Historical expert on the American Presidency
As a renowned American presidential historian, speechwriter, and author, Mr. Smith is currently appointed as the ABC News presidential historian, where he shares his perspective on the presidency and how today’s political candidates will continue the presidential legacy. In February 2009, Mr. Smith was a featured speaker at the Congressional Bicameral Celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday, held at the U.S. Capitol. His in-depth knowledge of the presidency and American history make Richard Norton Smith a sought-after source for analysis of history and predictions for the future of the United States.
The author of numerous award-winning books, Mr. Smith’s first major book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. His book, The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, received the prestigious Goldsmith Prize awarded by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, and has been described by Hilton Kramer as “the best book ever written about the press.” He has also written An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation and Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation. Mr. Smith is at work on a biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, based on extensive archival research and interviews with Rockefeller associates.
Between 1987 and 2001, Mr. Smith served as director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Reagan Center for Public Affairs in Simi Valley, California; and the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, Michigan respectively. In addition to expanding and renovating the Hoover Library, Mr. Smith overhauled the permanent exhibitions at Hoover, Reagan and Ford. In 1990 he organized the Eisenhower Centennial on behalf of the National Archives.
In 2001 Mr. Smith became director of the new Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. There he supervised construction of the Institute’s $11.3 million permanent home and launched a Presidential Lecture Series and other high profile programs. In October, 2003 he was appointed founding director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in Springfield, Illinois. In two and a half years he turned around the troubled project which has received international acclaim for its innovative approach to history. During this same period, Mr. Smith also served as executive director of a revitalized Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, which doubled its endowment under his leadership.
Following graduation from Harvard University he worked as a White House intern and as a free lance writer for The Washington Post. In 1977, Mr. Smith became a speech writer for Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke. Two years later he went to work for Senator Bob Dole, with whom he has collaborated on numerous projects over the years.
Giving Politics a Good Name: Abraham Lincoln's Permanent Campaign
Imagine a time when candidates wrote their own soundbites, and presidents governed without pollsters or spin doctors? Richard Norton Smith discusses how if Abraham Lincoln is the president against whom all others are measured, it is in no small part because he was the greatest politician ever to occupy the White House. Both pragmatist and idealist, Lincoln told jokes to ward off tears, and defined a president's war powers in ways that affect us all today.
Does Character Count?
Richard Norton Smith gives the presidency the bipartisan treatment. Analyzing multiple presidencies, he elaborates on definitions of character and principles, and how they apply to presidents. Putting human faces on history, he changes ideas about presidents and their work, showing that they are complex human beings, rather than just pages in history books.