When Life Strikes the White House


Death, Scandal, Illness and the
Responsibilities of a President
February 18-19, 2014


Americans demand much from their presidents. They practically require them to be superhuman no matter the circumstance: cool in moments of stress, compassionate in times of tragedy, steadfast in time of war. Yet they are also human, and sometimes, life strikes even the White House.  Death can touch their family. They can fall ill.  Their personal judgment can lapse. Everyday citizens typically ride out in privacy such personal trials. A president does not have that option. They have a moral, legal, and most profoundly ethical responsibility to their office no matter what might be occurring in their private life.  Indeed, at crucial points in the annals of the presidency, personal crises have affected a president’s ability to lead, and even altered the nation’s course.

Join us for two lectures and full-day symposium exploring the way that crises have affected presidents, from Andrew Jackson to Bill Clinton. The lectures and symposium are co-presented by Southern Methodist University’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, SMU’s Center for Presidential History, SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Keynote Lecture by Richard Reeves

Syndicated columnist and lecturer
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 | 7 p.m.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
411 Elm Street, Dallas, TX 75202
$25 per person. Register online.

Kick off the symposium with a keynote lecture featuring syndicated columnist and lecturer, Richard Reeves. Reeves is currently a lecturer at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and is the author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power, one of the only Kennedy biographies that Jacqueline Onassis insisted her children read to learn about their father. At the time of the assassination, Reeves was a correspondent with the Newark Evening News in New Jersey.

Sponsored in part by:

Panel Program

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 | 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Bob Hope Theatre at The Owen Arts Center
SMU Campus, 6101 Bishop, Dallas, TX 75205
Free but RSVP required. Register at online.

A Presidential History Forum featuring representatives from the George W. Bush Library and Museum, George W. Bush Institute, SMU DeGolyer Library, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza will be offered during the Lunch Break following Panel 2. A complimentary boxed lunch will be provided to all Panel Program registrants.

Opening Remarks: Jeffrey A. Engel, Director, SMU Center for Presidential History

PaneI 1: Personal Crises and Public Responsibility
Moderator: Rita Kirk, SMU Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility

Mark Updegrove,
Author - John Tyler
Dan Feller, University of Tennessee, Knoxville -  Andrew Jackson  
Kiron Skinner, Carnegie Mellon University – Ronald Reagan
William Chafe, Duke University - Bill Clinton

Panel 2: A Loss in the Family

Moderator: Talmage Boston, Winstead Attorneys

Michael Holt, University of Virginia - Franklin Pierce
Michael Burlingame, University of Illinois, Springfield – Abraham Lincoln
Amity Shlaes, George W. Bush Institute – Calvin Coolidge
David Nasaw, City University of New York - John Kennedy

Panel 3: Presidential Illness

Moderator: Dennis Simon, Senior Fellow, SMU John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies

Thomas Knock, Southern Methodist University - Woodrow Wilson  
Frank Costigliola, University of Connecticut – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Jeremi Suri, University of Texas at Austin - Richard Nixon
Randall Woods, University of Arkansas - Lyndon Johnson 

Capstone Presentation by Ambassador Karen Hughes

Global Vice Chair, Burson-Marsteller
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 | 7 p.m.
George W. Bush Institute Auditorium
2943 SMU Blvd., Dallas, TX 75205
Free but RSVP required. Register at onlline.

Close out the daylong symposium with Ambassador Karen Hughes, former counselor to President George W. Bush, 2001-2002, and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, 2005-2007. Today Hughes is a trusted counselor to corporate, nonprofit and political leaders providing strategic communications, corporate positioning and messaging advice. Since joining Burson-Marsteller in 2008, she has brought to the business world her unique expertise honed over more than 30 years of public policy, communications and political experience, from helping lead winning presidential campaigns to serving at the highest levels of government. At Burson, she has worked with clients as diverse as AVON Products, Inc., Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, LIVESTRONG and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. As Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Hughes dramatically reshaped the State Department’s communications efforts, rebuilt an agency demoralized by years of budget cuts, launched a new focus on America’s “diplomacy of deeds,” and made public diplomacy central in the development of foreign policy.

Co-presented by: