There’s something very refreshing in this day and age about an iconic 80-year-old political figure saying that we should have age limits on serving in Congress, on the Supreme Court and in the presidency. David Gergen, the former White House advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton gave the opening lecture for the UCSB Arts & Lectures 2022-23 season on October 11 at the Granada, kicking off the series theme of Leadership and Vision with a talk that piggybacked on his new book, Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders Are Made.
Among the stickiest takeaways for me were Gergen’s statements in regard to the current state of our union. “Those who worry that our democracy is in peril are completely justified,” and a few minutes later: “Mark me down as a short term pessimist and a long term optimist.” He did say that he was deeply encouraged by the numbers of young people who are called to service, naming Stacy Abrams, Amanda Gorman, Greta Thunberg, and Malala Yousafzai as examples of young women of color who help to fuel his optimism.
Gergen, who is currently a senior political analyst for CNN and a professor of public service and the founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, advocated for aggressively exploring a program of national service and a reimagining of the Peace Corps as a way to help reinvigorate our leadership ranks. “This is no time to retreat, most emphatically not — this is a time to rally,” said Gergen, further urging our aging leadership on both sides of the political aisle to graciously pass the torch.