Business, Community & Government

Finding Your Voice

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 11:57 min

Doris shares the journey of her late husband, presidential speechwriter and adviser Richard Goodwin, who devoted his life to civil service. She also shares Richard’s draft of LBJ’s most famous speech on civil rights.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Finding Your Voice


[MUSIC PLAYING] - All the figures that I've studied for so many years have given their life to public service. And it seems to me that that's such an important thing for all of us to remember today, at a time when I worry whether people are feeling committed to public service, when they worry about how much money they'd have to raise, when they worry about their private lives being exposed. And yet there's something about public service at its best that makes you feel you've made a difference in other people's lives, and it's a greatly fulfilling way to spend one's life and one's career. I look at my husband, who I was married to for 42 years, and he died last year and had an extraordinary adventurous life because he chose mostly public service. He graduated first in his class at Harvard Law School, was the editor of the law review, clerked for Justice Frankfurter, could have had any job he wanted. The law firms were falling over themselves to have him in their law firm, could have made a substantial amount of money. But he decided instead-- it was the late '50s, the early '60s, when public service was in the air. And he wanted to go into public service. So first he began as an investigator of the rigged television quiz shows. He was the one who uncovered that they were being given the questions and answers ahead of time, which became a movie made by Robert Redford, the "Quiz Show" movie. But then he was chosen, as a young speechwriter, to work with Sorensen in the 1960 presidential campaign. So he and Sorensen and JFK were on that plane all the months of the fall during the election. And then he was taken to the White House, and he's still in his 20s. And he worked with JFK on policy and civil rights, on the Alliance for Progress, and it was extraordinary, heady experience. And then of course JFK was killed, and he was right there in Washington as they were figuring out what to do with the eternal flame. He actually got the eternal flame from the Pentagon for the grave of JFK and then was asked, not long after, to go and work for LBJ, a somewhat hard decision because he'd been so close to the Kennedys, really good friend of Bobby and Jackie Kennedy's. But he knew that JFK then would have wanted him to continue on in public service, as he did. And he went to LBJ. And it was there, in many ways, that he found the best possible outlet for both his public policy loves and his speechwriting abilities. So he was involved in the creation of the Great Society-- not just the speech, but the whole Great Society and what it meant-- and most importantly, I think, one of the best speeches of the 20th century, the "we shall overcome" speech, as it is known. It's now considered one of the great speeches of the 20th century. And if I could just set the context for you, and then I'd love to read you the words, because it was an extraordinary feat that he accomplished in the time that he had to do it. What happened was that, in the spring ...

About the Instructor

For more than 50 years, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has studied great American presidents. Now the Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you leadership through the lens of U.S. presidential history. With timeless stories of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris shares practical wisdom and a template for honing leadership skills. Manage a crisis, craft a message, and guide a team like extraordinary leaders of the past.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches you how to develop the leadership qualities of exceptional American presidents.

Explore the Class
Sign Up