‘When Life Strikes the White House’: SMU symposium examines effects of personal crises on U.S. presidencies

Karen Hughes

‘When Life Strikes the White House’: SMU symposium examines effects of personal crises on U.S. presidencies

Black and white stock photo of the White House

SMU continues its schedule of events observing the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination with a symposium exploring the effects of personal crises on a presidential administration.

Experts from SMU and around the nation will participate in “When Life Strikes the White House: Death, Scandal, Illness, and the Responsibilities of a President,” a two-day examination of the effect of three types of turning points in the lives of sitting presidents – illness, personal matters made public, and death in the family. The symposium will explore what happens to a president and his administration when that president suffers a personal crisis, and whether it results in policy change or an identifiable change in historical moments.

The program begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 in the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza with a focus on John Kennedy. An all-day seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 19 on the SMU campus will examine Kennedy and 12 other presidents.

The symposium is presented by SMU’s Center for Presidential History, Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, George W. Bush Library and Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

> More information and online registration at SMU’s Tower Center website

Richard Reeves

A summary of events, topics and speakers:

Tuesday, Feb. 18 – 7 p.m., Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (411 Elm Street, Dallas)

Richard Reeves, senior lecturer in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, will discuss the traumatic events at play in John Kennedy’s life during his tenure as president – Addison’s disease, the death of his infant son, and extramarital indiscretions.

An author and syndicated columnist who has made a number of award-winning documentary films, Reeves’ latest book is Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House (Abrams, 2010).

Wednesday, Feb. 19 – 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Bob Hope Theatre, Owen Arts Center, SMU

Personal Crises and Public Responsibility

  • A comparison of John Tyler and Gerald Ford: Mark Updegrove, presidential historian, author of Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office During Times of Crisis (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009)
  • Bill Clinton: William Chafe, co-director of Duke University’s Program on History, Public Policy and Social Change
  • Andrew Jackson: Dan Feller, director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee
  • Lyndon Johnson: Randall Woods, Distinguished Professor, John A. Cooper Professor of History, University of Arkansas

Loss in the Family

  • Calvin Coolidge: Amity Shlaes, syndicated columnist, director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the George W. Bush Institute, author of Coolidge (Harper Collins, 2013)
  • Franklin Pierce: Michael Holt, emeritus professor of history at University of Virginia, author of Franklin Pierce (Times Books, 2010)
  • John Kennedy: David Nasaw, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at City University of New York, award-winning author
  • Abraham Lincoln: Michael Burlingame, Chancellor and Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield

Presidential Illness

  • Woodrow Wilson: Tom Knock, associate professor in SMU’s Clements Department of History, author of To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Princeton University Press, 1992)
  • Richard Nixon: Jeremi Suri, Mack Brown Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, author of Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Harvard, 2007)
  • Ronald Reagan: Kiron Skinner, associate professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, co-author of multiple books on the 40th president, including Reagan: A Life in Letters (The Free Press, 2001)
  • Franklin Roosevelt: Frank Costigliola, professor of history at the University of Connecticut, author of Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Princeton University Press, 2013)

Karen HughesCapstone Presentation – 7 p.m., George W. Bush Institute Auditorium (2943 SMU Boulevard)

Political and corporate strategist Karen Hughes ’77 – once named by The Associated Press as “perhaps the most influential woman ever to serve an American president” – will give the capstone presentation. Her ability to manage public policy, communications and politics helped brand George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservative” image, lending to the success of his gubernatorial campaigns beginning in 1994 and his subsequent campaigns for president.

From 2001-02 Hughes served as strategic adviser to President Bush on policy and communications, managing all communications, speech writing and media affairs for the White House. She served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from 2005-07. Now based in Austin, Hughes is worldwide vice chair of the public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, advising global business leaders on communications and branding strategies. She also serves on the board of SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College.

For more information, call 214-768-3210 or e-mail SMU’s Center for Presidential History.

> Register online at the Tower Center homepage

February 14, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|

Strategist Karen Hughes named 2013 Dedman Distinguished Grad

Karen HughesCorporate and political strategist Karen Hughes, named by The Associated Press as “perhaps the most influential woman ever to serve an American president,” will be honored with SMU’s 2013 Dedman College Distinguished Graduate Award on Thursday, Oct. 10.

The invitation-only event, sponsored by Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will begin at 11 a.m. in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center.

“Karen Hughes’ extraordinary career embodies what is so special about a liberal arts education. We are pleased to recognize her contributions to Dedman College, SMU and the country, and we are proud to call her one of our own,” said Dedman College Dean William Tsutsui.

Hughes earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Journalism from SMU in 1977. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

She began her career as a television reporter for NBC-Fort Worth affiliate KXAS before moving into public relations in the 1980s. Her political savvy was bolstered during her time as Texas press coordinator for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984, and by 1992 she was executive director of the Texas Republican Party.

Hughes’ ability to manage public policy, communications and politics helped brand George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservative” image, which secured the success of his gubernatorial campaigns beginning in 1994, and his subsequent campaigns for president. From 2001-02, she served as strategic adviser to the president on policy and communications, managing for the White House all communications, speech writing and media affairs.

Hughes served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from 2005-07, afterward noting that one of her greatest accomplishments had been “transforming public diplomacy and making it a national security priority central to everything we do in government.”

Now based in Austin, Hughes is worldwide vice chair of the public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, advising global business leaders on strategies for their corporate communications and branding. She also serves as a board member for SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College.

Hughes is the author of Ten Minutes From Normal (Viking, 2004), which highlights her time in the inner circle of President George W. Bush, with whom she co-wrote A Charge to Keep (William Morrow, 1999).

> Read more from SMU News

October 9, 2013|News|

Leaders discuss diversity at SMU summit

R. Gerald Turner, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Karen Hughes, and Jose BowenCongresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (’76), who represents Texas District 30, spoke with a select group of middle school students and their parents Aug. 20 at the Youth Summit and Diversity Dialogue hosted by SMU. The summit, which represented 45 countries, also featured Karen Hughes (’77), Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs with the U.S. Department of State. The event was the result of a collaboration between Rep. Johnson and Meadows Dean José Bowen; Bowen and SMU President R. Gerald Turner were among the speakers.

“I wanted to be a part of building a world of peace and culture, so I decided to do something,” Rep. Johnson said. “It is important to learn about diversity now and set an example to the world.”

By studying foreign languages and traveling the world, people can become more informed citizens and learn to appreciate, not just tolerate, differences, said Ambassador Hughes. Read more and see conference highlights on video. (Left to right, President Turner, Rep. Johnson, Ambassador Hughes and Dean Bowen at the summit.)

August 31, 2007|News|
Load More Posts