Historian gives talk on qualities of a successful president

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Photo Credit: Briana Vargas | Daily Texan Staff

Attorney, author and historian Talmage Boston gave a talk about his “Ten Commandments of Presidential Leadership” on Tuesday, highlighting the qualities of successful presidents.

These traits include level-headedness, communication, perseverance, playing hardball when necessary and relationship-building. 

Boston said Thomas Jefferson fulfilled the second commandment, “thou shalt build consensus,” better than any other president by building trust across party lines. Jefferson operated at a fragile time in U.S. history, when there was discord between the Federalist and Republican parties.

“In his first inaugural address … he said, ‘We are all Federalists and we are all Republicans,’” Boston said. “He would host dinner parties at the executive mansion on a regular basis where the only invited guests were the Federalist leaders. As the wine flowed and the food got eaten … low and behold some of the barriers came down.”

Another reason to foster connections was to fulfill Boston’s third commandment, “thou shalt know and supplement one’s limitations.” James Madison was brilliant, hardworking, but had no charisma, Boston said. So he formed partnerships with people who had strengths where he was weak.

Madison joined forces with Washington’s respected figure, Hamilton’s charisma and Jefferson’s creative genius to create our government that has so far been successful, Boston said.

In the context of today’s election, Jennifer Lopes, international relations and global studies junior, said Donald Trump will play hardball exceptionally well when necessary. 

“I tend to side more with Trump and I think that he would definitely be good at that,” Lopes said.

Daniel Heinrich, international relations and global studies junior, said the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, abides more closely by the commandments.

“I feel like neither Clinton nor Trump are necessarily guaranteed to be truly great presidents,” Heinrich said. “But from what I see, Hillary Clinton definitely carries a lot more of the qualities, especially the ability to bring the country together … in comparison to Trump.”

Boston quoted former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu and baseball great Reggie Jackson to explain the importance of good leadership in a president.

“Nothing happens in our federal government without presidential leadership. Congress cannot take prompt action, because they are a herd of cats.” Boston said, “The president is the straw who stirs the drink.”