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Dirksen Congressional Center director speaks to MC political science class

Barry McNamara
3/3/2010
Frank Mackaman, executive director of the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin, speaking to Robin Johnson's political science class.
Frank Mackaman, executive director of the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin, visited Monmouth College political science lecturer Robin Johnson’s classroom on March 1 to speak about the American presidency and executive leadership.

Mackaman served as the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., for eight years and he held the position of the mayor of Pekin from 2005 to 2007. He currently works at the Dirksen Center and teaches courses at Bradley University on the presidency as an adjunct professor of political science.

The class broke into two groups, with each working on a different topic. The first group began to compile a list of factors that would account for presidential success beyond the inaugural year, while the second group worked on identifying obstacles to presidential success. The group determined that key factors for success would included honesty, good communications, keeping promises, and having clear goals and programs. The second group identified several obstacles to success, among which were lack of congressional support, high expectations from the public, the bipartisan nature of the political world, and a diverse constituency.

Mackaman noted that the groups’ conclusions were on track, and his lecture built on these ideas to provide an interpretive framework for sets of factors that determine not only presidential success, but success in any executive leadership role. Mackaman stated his six prerequisites for an effective presidency, which were: vision, political skill, public communication, organizational effectiveness, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.

Jim Fry, a junior from Monmouth, observed that “Mackaman brought a lot of energy to the classroom. While his main job is to focus on congressional issues, he was able to give us insight into the characteristics of the presidency.” Fry added, “His lecture made me appreciate all of the factors the staff in the White House and the President need to consider in order to have a successful White House.”

The Dirksen Congressional Center is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that offers programs and funding for teachers and scholars whose work enhances the public’s understanding of Congress.