seem to get along better than presidents of the same party.

Duffy used Bill Clinton and Nixon as a second example of mentorship in the White House. During Clinton’s presidency, Nixon wrote notes to Clinton and provided him advice, usually regarding foreign policy. According to Duffy, Clinton daily read a letter Nixon wrote to him in 1994.

When the current and former presidents met together, Duffy said instead of politics or conflict, they discussed their experiences of raising daughters in the White House. He said this is a testimony to the type of people chosen for president.

“They are just people, and we forget that,” Duffy said. “The only people who get it have done it before, and that’s one of the great benefits of doing the hardest job in the world.”

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