Audio Clip 1: Finn on one of Mike’s “Distinguishing Characteristics”
(Checker Finn interview with Dick Jung, October 25, 2018)
Finn: Senator Moynihan, like Mike and me and [Henry] Kissinger and a handful of others—but not a very big handful—has had a foot in the academic world and a foot in the policy world. And if you look across the world of academics, not that many of them have a foot in the policy world; and if you look across the world of policymakers, not that many of them have a foot in the academic world. So this is itself a distinguishing characteristic—and not that common of one.
Audio Clip 2: Guthrie: “Mike is the most insightful academic I’ve ever seen about political matters…instincts of a master juggler.
(James Guthrie interview with Dick Jung, August 2018)
Guthrie: Mike is the most insightful academic I’ve ever seen about political matters. That’s the crown he wears. He has a political intuition that is unmatched—by me, by anyone else I’ve ever encountered. And that is so much more valuable, Dick, than any publication he’s ever done or I ever did with him….
Now, this is harsh…God knows, I’m a Mike supporter, but I don’t know that any of his publications made a difference. But I think he made a difference….
When he gets on the [California] state board [of education] and he’s got the governor behind him, that’s a far more powerful instrument than any publication.
When we worked in Florida, and we had the governor behind us, we made a difference. And with Mike’s work on the California local control stuff, Jerry Brown is the difference.
The successes come where you were linked up with a political champion. And in the absence of that, it’s really tough to make a change. You get a window of opportunity, and you get a champion, and you got an idea…and then it falls into place….
And subordinate to that is [Mike’s] ability to talk a language that elected officials understand. He explains things in a way that politico can get it.
And some academics will bore the be-gabbers out of them [policy makers]. Mike doesn’t do that; he goes right for it. He’s got the instincts of a master juggler.
Video Clip 1 from PBS documentary: Powell and Gardner on White House Fellows Program
Narrator Richard Dreyfuss: It was Gardner’s zeal for cultivating leadership that led him to propose a program to send promising young people to Washington to intern at the highest levels of government. They would then return home, applying what they learned to their own communities. Inspired by Gardner, [in] 1964, the White House Fellows program was created. Thirty-five years later, alumni gathered for a reunion.
John Gardner: I’ve enjoyed warm friendships with so many of you. I’ve touched so many of your careers over the years. I’ve worried about you. And I’ve been very proud of you. So many times.
Dreyfuss: White House Fellows have become accomplished local leaders as well as senators and deans and historians and generals.
General Colin Powell (retired): In my case, I was a fairly, fairly old lieutenant colonel. I was one of the oldest members of the White House Fellows program. At the time I was inducted, I was 35. And I didn’t volunteer for it. I didn’t ask for it. Never heard of it. The Army said, “Hey, apply. We want you to be in this program.”
And I did and I got in. And it turned out to be the turning point of my life. And it was a chance to learn about myself and to learn about my country. And it was John Gardner who gave me that opportunity.
Audio Clip 3: Mike on the Fellows and Gardner: “They were very, very attached to him…. He was “very much a figure.”
(Mike Kirst interview with Nancy Mancini, August 2018)
Mancini: Did Gardner have contact with the [White House] Fellows too? Did you observe them together?
Kirst: Yes. Perhaps once every three months, we had dinner with John and Aida [Aida Marroquin Gardner] and the Fellows…. They would have had quite a bit of personal contact and bonding with him. He really stayed in touch…and he was very much a figure. He met with many Fellows personally to give them personal advice—followed their careers—so they were very, very attached to him.
Audio Clip 4: Venezia on “the stuff with Mike that goes beyond the professional realm (Andrea Venezia interview with Dick Jung, September 18, 2018)
We traveled a lot for a lot of different projects over the years. And over that time, he just opened up about the importance of putting family first. The importance of putting your kids first.
No matter what you do when you have children, figure out a way to be present with them in their lives because it goes by in the blink of an eye. And if you mess up, you might lose everything. Don’t do that.
And so I say those things because those came up repeatedly on our trips—just getting a beer together—it would just be like just five minutes and then we put it away and then get back to something else.
But it’s an impact for me, and it really changed how I viewed my professional trajectory. That’s the stuff with Mike that goes beyond the professional realm.
Audio Clip 5: Mike on Gardner’s Style in Accomplishing Things
(Mike Kirst interview with Nancy Mancini)
Mancini: Going back to when you’re 25 and you’re meeting him for the first time, what was your impression of the man?
Kirst: Well, he had an obvious gravitas to him. He had an aura of great respect and of wisdom.
