A Legacy of Leadership: Governors and American History

A Legacy of Leadership: Governors and American History

A Legacy of Leadership: Governors and American History

A Legacy of Leadership: Governors and American History


In A Legacy of Leadership, top scholars and journalists create a new framework for understanding the contributions governors have made to defining democracy and shaping American history.

Structured chronologically, A Legacy of Leadership places governors in contrast and comparison with one another as well as within the context of their times to show how a century of dramatic developments--war and peace, depression and prosperity--led governors to rethink and expand their positions of leadership. The nine chapters of compelling new scholarship presented here connect the experiences of dynamic individual governors and the evolution of the gubernatorial office to the broader challenges the United States has faced throughout the turbulent twentieth century. Taken together, they demonstrate how interstate cooperation became essential as governors increasingly embraced national and international perspectives to promote their own states' competitiveness.

Published for the centennial of the National Governors Association, A Legacy of Leadership is an eloquent demonstration of how, to a great extent, we live in a country that governors created.


In May 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt convened the nation’s governors at the White House to discuss conserving the country’s resources. Both the president and vice president attended, as did cabinet members, Supreme Court justices and thirty-nine state and territorial governors. They were joined by a cadre of guests known for their innovative thinking and influential actions, including populist William Jennings Bryan and industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

The meeting achieved its goal, yielding a policy declaration concerning conservation, but it also was notable for another idea—the creation of a national organization for governors. As Louisiana Governor Newton Blanchard noted, “Personally, I have long thought that, if the governors of the states could themselves from time to time get together, exchanging ideas and views touching the governmental and other affairs of their states, much good would come out of it.” the idea found favor among his colleagues, and in 1910 the governors met twice: in Washington, D.C., and later in Kentucky. At the Kentucky meeting, New Jersey Governor-elect Woodrow Wilson proposed the formation of a national association for governors and, in 1912, the organization was constituted.

A century after the 1908 meeting, the governors convene today as the National Governors Association, representing all fifty-five governors of the states, territories, and commonwealths. the bipartisan association assists governors on domestic policy and state management issues and provides a forum for governors to speak with a unified voice to the president and Congress.

The 2008 meeting in Philadelphia marks the centennial for the organization, and this book and a companion volume have been published as part of that commemoration. the purpose of this book is to shed greater light on the important role governors have played during critical periods of the past hundred years. the book is not merely a comprehensive treatment of visionary governors; it is a work of historical interpretation. We live, to a great extent, in a country that governors helped create. It is interesting to note that seventeen state governors in our nation’s history have become president—seven of them over the course of the National Governors Association’s hundred-year history. Perhaps . . .

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