On April 1st, 2016, the Fellows from the Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership Study visited the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Southern Methodist University. The Fellows were accompanied by Mr. Fred F. Fielding ’61, who served on the 9/11 Commission and as White House Counsel to George W. Bush during the last two years his Administration. Dr. Shirley Anne Warshaw, Harold G. Evans Chair of Presidential Leadership Studies, Kasey Pipes, Norris Fellow of Public Policy, and Jeffrey Blavatt ‘88, Executive Director of the Eisenhower Institute, also joined the group in Dallas.
The Fielding Fellows reviewed White House documents, met with former administration staffers, and toured the museum at the library. Last fall, the Fellows visited the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, but this trip had the added value of Mr. Fielding’s first-hand White House experience. Jackie Beckwith ’16 stated, “As undergraduate students it is remarkable to have a mentor who is a literal representation of living history and I know we all are looking forward to doing more research at other presidential libraries after our trip to Dallas."
After reviewing primary documents inside of the library’s secure National Archives facility, the Fellows discussed the materials they had studied with Mr. Fielding and Dr. Shirley Anne Warshaw. Included in the debrief was a discussion of the process by which President Bush made appointments to the Supreme Court. Fellow Rachel Haskins ‘17 reflected, “Learning more about President Bush’s Supreme Court nominations was particularly exciting considering the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.”
The Fellows had the opportunity to meet with Alan C. Lowe, the Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Drawing from more than a decade of experience, Mr. Lowe explained the inner workings of the National Archives Presidential Libraries System. The meeting with Mr. Lowe included a conversation inside of the reconstructed “White House Situation Room” which Mr. Fielding frequented during his tenure in the White House. Speaking about the Situation Room meeting, Beckwith explained, “We all looked to Mr. Fielding as he broadly detailed a few of the decisions he and President Bush actually discussed in the real Situation Room. Safe to say it was quite a surreal - but exciting - experience."
In keeping with the Fielding Center’s mission to educate Fellows on the value of public service, Kevin Sullivan, former Assistant to the President for Communications, took time to speak with to the group. Mr. Sullivan chronicled his journey from a career in the private sector, including Senior Vice-President for Corp. Communication & Media Relations at NBC Universal, to the Bush Administration. Mr. Sullivan explained how he had come to appreciate the value of Public Service and answered career-related questions for the Fellows.
The Fellows also had a lunch meeting with Tobi Young, General Counsel for the George W. Bush Presidential Center and President Bush’s designated Presidential Records Act representative. Before moving to Texas in 2009 to work for the Bush Foundation, Young served as special assistant to the President and associate counsel in the Office of the White House Counsel. Ms. Young discussed working under Mr. Fielding at the White House and remarked upon the similarities between herself and the Fielding Fellows – that she, too, had been mentored by Mr. Fielding and how appreciative she was for that opportunity.
The Fielding Fellows appreciated the hospitality and warm welcome provided by the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, its staff, and Southern Methodist University. We are most appreciative of Mr. Fielding and his continued mentorship and commitment to the Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership Study.
Article written by Will Essigs ’17, a political science major and a Fellow at the Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership Study.