Mancini: Even then [both talking at once].
Kirst: [00:22:12] Yes, even then, because Carnegie Corporation was a big deal, and they were huge players in education, and so he was already known in that regard. He was thoughtful, deliberate, conceptual, but he was not domineering. There was a more soft style, a sort of leadership not through trying to be controlling or “this is my task force,” or something. “Collegial” would be another word, and he was an ideas man in that regard. We’ll get ahead to his role at HEW, but he was not like the strongman running the department. That was not his style. He was more about working through people rather than “I’ve got a bunch of ideas and I’m going to get this task force to go along with them.” He was open.
Audio Clip 6: “Wing-woman Williams on Kirst: “He was committed to…getting everything in motion.”
(Trish Lloyd interview with Dick Jung, July 24, 2018)
Williams: I was living in the Bay Area in Mountain View, and Mike’s living in Palo Alto, and we had a board meeting almost every single month the first six months…which is not what the board [California State Board of Education] typically does. They typically meet every other month.
But this gives you an indication of Mike Kirst’s energy.
He was committed to getting up to speed, and on that board, and getting everything in motion. Mike and I carpooled to all of those because I was living in the Bay Area. So that was a fun way to kick off my state board work.
He wanted me to be the vice president [of the board]. And that was because he knew me as the Executive Director of EdSource and knows my competence at running things. And so, he needed like a wingman, wing woman. Somebody that he could turn to to help him get stuff done, and he felt comfortable with doing it because he’s known me for so long.
So it made my role as vice president even better for me and him to have carpooled to Sacramento for every one of those meetings to get started. So we had time to talk about prep for the meeting on the way up there—it’s a two-hour drive—and time to debrief on the way back.
Audio Clip 7: Mike and Linda’s Hour-long “Power and Policy Walks”
(Linda Darling-Hammond interview with Dick Jung, July 24, 2018)
Darling-Hammond: Mike has a very fast brain. He’s a very active person, in every way. He’s physically active. We take walks together And for most of these years, I’m always scurrying to try to keep up [some laughter]. He is really focused on “let’s get this thing done.” And he’s slowing down a little bit because he has a knee that’s bothering him now. But we talk about how we do this and how we do that. And by the time we get done our hour-long walk, we’ve figured out several things we’re going to do next. It’s great fun….
He’s brilliant in his way of conceptualizing both policy and politics. He understands both what might be useful to do, but also who would you bring in.
I’ve watched him: He’ll put people in charge, on the board [California State Board of Education], for example. He really respects their purview. He’ll say to them, for example, “Well, so-and-so is in charge of that”; “Go talk to that person about this”; “This person is in charge of that; you need to go talk to them’’; “If you want to get that thing done, call up so and so.”
So there’s a lot of brokering that has to go on. A lot of engagement of people. You’ve got to get a lot of ideas in there.
He’ll float a trial balloon of ideas and see what happens to them. Will people shoot it down or do they resonate to it and pick it up?
And then he’ll adjust his thinking based on what the political winds are as well as what his ideas are. What a lot of academics don’t really understand is that if you really want to get things done in the world, it’s not to have a good idea and [be] published in a journal. You’ve got to think about how to make that idea accessible to other people. And then you have to work through the politics, the constraints, the opposing perspectives.
Sometimes you can bring people to a common perspective in a variety of ways. Sometimes you have to change your strategy or you have to wait for your idea to be implemented because it’s not ripe yet. And he is really interesting and thoughtful about how to do that.
Video Clip 2 from PBS documentary: The “Uncommon American” John Gardner through others’ eyes
General Colin Powell (retired): John Gardner is a great American who has taught America leadership and civic responsibility for his whole life.
Narrator Richard Dreyfuss: High praise for a man of whom you may know little or nothing at all.
Unnamed Woman: I’ve wondered why John Gardner is not a household name.
Fred Wertheimer, former President of Common Cause: He doesn’t turn the camera on himself,
Dr. Ramona Edelin, former President, National Urban Coalition: The glue, rather than the glitz.
Bill Bradley: I think it’s because it’s taken this long to have you all do a film about him.
Richard Dreyfuss: John Gardner helped transform America. As a member of Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet, he spearheaded [the most] sweeping social reform since the New Deal. His books on such topics as leadership and renewal have had lasting influence. He founded Common Cause, the citizen’s action group, and has mentored countless organizations and leaders. John Gardner continues to live a life of dedicated public service. Never satisfied with politics as usual, Gardner has spent decades as a man of action and ideals, proof-positive that common sense can create an uncommon American.