Russ Gifford
Presidential Leadership


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My Presentations:

Those Who Came Before Us: Regional Prehistory

Native Americans and American History

The Founding Fathers

The American Revolution & Creation of the Republic

A History of the House of Representatives

Presidential Leadership

Contentious Elections in American History

One Term Wonders

Pivotal Moments In American History

The American Civil War and Reconstruction

The Crucible - America After the War of Rebellion

Westward Expansion

Traveling the West in the 19th Century

Supremely Confident: Legal Cases that Changed History

The Fight for the Right to Vote - the Women's Movement

Women Making a Difference

The Rise and Fall of Mass Media

The Great War

The 1920s

Regional Greats

WWII - 75 Years Later

Justice Delayed: The Civil Rights Movement

The Cold War

The History of the CIA

The War in Vietnam

My Generation: The History of the 1960s

Boomer Classics: Books that Shaped the Sixties

Into the Darkness: 1968

Power to the People - from the 1950s to Today

The History of Rock n Roll: The First 30 Years

Regional History

Those Who Came Before: The Mill Creek Culture

Iowa in the American Civil War

Sioux City: Our History and Our Hopes

Sioux City: Ground Zero in the Great Depression

Sioux City: Crime Corruption, & Redemption

World History

The Crusades

The Reformation at 500

Written Works and Articles

Spectacular Voyage: Lewis and Clark in Our Region

Murder On Water Street: The Death Rev. Haddock

A Glimpse of the Past: Steamboat Perils

Empty Parking Lots and Dark Wal-Marts

Susan B. Anthony and  Sioux City in the 1870s

A Chance Encounter with a Legend


Music of 1966:Summer in the City

Music of 1966:Music of Blond on Blond

About Russ Gifford

Contact Russ


These programs are live captures of talks with audio and video.
Clicking the link will take you to YouTube and will play the program in a new page.
You can click the full screen window to see a larger view of the program!

This series is named in honor of Dr. Robert E. Dunker, president emeritus of Western Iowa Tech Community College and founder of The Institute for Lifelong Learning. This annual series of lectures began in 2008. 

The following criteria evaluate the Presidents we review. Do they use these skills effectively?
Insight - the ability to correctly define Issues
Vision – to see a path that overcomes issues
Communicator – the ability to share the vision, and move people toward that vision
Resolve – the perseverance to work toward that end.
Inclusiveness – an ability to work with others, for the greater good, not just a short term win.

Presidents and the Press
Presidents must have the ability to lead to be effective. The ability to communicate their ideas, and inspire others is a must for leadership, and the Press acts as their megaphone. Or does it? This series will examine four famous presidents and how they worked with the Press. We will also see how that changes over the 20th century, and into the 21st.

Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt and the Press:
Setting the Standard
Click Here

In many ways TR set the pattern for effective Presidential relationships with the press, and FDR refined them. Both men were very effective at making the press partners in their efforts to communicate their reasoning and used their skills to charm the press. Yet, the Press and the citizens  got much out of the arrangement, too. Each man would eventually have their falling out with the press, though. We recount the story of their times here.

Added Materials and Links for this Session:
 FDR's First Fireside Chat as President! | TR in Early Film

By the way: In the TR film, you can see some of the mannerisms I mentioned. Note the is JFK quoting a TR speech, the "Citizenship in a Republic." Better known to most people as "The Man in the Arena" speech. It clearly summed up the attitude of TR and JFK as to public service. But it was also a speech that greatly motivated Richard Nixon – and he would quote it in his final address to the staff as he departed the White House after his resignation.

John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon and The Press:
Do Ends Justify the Means?
Click Here

This time, we see the use of the press BEFORE the election, and after. Richard Nixon was considered one of the early wizards in his use of  television, and it certainly met his needs well - until it didn't. JFK would enter the White House already in deep relationships with the press. But like TR and FDR, his innovations stood him in good stead. He demonstrates the key to good press relations is to lead, to set the agenda, and give so much info that no one can complain that you are withholding information - though as we have seen, ALL administrations withhold information. We will look at cases where both used and abused their powers. Does the end justify the means?

