CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen Visits Marist
November 16, 2022 – Leadership and the importance of public service were key themes during a unique discussion Thursday night at the Nelly Goletti Theatre. David Gergen, one of the most respected public servants in the country and an esteemed adviser to four American presidents, shared his experience and insights in an interview-style event hosted by Marist President Kevin Weinman.
Gergen, a Senior Political Analyst at CNN, shared his views on the art of leadership, and why he believes college students today are uniquely positioned to bridge divides, lead with integrity, and address society’s most pressing challenges. The event, sponsored by Marist’s Raymond A. Rich Institute for Leadership Development, focused on Gergen’s new book, Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made.
He discussed the traits of truly transformative leaders, offering a guide for future leaders. When asked by Weinman about the importance of the art of “leading up” to their supervisors when entering the workforce, Gergen said that the key is to always think ahead.
“If you’re a good staff member, you’ve got one eye on the day, but another eye on a week out, a month out, a half year out. Where are we going to be? You need to be thinking about that,” said Gergen. “With that sense of learning how to anticipate what the needs are going to be for your boss and for the organization and being a team player, not looking for all the credit, not letting it go to your head, you can become a real asset.”
He also encouraged students to find a path that they love and to pursue it, relating a story of taking a group of students to meet then-Senator Barack Obama, who cautioned them to do things for the right reasons.
“Find your passion. Find what really matters to you as a human being. Find what you care about,” said Gergen, quoting Obama. “Go work on that with all your energy, enthusiasm, and vision and the jobs will come to you, because the word will get out. This is a player, this is a person who gets things done, this is a person who will be good in your shop.”
Gergen has served presidents in both major political parties, working in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton administrations. His position as co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has also enabled him to work closely with rising leaders.
David Gergen (center) meets with ROTC students and faculty/staff veterans.
While on campus, Gergen also took the time to meet with a group of ROTC students and veterans at the Cannavino Library.
“Mr. Gergen, who served in the Navy himself, gave the Marist ROTC cadets some wonderful advice about leadership and noted the long-term value of their future military service,” said Tommy Zurhellen, a fellow Navy veteran and Marist Associate Professor of English. “The other veterans present echoed Mr. Gergen’s main point, which was that military service builds valuable professional skills and opens up so many doors for veterans after their service.”
Later, he attended dinner with a group of Marist student leaders before heading to the event. For students, it was a unique experience to engage directly with one of the nation’s foremost political advisers and commentators.
“The dinner conversation and Q&A with Mr. Gergen definitely left a big impression,” said Caleb Davis '24, political science major and MaristVOTES Coordinator. “His talk focused on encouraging new generational leadership for the nation, and I came away even more convinced of the need for our generation to take the lead. For the good of the country, we should also follow his example of bipartisanship.”
David Gergen speaking at a dinner with Marist College students.
“Being able to ask advice from a man who advised four presidents, across both parties, was incredible,” said Patrick Edwards '23, political science major. “Hearing the optimism that he has for our generation and hearing him say how he found this week's election results to be a glimmer of hope, gave me confidence in the direction our country.”
“Spending the night hearing from David Gergen was such a wonderful, thought-provoking experience,” said Lauryn Starke '23, Marist Circle editor-in-chief. “His career gives him a unique view on the trajectory of American democracy, and it's refreshing to hear him advocate for young people to become the next generation of leaders.”
“Mr. Gergen is truly an inspiring man, and it was a real pleasure to not only dine with him but hear him converse with Dr. Weinman,” said Matthew Pater '25, a political science major. “He had a lot of great things to say about leadership, and I think his advice will resonate with a lot of Marist Students who are eager to make an impact after, and even before graduation.”
The energy he sensed from Marist students, faculty, and staff left Gergen impressed.
“You ought to be very proud of what you’re building here,” said Gergen to President Weinman. “This is a university that is just blossoming, and it’s not just the buildings. The most important thing is the quality of the students, and your faculty, and your staff.”
“It was truly a thrill to have one of the nation’s most distinguished public servants on campus to share his perspective on leadership and his thoughts on why the younger generation is poised to have an impact,” said Weinman. “David was incredibly gracious with his time, particularly with our students, and it was an amazing experience for them to interact with him. Having a speaker of this caliber enriches our campus community immeasurably.”
After the event, Gergen signed free copies of Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made.