One of the best-known voices in American politics captivated audiences on Friday at President de Westmont’s breakfast.
More than 700 people attended the 14th annual event at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort to hear from Peggy Noonan, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and acclaimed presidential speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush. His Wall Street Journal column, “Declarations,” has been published since 2000.
The Westmont Foundation, businesses and individuals sponsored the gathering that brings together the Montecito Christian Liberal Arts School in the community of Santa Barbara for two hours to promote “a conversation about the things that matter.” Bank of the West was the main sponsor.
Noonan is the author of nine best-selling books on American politics, history and culture, including What I saw in the revolution: political life in the Reagan era and When the character was king: a story of Ronald Reagan.
Along with nine other writers and historians, Noonan contributed an essay on the American presidency to the book Character above all.
His latest book, The best time of our life, recounts his career in journalism, the Reagan White House and the political arena.
As Reagan’s speechwriter and special assistant, Noonan worked with him on some of his most memorable speeches, such as his speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, his farewell address to the nation and the Oval Office speech he gave on the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. The latter is hailed as one of the 100 best speeches in American political history.
As a speechwriter, Noonan coined the hallmark of then Vice President George HW Bush, “a thousand points of light” and the slogan “a gentler, gentler nation”.
Noonan received the Award for Media Excellence as Living Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2010, The Week honored her as Columnist of the Year, and in 2016 the New York Public Library named her the one of the city’s literary Lions.
She is a fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University and has taught in the Department of History at Yale University.
Noonan won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for “living up to the moment with beautifully rendered columns that connected readers to the shared virtues of Americans during one of the country’s most controversial political campaigns.”
At the Westmont President’s Breakfast, she told jokes and shared her experiences working with Reagan, Bush and fellow former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as with President Donald Trump.
“I interviewed or spoke or dined with at least six of the last six presidents,” Noonan said. “I worked for two of them. I watched them close. I think about presidents a lot, and I was struck by the fact that each of them could have learned something important, something that would have benefited them to learn from their predecessor.
“Looking at these landscapes of these men – soon we’ll say men and women – but, looking at these landscapes of presidential men, I’m so aware that historical reputations fluctuate. “
Regarding Obama, Noonan noted that “more than any president I have seen, (he) probably did it on his own. I don’t think we’ve ever seen his confidence falter, and I don’t know how to interpret that. Every other president I’ve seen has had moments of serious self-doubt. “
Prior to introducing Noonan, Westmont President Gayle Beebe spoke about her heritage and career, and presented her with the Westmont Leadership Award. The award honors exemplary leaders known both for their skill and character, and for providing inspiring examples of the kind of people Westmont hopes to cultivate among its students.
Beebe also highlighted some of Westmont’s programs, such as the Augustinian Scholars and its off-campus space along West Anapamu Street in downtown Santa Barbara, as well as several college professors and alumni.
“We know that along the Central Coast, over 1,000 businesses and organizations benefit from the presence of our alumni, who work day in and day out to build great organizations and run profitable businesses that not only contribute to well-being. of our community, but bring personal fulfillment to the thousands of lives these businesses and organizations help, ”he said.
The event included an appearance by the Westmont College Choir, conducted by Michael Shashberger and accompanied by Neil Di Maggio on piano.
Pastor Tommy Schneider of Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara made the invocation. Westmont Foundation Board Member John Davies, Event Chair, greeted guests.
After breakfast, Noonan was taken to the Westmont campus, where she addressed students and faculty and participated in a leadership roundtable.
Noonan joins an impressive list of speakers, including General Michael Hayden, General Stanley McChrystal, political and cultural commentator David Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian David McCullough, social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, international TV host Fareed Zakaria, journalist Thomas Friedman and others.
This year’s Gold Sponsors were Canterbury Consulting, Davies Public Affairs, HUB International of California, La Arcada Investment Corp., Jo and Carl Lindros (Santa Barbara Securities), MATT Construction, Laurie and Lindsay Parton, Santa Barbara Capital (Anna and David Grotenhuis, and Sharol and Wayne Siemens), Mary Lynn and Warren Staley, and Monique and Peter Thorrington.