David Richmond Gergen

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David Richmond Gergen

Birthplace: Durham, NC, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Jay Gergen and Aubigne Munger Gergen
Husband of Private
Father of Private and Private
Brother of Kenneth J. Gergen and Private

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About David Richmond Gergen


David Richmond Gergen (born May 9, 1942) is an American political commentator and former presidential advisor who served during the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. He is currently a Senior Political Analyst for CNN and a Professor of Public Service at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Gergen joined the Nixon White House in 1971, as a staff assistant on the speech writing team, becoming Director of Speechwriting two years later. He served as Director of Communications for Ford and Reagan, and as a senior advisor to Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Gergen is currently a Professor of Public Service at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Director of its Center for Public Leadership. He is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton, which was published in 2000. He is the former Editor-at-Large of U.S. News and World Report, and is a contributor to CNN.com and Parade Magazine. Twice Gergen has been a member of election coverage teams that won Peabody awards—in 1988 with McNeil-Lehrer, and in 2008 with CNN.

Gergen's admirers consider him an objective political voice because he has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations. He graduated with honors from Yale and Harvard Law School, and has been awarded 24 honorary degrees.

Early life

David Gergen was born in Durham, North Carolina, to Aubigne Munger (née Lermond) and John Jay Gergen, the former Chair of the Mathematics Department at Duke University. He is the youngest of four children, and one of his brothers, Kenneth J. Gergen, is a psychologist and professor at Swarthmore College.

For three summers, Gergen was an intern in the office of Governor Terry Sanford, where he be-came deeply involved in civil rights efforts. Gergen has called this work his “most satisfying experience in public service.”

Gergen earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1963 and was a member of Manuscript Society. At Yale, he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, whose staff at the time included Senator Joe Lieberman, Stephen Bingham, Bob Kaiser, and Paul Steiger. Gergen received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1967, and married Anne Elizabeth Gergen, a native of London, England, the same year.

Gergen served in the U.S. Navy for three-and-a-half years and was stationed on a ship home-ported in Japan. Gergen writes in his book of his time as a damage control officer on a repair ship, the USS Ajax: “Learning to control damage, it turned out, was the best possible preparation for my coming years in the White House” (25).

Professional career

Political activity

Gergen began his political career in 1971 when he went to work for Richard Nixon as a staff assistant in the speech-writing office headed by Ray Price—a group that included Pat Buchanan, Ben Stein, and William Safire. Two years later, he rose to Director of Speechwriting.

In 1974, Gergen took a brief hiatus from the White House to write speeches for Treasury Secretary William E. Simon. Gergen writes in his book, “For me it was a great trade—the Treasury team taught me all about free markets and fiscal discipline.” (113). Gergen returned to the White House in 1975 as Director of Communications for President Gerald Ford. In 1980, Gergen was an advisor to the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign, and went on the join the Reagan White House in 1981. Beginning as a staff director, he eventually became Director of Communications. In 1993, Gergen returned to the White House, serving as Counselor to President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Career in journalism

Gergen is a Senior Political Analyst for CNN and often appears on Anderson Cooper 360 and The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. He has been a frequent guest on NPR and CBS’ Face the Nation. Gergen writes for CNN and Parade Magazine, and has been published in an array of other publications including The New York Times and Newsweek. Twice he has been a member of election coverage teams that won Peabody awards—in 1988 with MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, and in 2008 with CNN.

Following his years in public service, Gergen worked as a political journalist, commentator, and editor. After leaving the White House in 1977, he worked as a freelance writer and, in 1978, as the first managing editor of Public Opinion, a magazine published by the American Enterprise Institute. From 1985 to 1986, he worked as an editor at U.S. News & World Report, where he became editor-at-large following his service in the Clinton administration. There he worked with publisher Mort Zuckerman to achieve record gains in circulation and advertising.

Gergen’s career in television began in 1985 when he joined the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour for Friday night discussions of politics, where he remained a regular commentator for five years.

Career in academia

Gergen taught at Duke University from 1995 to 1999, and joined the Harvard University faculty in 1999. He is currently a Professor of Public Service at the Harvard Kennedy School where he teaches courses on leadership, public service, and U.S. politics. During election years, he co-teaches a course called “Contemporary Issues in American Elections” with Elaine Kamarck.

At Harvard Kennedy School, he is the Director of the Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership, which seeks to enhance leadership teaching and research. The Center helps to provide scholarships to 50-60 fellows a year, preparing them to serve as leaders for the common good.

Gergen served as the inaugural Isabella Cannon Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership at Elon University and was a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics in 1984.


Gergen is the author of the New York Times bestseller book Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton, published in 2000. The book is an account of his time in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton administrations. Gergen argues that, as the twenty-first century begins, our success as a country will depend heavily upon the success of a new generation in power. Drawing upon his many experiences in the White House, he offers seven vital elements that future leaders must possess: inner mastery; a central, compelling purpose rooted in moral values; a capacity to persuade; an ability to work within the system; a sure, quick start; strong, prudent advisors; and a passion that inspires others to carry on the mission.

He is working on a new book about renewing America’s political culture.

Awards and memberships


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David Richmond Gergen's Timeline

May 9, 1942
Durham, NC, United States