About the National Archives

A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service

Archivist’s welcome for
Robert Gates, A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service
Thursday, January 26, at 7 p.m.
McGowan Theater, Archives I

Good evening. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m delighted to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives, whether you are here in person or joining us through YouTube.

We’re honored to have former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with us tonight to talk about his latest book, A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service.

Before we get started, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up next month.

On Thursday, February 16, at 7 p.m., we host “An Evening with the Mount Rushmore Presidents.” You’ll have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the four Presidents who are memorialized on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

The next week, we have our Annual Showcase of Academy Award–Nominated Documentaries and Short Subjects. From Wednesday, February 22, to Sunday the 26th, we’ll show the nominees in four categories: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film. This is always a popular program, so check Archives.gov for the schedule and reserve a seat.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

In A Passion for Leadership, Secretary Gates writes, “Hardly a day passes in the life of any American without his or her having to confront one or another bureaucracy.” He gives many examples of the frustrations of trying to get things done while having to navigate sometimes byzantine requirements.

Bureaucracies are ubiquitous in government and in the business world. Bureaucracies also create records—and at the National Archives, we preserve those records created by the federal government. We even have examples of the original “red tape,” used to tie up bundles of government paperwork.

In National Archives research rooms across the country people consult these records—now numbering in the billions of pages—to see how those organizations functioned (or not), whether it was centuries ago or simply several years ago. They search out documentation of grand events or evidence of family ties in census forms, draft registration cards, purchase receipts, and many other types of day-to-day paperwork.

And when we try to tame unruly bureaucracies—as Secretary Gates will describe tonight—those changes are also documented for the record.

It’s now my pleasure to welcome our panelists to the stage.

Robert M. Gates served as secretary of defense under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. He was also an officer in the United States Air Force and worked for the CIA before being appointed director of the agency. He served eight Presidents of both political parties and was a member of the National Security Council staff in four administrations.

Mike Allen is the co-founder and executive editor of Axios and the former chief White House correspondent for Politico. He was previously at Time magazine, where he was its White House correspondent. Before that, he was at the Washington Post, where he covered President George W. Bush's first term, Capitol Hill, and campaign finance.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mike Allen and the Honorable Robert Gates.