The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fall Convocation took place in the Gertrude Ford Center on Sept. 12. The audience was composed of students, faculty and others from the Oxford community.
Those in attendance had the privilege of hearing Doris Kearns Goodwin, a nationally acclaimed author, historian and public speaker. She is both highly experienced and accomplished, having worked previously in Washington, D.C. as a White House Fellow, teaching for 10 years as a professor at Harvard, being named a New York Times best-selling author multiple times and winning a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1995.
At a dinner prior to her speech, select students were given the opportunity to personally ask Goodwin about her life, success and opinions on crucial matters. She told many stories about her life, from having a drink with Daniel Day-Lewis to picnicking with Lyndon B. Johnson, whom she worked for in the White House. She recalled times speaking to and working with Barack Obama, Steven Spielburg and J.K. Rowling.
Goodwin said that as an author and historian, her hope is “to bring these people back to life.” Her research on each president is so in-depth that she goes so far as to say she goes to sleep thinking about them and waking up with them in the morning.
Goodwin said her hope is that all of her readers are moved and want to learn more after finishing each of her books.
At the convocation, audience members said they were awestruck by Goodwin’s stories about past presidents and her undeniable passion for history. She gave examples of multiple traits that a true leader, such as a president, possess, including having the ability to grow, the confidence to surround yourself with people who disagree, being capable of inspiring others by setting an example and finding time in your schedule to sit down and think.
Although Goodwin’s expertise involves the past, she mentioned how she is excited for the future of the U.S. She noted that a high number of students are becoming involved with public policy.
“All the changes in the country occur when the citizens become active… I think there’s no doubt that having a challenge creates an opportunity for leadership,” Goodwin said. “America became, and still is, a beacon of hope to a lot of people. It’s the best country in the world.”
Currently, Goodwin is working on finishing her late husband Richard’s book and assisting the History Channel in a six hour documentary about the life of George Washington. She left the audience with the last quote Richard had written in the book: “America is not as fragile as we think. We will get through.”