Added Materials and Links for this Session:
Checkers Speech (full version) | Thank You, Mr. President - The Press Conferences Of JFK | Issues and Answers with Richard Nixon 1966

Does the President Matter?
Making the Case with Abraham, Martin, and John

Presidents come and go. Some wielded great power; some had no ability to do anything. Others watched their power dribble away. Many who wanted to assert presidential power were slapped down hard by the legislative branch, which controlled the purse and were seen as the people that passed laws. Few men in the executive office not only grasped for power but attained it. Some wielded it with skill. Why could some do so while others failed? Much of that is due to the leadership skills of the person occupying the office. This annual lecture uses the examples of Presidential leadership to see the skills a particular President brought to the office, and the challenges they faced.

The Presidency in the 1800's:
Lincoln's Choice to Fight,
Van Buren and the Judgment of History
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The Presidency has changed over time. Our first two examples will demonstrate how presidents welded power in the 19th century, and show the differences in Executive power and Congressional direction.

The Presidency in the 1900's:
Theodore Roosevelt's Chooses Sides,
and Kennedy's Leadership Style
Click Here

Our next examples will show the changes in executive leadership in the 20th Century.  Neither of these men entered office with a mandate, but they quickly amassed a public following that gave them leverage. What skills did each have that enabled this? How did their practices change presidential power? What policies did they promote?

Ronald Reagan Reshapes America  

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute - Home | FacebookWe have grown accustomed to presidents that are frustrated in their ambitions. They fight Congress to eke out a single bill as a cornerstone of their policy achievements. Yet in 1980, an aged ex-TV star with no known connections to Congress took his seat in the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan’s party did not control Congress. In fact, over most of his life, he had disagreed with his own party.

Much of America thought his perpetual campaign a joke. He was too old and completely out of step with mainstream America. Yet it was a landslide! He did not carry Congress. What chance did he have? The real question turned out to be what chance did Congress have? The Reagan Revolution started on a cold January morning and changed everything.

This series studies leadership skills of presidents and the tools they use to gain and exercise power. In this class, historian Russ Gifford will share examples of how a master used those skills.

Reagan in the Wilderness (Session 1) - Click here

Reagan's path to power was anything but ordained. He hitched his star to a candidate who took the worst drubbing since Herbert Hoover. He spent years on the stump, telling it as he saw it. But though he had his believers, he didn't have the ear of the party. And time was not on his side. At a critical moment in 1976, he was stopped short of the Presidency - not by the Democrats - but the Republicans. The political smart money knew that was the end of Reagan. Everyone knew he was too old to be again a candidate in 1980. Everyone but Reagan, that is.

Added Materials and Links for this Session:
Stumping for Truman | Reagan_GE_Theatre | The Speech
| Reagan for Governor | Governor | 1976 GOP Concession Speech

Reagan in the White House (Session 2) - Click here

It had been an Electoral College landslide. But as Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter found, the skill to connect to voters did not always mean an effective presidency. Once in office, leadership skills determine success. Reagan amazed both parties with his ability to work with everyone. In the process, he set America on a new course. How did Reagan manage something none of his successors have achieved? It is all about leadership. Join us as we examine the skills that made Reagan so successful!

Added Materials and Links for this Session:
Changes in Communications
That's the Way It Is | CNN | ESPN | MTV |

Reagan being Reagan

Reagan| Looking Ahead | Reagan Speech | Reagan 2 | Barracks Bombing | Libya| Challenger | The Wall | Reagan Humor

Need a world class presenter? Contact Russ Gifford click here

Specializing in American History, Russ Gifford also ties local and regional history into the program, to enrich audience understanding of why things occur in local history.

        "I have had very positive feedback, and it's clear the students are hoping you will present more classes in the fall.
You are a knowledgeable and gifted teacher and we are proud to have you among our instructors." -- Fiona Valentine, Institute of Lifelong Learning

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