Book Party For Bruce Jentleson

The Hart Leadership Program recently hosted a party to celebrate the publication of Bruce Jentleson’s new book, The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-century Statesmanship.

Bruce Jentleson is a Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University.  He previously served as Director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, which is now Sanford School.  Jentleson is a leading scholar of American foreign policy and has served in a number of U.S. policy and political positions.

Hart Leadership Program Director Alma Blount convened the book party with the following remarks:

“Welcome everyone.  Thank you for joining us to celebrate the publication of Bruce Jentleson’s new book, The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship.

In the Hart Leadership Program, we love book parties, and this is my last book party before I retire.  I am so pleased that it is a book party for Bruce, the week his book is being officially released, and at the start of a book tour that will take him up the east coast in the next few days.

Bruce and I have had many conversations about leadership over the years.  He is the person who hired me to be director of the Hart Leadership Program, and it’s great to be able to showcase The Peacemakers, which explores leadership in the context of international peace and security.

I had a chance to read several chapters from the book over the weekend.  I like what Bruce calls the“three C’s” approach to leadership.  Bruce writes, “It’s a matter of man or woman and moment, fit and timing, bounded by constraints AND conducive conditions with choices to be made.”

Jentleson reads from The Peacemakers

Bruce frames leadership as the activity of peacemaking when the choices the leaders made were never a given.  The choices they faced were always difficult.  There was “no anointing,” as Bruce would say, and there was no authorizing, as I would say.

The activity of leadership was anchored in specific, complicated, conflictive contexts, and it always involved an act of imagination—what I would call adaptive imagination—in order to push boundaries way beyond what was expected, which entailed risk, and was dangerous.

I have to say I especially appreciated the chapter about Yitzhak Rabin.  None of the people profiled here were perfect; and as Bruce emphasizes, there is much to be learned from the imperfections and failures these people faced.  For example, I appreciated the way Bruce titled Aung San Suu Kyi’s chapter, “A  Cautionary Tale.”

The way the book is written—its voice and tone—is engaging, accessible, and practical.  It’s beautifully organized.  An analytical framework of who, why, how, and what shapes each chapter.

  • Who were the leaders as individuals?
  • Why did they make the crucial choices they did?
  • How did they pursue their goals?
  • What was (and wasn’t) achieved?

Each section ends with a commentary on lessons learned, linking the narratives to our current context.

“Reconciling the politics of identity”—is a section I was drawn to immediately, especially the story of Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, housewives and clerical workers, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for their work with Northern Ireland Women for Peace/ Peace People.

I studied their work when I was in college, and I was fascinated then by precisely the points Bruce emphasizes in his chapter:  “…how through a combination of conducive conditions and choices made, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”  Bruce continues, “[Their] everywoman quality, sincerity, and conviction gave them their own version of personal capital.  They also showed tremendous courage.”

Let me close here with a note from our colleague David Schanzer, who wanted to join us but is still in China.  “I am so sorry to miss this terrific event as I am still at Duke Kunshan University.  It’s so important to focus on people who were dedicated to the hard, brave work of making peace when there are so many global figures these days doing just the opposite, which is so much easier and so much more cowardly.”

Now I’ll turn to my colleagues Joel Fleishman and John Burness for their convening toasts, and then Bruce will read some excerpts from The Peacemakers.”

Professors John Burness, Joel Fleishman, Bruce Jentleson and Alma Blount.