With Presidents’ Day just a few weeks away, it seems appropriate to reconsider the theme of presidential leadership, and what better way to do so than to examine and compare the presidencies of the four men whose faces are carved at gigantic size into the granite cliff of Mount Rushmore? Sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent our nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively. Fair enough, and two million Americans visit the site each year to marvel at the 60-feet-tall faces of those great men. But what were the sources of their greatness? We’ll compare them, seeking in each case to tie their extraordinary achievements as leaders to the wellsprings of their personalities and the specific historical contexts in which their brilliant careers unfolded.
Bruce Thompson is a lecturer in the Departments of History and Literature and the Associate Director of Jewish Studies at U.C.-Santa Cruz, and also teaches at the Institute. He received his Ph.D. in History from Stanford; his areas of scholarly research include European intellectual and cultural history, French history, British Isles history, American Jewish intellectual and cultural history, the history of cinema, and the history of espionage.