Standing Up, Stepping Forward, & Speaking Out: The Political Courage to Take a Principled Stand with John Dean and William Weld on 9 September

Presented by the Massachusetts Historical Society, this virtual conversation will discuss those
who go against the grain to stand up against political corruption and white collar crimes.

BOSTON, August 2020—Watergate was a sea change in American politics. But even as a presidential scandal gripped the nation, there were remarkable displays of political courage as Republicans and Democrats found ways to work together for the good of the nation. On Wednesday, September 9, 2020, at 5:30 PM, the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) will host a conversation between John Dean and William Weld, for whom Watergate was a transformational moment.

Moderated by historian Edward Widmer, the conversation will explore the need for honesty and political courage—even when that means breaking party ties or opposing friends. Hear from two people who stood up, stepped forward, and spoke out against wrongs they saw within their own party. This historical lens will help us to understand the role of collaborationists in the past as well as today and the need to take an ethical stand.

John W. Dean III
John Dean was White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1970‒1973. As a young attorney before his tenure in Nixon’s administration, Dean was the chief minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee from 1966‒1967, and an associate director of the National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws. In 1969, he accepted an appointment in the Nixon administration as an associate deputy in the office of the U.S. Attorney General.  In his role as legal advisor to President Nixon, Dean was clearly implicated in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal; however his choice to cooperate in the investigation ultimately led to the resignation of the president and the conviction of top aides to the president, including Dean himself. He is an outspoken critic of overreaching executive power and political corruption and has published numerous books critiquing the modern conservative movement.

William F. Weld
William F. Weld served as the 68th governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1991‒1997. He began his legal career as counsel to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary in the impeachment process against Richard Nixon in 1974. This experience sparked an interest in criminal law and specifically white collar crime. He was appointed U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and used his position to focus on corruption. In 1986, he was promoted to be head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, a post he held until 1988 when he resigned in protest over the improper conduct by United States Attorney General Edwin Meese. In 2016, he ran as a Vice Presidential candidate in the Libertarian party. Most recently, he ran as a Republican candidate for president in 2019-2020 as a primary challenger to President Trump.

Edward L. Widmer
Edward Widmer is an American historian, writer, librarian, and musician. He received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate from Harvard University. Widmer was a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University from 1993‒1997. He worked as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, both during and after Clinton’s presidency, writing foreign policy speeches and advising on history and scholarship related issues. He later conducted extensive interviews with Clinton while the former president was writing his autobiography. Widmer was the first director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience from 2001 to 2006 and an associate professor of history at Washington College. In 2006, he was appointed Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, where he led efforts to digitize the library’s holdings. From 2012 to 2013, Widmer was a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Between 2010 and 2015, he helped to create and often contributed to The New York Times “Disunion,” a digital history of the Civil War. In October 2016, Widmer was appointed Director of the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He is currently a professor of history at Macaulay Honors College.

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