Courtesy of the efforts by our classmate Peter Schaeffer, on Sunday, November 5 at 3 pm Eastern, Gary Ginsberg will be our guest for a Casual Conversation. Mr. Ginsberg is the author of First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents (Twelve 2021).
The book recounts the friend of each of ten US presidents, from the famous to the obscure. Two presidents had each other as the intimate friend, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison where each encouraged the other, held each other steady in times of trouble, and complemented each other’s strengths. At the other bend of the spectrum is Frankin Pierce, a failed one-term president, a northerner who sympathized with the South’s right to own slaves. His best friend, loyal to the end, was the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. They were hated and reviled by their fellow New Englanders, but they didn’t back down, unfortunately for our Nation.
Why then should we study the unique relationship between an intimate friend and a president of the United States, a powerful and ultimately lonely position. Because it may bring us closer to what friendship means, not only to the rich and powerful, but also to each and every one of us. Mr. Ginsberg tells an illuminating story about interviewing Al Gore for consideration as Vice President under Bill Clinton. After the interview, Harry McPherson, who joined Mr. Ginsberg for the questioning, stated: “If he can’t develop or even claim one real friendship, how’s he going to lead a nation?”
Or what about LBJ who lacked a true confidant?
In researching his book, Mr. Ginsberg found a framework to understand friendship in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. (Many editions. See, e.g., the translation by Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2011.)
Mr. Ginsberg has had an illustrious career, in business, politics, and media. You can find the particulars at his website: https://garyleeginsberg.com/ . And you can find him this Sunday on Zoom if you send me an email by the end of the day this Friday, November 3, at email@example.com .
Of course you will be there. Just follow Bette Midler’s advice: “You got to have friends.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv2HtvibWhc And you do: in the Dartmouth Class of 1969.