Thinking on your feet. It’s one of the most important skills a leader must learn. One cannot present a doctoral thesis, testify before Congress, argue a case before the Supreme Court, or lead soldiers through battle without the ability to think and speak quickly. At SEGL, we also work to ensure our students think ethically on their feet. And there is no better teacher of this skill than former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry.
McCurry, who worked as President Bill Clinton’s Press Secretary from 1994-1998 (including the start of the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal) visited us last week. Prior to his visit, the students prepped three different crisis scenarios, drawn from current headlines. (Click here to read them!) In six small groups, they wrote brief statements responding to the crises, and elected one member to serve as a mock White House Press Secretary.
Each Secretary then read her or his statement in front of McCurry and then fielded ten minutes of grilling from McCurry, who acted as the (ornery and manipulative!) White House press corps. His questions were incisive, aggressive, and 100% real. Could each student remain unflappable? Informed? True to the values of her President? True to her own values? Each Secretary got the opportunity to think on her or his feet in front of the person one leading historian has called the best press secretary since the 1950s.
Below are photos from our session with McCurry, along with a few from our Comparative Government class’s visit to the Russian Embassy and our Chinese class’s visit to the Uyghur Foundation.