November 6, 2017 - 12:45 PM

Vision of Leadership and Public Service

by Joseph Murgida

A discussion with former Clinton White House Chiefs of Staff focusing on President Clinton’s leadership style, his belief in government as a tool to help people, and his efforts to inspire Americans to public service.


  • Mack McLarty, former White House Chief of Staff, Clinton Administration
  • Erskine Bowles, former White House Chief of Staff, Clinton Administration
  • John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff, Clinton Administration
  • Judy Feder, Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy; Faculty Liaison, Baker Center on Leadership and Governance (Moderator)

This event was co-sponsored with the Baker Center for Leadership & Governance.


Clinton 25’s 'Vision of Leadership and Public Service' panel provided us with insight into what was going on behind the scenes during the Clinton Administration from the perspective of former White House Chiefs of Staff Mack McLarty, Erskine Bowles, and John Podesta. All three of the panelists recalled Clinton’s strong leadership style that emphasized the importance of bipartisanship and teamwork over partisan gridlock. Even with the Republican-controlled Congress, President Clinton chose to consciously work with those fundamentally different from his policy agendas. This panel thus celebrated this accomplished leadership style that put the interests of the constituents before political ones.

Mack McLarty pointed out the great strength President Clinton displayed in working with his Cabinet to further his vision was based on this theme of putting people first. John Podesta similarly remembered that Clinton always sought a plan, when times were good and when times were bad, about how he could help the American people. This plan was particularly outlined in Clinton’s State of the Union addresses, which were long and drawn out by design, as Clinton saw them as yearly promises he was making to the American people. Erskine Bowles praised the means by which Clinton would go about seeking compromise – he was only willing to compromise on issues that did not conflict with his moral principals, which he later fought for with relentless ambition. Specifically, Bowles reflected on how he “never saw a guy light up so much” like President Clinton when he heard that he had secured funding for Children’s Health Insurance Fund (CHIP).

President Clinton envisioned leadership and public service as two separate entities that he wanted to intertwine for the benefit of the American people. This goal-driven ideology underlies the inspirational seriousness which motivated the people who worked closely alongside President Clinton. The final panel of the Clinton 25 event encapsulated Clinton’s core beliefs and his love for America that drove the actions of his historic presidential administration.

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