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Navigate 2016 Keynote Speaker Mark K. Updegrove: Lessons in Leadership from Six Presidents

At the Leverage Global Partners Navigate Retreat, Keynote Speaker Mark K. Updegrove spoke on “Lessons in Leadership from Six Presidents” and shared insights that he has gleaned from his relationships with past and present Presidents. 

As an author, historian and Director of the LBJ Presidential Library, Updegrove provided a unique perspective from his vantage point in our nation's political sphere. The theme of his session revolved around the idea that history will remember you in one sentence – what will your sentence be?

Updegrove detailed the legacies and core values of each of the six presidents he had relationships with. From Gerald Ford, we learn the importance of 'Doing Right'. Ford made the choice to pardon Nixon, a decision that was opposed by many Americans. It later cost him reelection, but as time passed he was eventually remembered as a healer who helped the nation move on from the Watergate scandal.

Jimmy Carter was known for 'Doing Good’. Carter had one mostly unsuccessful term in office, but after his presidency he developed the Carter Center to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. He later received the Nobel Peace prize and continues to lead by example as someone who works for the greater good of humanity.

Ronald Reagan had boundless optimism. He was an ambassador of the American dream, and pushed the country towards a brighter future after the turbulence of the ‘60s and’70s. When Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for the first time, he began what could have been a tense meeting with humor, by telling Gorbachev a joke.

When the Cold War ended, George H.W. Bush let other world leaders take the spotlight, even though he played a crucial role. Humility was an important part of his leadership process, and remaining humble during tense negotiations helped keep international relations amicable.

Bill Clinton, continually surrounded by scandal throughout his political career, is remembered for his tenacity. When he was beset by scandal during his presidency, he kept his head down and kept working, and is now known for being a leader during a time of peace and economic expansion.

“To Whom Much Is Given, Much is Required” defines the presidency of George W. Bush. Born into politics by a former president, his term was complicated by 9/11 and the Iraq War. Despite these problems, he spent millions of dollars on AIDS relief in Africa, knowing that a long-term investment in foreign health would make a global impact in the future.

An author and historian, Updegrove has written four books, and has served as the fourth director of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, TX since 2009. In April 2014, Updegrove hosted a Civil Rights Summit at the Library, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He is an analyst for ABC News on matters relating to the presidency, including the 2013 presidential inauguration, and a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning. 

All Navigate 2016 attendees received autographed copies of Updegrove's book Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. To view a clip of Updegrove's interview with President Jimmy Carter, please click here.

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