Former Head of the Office of Personnel Management under President Reagan, Dr. Donald Devine knows firsthand the importance of honorable leadership in our world. The TFAS Grewcock Senior Scholar shared important insights on his experience working in the Ronald Reagan administration with Capital Semester students during election week 2020.
During the virtual lecture, Devine shared memories of President Reagan and his time in the administration. He fondly recounted his nickname at the time—”the Grinch in the pinstripe suit”—chuckling as he remembered the way his coworkers viewed him.
As a libertarian-leaning academic with little political background, many might have said Devine was not the obvious choice for the position as the head of personnel in 1981, but he accepted the position with an open mind and created lasting change for administrations to come.
Devine still thinks warmly of President Reagan after all these years, referring to him as a “tough guy” with a great sense of humor. Widely regarded as a highly successful president, Reagan created a more prosperous country by decreasing both inflation and unemployment significantly during his time in office. Part of his success can be attributed to Devine, whom Reagan appointed specifically to reduce the size of government, which in turn decreased government spending.
According to Devine, “Reagan had a very traditional view of what society was supposed to be.” Devine used this theme to discuss the historical evolution of societies and the various leaders that emerged over time. This lesson, part of TFAS’s curriculum on Constitutional Leadership, revealed the rise of political leaders in times of crisis and characterized the transition from nomadism to where we are today as the “Great Adventure.” He asked tough questions of the students, encouraging them to participate in analyzing how our society developed over time.
Devine’s lecture also emphasized the dangers of centralization, as well as the role that newer generations play in restoring the American principles of transcendence, freedom and division of power. The event concluded with a review of the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence, incorporating an analysis of why these documents are fundamental to our great nation.