Preparing Boys for Life.

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Lessons from presidential history
Hannah B. Turlish, History Department Chair

Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke about the characteristics of great leaders, rooting her remarks in the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt while making connections to our current election season. After fielding several questions from AIS and Haverford students, Goodwin then left campus while our boys moved into small-group discussions with the AIS seniors. We asked each group to discuss a variety of election-related topics, from why millennials (18-25 year olds) only have a 25% voter participation rate to the ways in which gender is a factor in this election.

Goodwin is one of the country's foremost masters of the historian's craft, and her complete command of presidential history made the AIS auditorium come alive. Using highly detailed stories about each man, she explained how all three presidents shared exceptional resiliency, an ability to surround oneself with strong and diverse advisors, and the knowledge that seeking refuge in relaxation and friendships is necessary to survive the burdens of leadership.

While the tenor of the small group discussions was too varied to be adequately summarized here, the Haverford-AIS exchange of ideas was lively and energizing. It was heartening to see a room of 170 eighteen-year-olds so politically engaged, and our hope is they will help put the millennial turnout rate on an upward trajectory.

The program fit nicely into the larger context of The Haverford School History Department's mission to increase the civic knowledge and participation of Haverford students. This year marks the debut of our Form VI Government and Politics elective, and over 40 boys signed up to take it. In United States History, Form V students read the Constitution and wrestle with its ambiguous language (What does "necessary and proper" mean? What is a "cruel and unusual punishment?"); their year-ending assessment, the Madison Meetings, are team-argued positions on contemporary issues that use existing case law and legal scholars as evidence.

In our highly charged and politically divided country, it is all the more vital that we teach students to engage with deep knowledge, respect, and empathy, and we are pleased to serve in our role in guiding Haverford's young men forward.

-Hannah B. Turlish, History Department Chair

Photos courtesy of The Agnes Irwin School

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