With empty seats few and far between, renowned author Doris Kearns Goodwin took the stage and delivered a poignant and colorful speech to a capacity crowd in the Millennium Center ballroom Thursday night.

Kearns Goodwin

Speaking about leadership, sharing stories about past presidents and from her own life, the New York Times bestseller kept the crowd laughing and cheering throughout her presentation before moving to a Q&A session that lasted about half an hour.

“It was a wonderful audience tonight,” Kearns Goodwin said. “I could feel the sense of community and camaraderie and the students being here with the older people; it was a wonderful mix in the audience, I loved it.”

Kearns Goodwin believes the university did an important service by bringing in speakers to facilitate important conversation revolving around presidents and politics.

“I think it’s really important right now for people to be exposed to different points of view and to be able to listen and absorb where they’re coming from,” Kearns Goodwin said.

When asked about the “country is at a new low” approach to the current administration, Kearns Goodwin took a more measured approach.

“I think the main thing is when people feel these are the worst of times, if you looked back at other periods of history, somehow the country was able to mobilize itself and we worked stronger than before,” Kearns Goodwin said. “I think we have to remember that, or else we just feel there’s no ending to the divisiveness we have right now – history helps.”

For those hoping for a return of the Festival of Ideas in the future, Jeffery Howard, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, said he believes this will be the “first of many.” Dr. Noland said he is “confident” another one will take place, though the university would wait for community and student feedback before making a decision.