Optimism in Presidential Leadership: Case of Eisenhower's Smile
16 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 19, 2016
The narratives with which Presidents describe themselves and their administrations may lend insights into attributes of presidential leadership. Among the most interesting attributes — and least-studied — is optimism. Do U.S. Presidents express themes of hope and optimism relatively more than others? How unified or different are the Presidents in expressing such sentiments? Is such an expression associated with the person’s life experience and the context while serving in office? And ultimately, how is optimism associated with a President’s legacy?
This essay complements research on the self-narrative texts of post-World War II Presidents by considering in detail the instance of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bruner (2016) finds that all post-World War II Presidents express sentiments of warmth and optimism more than a large sample of benchmark writings. And among the post-World War II Presidents, Eisenhower is the most optimistic. What might have been the sources of this sentiment? Was this optimism authentic? How might optimism have contributed to Eisenhower’s leadership? The discussion addresses these questions.
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