In what UC San Diego Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson describes as a "historically significant" event, the chiefs of staff of six U.S. presidents will discuss the inner workings of the White House and their role in shaping the nation's history later this month at a symposium at UCSD.
Entitled "25 Years of the Presidency," the Jan. 17-18 symposium, part of a three-day event commemorating UCSD's silver anniversary, will focus on the presidential aides' recollections of major national crises such as the Bay of Pigs, Watergate and the Iranian hostage impasse.
"This event is of national historic significance," Atkinson said. "Never before have all these chiefs of staff been assembled at one time, in one place."
Participants in the symposium will include Andrew Goodpaster from the Eisenhower Administration; Theodore Sorenson of the Kennedy Administration; Harry McPherson of the Johnson Administration; Alexander M. Haig and H.R. Haldeman of the Nixon Administration; Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney of the Ford Administration, and Jack Watson from the Carter Administration. The event will be moderated by NBC News commentator John Chancellor.
In addition to providing personal behind-the-scenes glimpses at how various administrations responded to major crises, the eight chiefs of staff also are expected to discuss their roles in operating the White House staff and how they adapted to personality differences and handled transitions between administrations.
The Jan. 17 session will be broadcast live to San Diego County high schools over a closed-circuit television system and will be shown that night at 9 p.m. on KPBS-TV (Channel 15).
Public seats for the afternoon session of the Jan. 17 meeting, to be held from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in UCSD's Mandell Weiss Theatre, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, according to UCSD spokeswoman Sharon Taylor. At that session, UCSD professors will question the former presidential aides about, among other issues, the evolving role of the White House chief of staff and how the personalities of top White House aides are woven into the nation's history.
Admission to the Jan. 17 morning session is by invitation only, and the Jan. 18 session, at which a group of journalists will participate in a round-table discussion with the chiefs of staff for a planned book of essays, is closed to the public, Taylor said.