Speaker discusses what makes a good president

Michael Beschloss, an award-winning author and historian, said that only time will show how recent presidential bills affected the country.

Beschloss spoke Tuesday night about presidential history at the inaugural Paul F. Boller Jr. Symposium. The BLUU ballroom was filled with people who held copies of his books while listening to the speech.

The Symposium was held in honor of Paul F. Boller Jr., the first Lyndon B. Johnson Chair in American History at TCU in 1976, Chancellor Victor Boshini said.

“(The day Boller came) was a lucky day for TCU,” Boschini said.

Boller retired from teaching in 1983 but has remained active on campus, Boschini said.

“When I came here I thought (Boller was) still full time because he was always on campus,” Boshini said.

Beschloss said he admired Boller and to speak in his name was equivalent of being a young batter and given the privilege of wearing Babe Ruth’s jersey.

The main topic of Beschloss’ speech was how recent presidents are viewed now will be completely different to how Americans will see them in a few decades. Beschloss said that with time, it will be easier to accurately understand what impact they had on the country.

“(The) essential ingredient of history is hindsight,” Beschloss said. “It takes 40 years for a historian to understand a president.”

To fully understand a president, resources that will only be available decades later need to be studied, Beschloss said.

Helen Myers, a Fort Worth resident, heard about the symposium and immediately decided to attend because she is a big fan.

“He’s riveting. I’ve heard him speak many times before,” Myers said. “His books are brilliant.”

Beschloss explained before the speech that in America, the president has a big impact on the country and that history can predict who would be a good candidate for the job. A good president will risk his popularity in order to help the country, he said.

Beschloss said he does not have political opinions about living people. Instead, most historians, whether they favor or oppose President Barack Obama, will agree he has taken on more issues than most presidents in their first year, he said.

“He took a gamble and said, ‘The Congress may be more democratic this year than it may ever be again during my presidency, so I better take this moment to try to get through as much democratic legislation as possible because I might not have the chance later on,'” Beschloss said before his speech.

Growing up in Illinois started Beschloss’ passion for presidential history at a young age, he said. He recalled visiting Abraham Lincoln’s house at age 8 and asking the tour guide questions.

Beschloss said he’s enjoyed looking at the history of Fort Worth while in town.

“(I) love a city or town that looks in many ways the way it looked 100 years ago,” Beschloss said before his speech. “That’s one of my tests for a great city, and Fort Worth passes that with flying colors.”

Beschloss has not had as much of a chance to spend time on campus but said he quickly realized how great TCU students and faculty are.

“I’ve gotten to meet some terrific students and star professors,” Beschloss said. “I think that TCU will do very well (in the football game), and I wish for everyone here that that will happen.”

Beschloss has been recognized by Newsweek as “the nation’s leading presidential historian,” according to the program. He is often a commentator on “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” “Meet the Press” and “Today.”