A Son of the West Call to Action Education and Excellence Engineer of the Great Society Tackling the Problems of Urban America Common Cause Empowering Communities
John Gardner - Education and Excellence
uncommon American Home Writings Gardner's Groups Multimedia The Film Classroom
Education and Excellence timeline: 1946 - 1964
"We don't even know what skills may be needed in the years ahead. That is why we must train our young people in the fundamental fields of knowledge, and equip them to understand and cope with change. That is why we must give them the critical qualities of mind and durable qualities of character that will serve them in circumstances we cannot now even predict."
John Gardner, "Excellence"

Upon returning from the war, John Gardner looked to couple his interest in human development with his new desire to effect change in the world. With the end of the war came the challenges of peace: rebuilding relations between countries and rebuilding the United States to meet the challenges of the Baby Boom. In 1946, Gardner joined Carnegie Corporation, where he worked on programs to help accomplish both. He became an educational innovator helping to start Model United Nations programs, launching some of the first experiments to use television in the classroom, and helping to establish the first Russian Research Center at Harvard University which became a valuable resource as the American relationship with Russia became increasingly important.

In 1955, John Gardner became the president of Carnegie Corporation as well as the head of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. During this time, Gardner proposed a program that would provide some of the most advanced training in the world for those interested in government: the White House Fellows program. It took seven years before it was started, but its distinguished alumni list -- including Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin -- points to the impact it has made.

more information  Learn more about White House Fellows

Video clip  Video from the film:Colin Powell Discusses the White House Fellows Program

In 1961, Gardner published his first major book, "Excellence," arguing that the United States must strive for both excellence and equality at every level of society. This book caught the attention of President Kennedy, and Gardner not only became more involved in federal efforts to improve education, but also edited a volume of JFK's speeches and position papers. Gardner followed this volume up with his second major book, entitled "Self-Renewal." Just as the United States was about to begin a period of profound change in its society, culture, and politics, Gardner argued that change -- both personal and societal -- is a great source of renewal and should be embraced.

more information  Learn more about "Self-Renewal" and "Excellence"

A Son of the West | Call to Action | Education and Excellence
Engineer of the Great Society | Tackling the Problems of Urban America
Common Cause | Empowering Communities


Site credits

See the animated Gallery
Timeline legend
1946 First meeting of the United Nation General Assembly
  John Gardner joins Carnegie Corporation to work on innovative educational programs
1955 Martin Luther King, Jr., leads the Montgomery bus boycott
  John Gardner becomes Carnegie president
1957 John Gardner proposes idea for White House Fellow Program
1960 John F. Kennedy elected President
  "Excellence" published
1961 "Freedom Riders" take bus rides to the South
1962 Gardner edits "To Turn the Tide," a collection of President Kennedy's speeches
1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers "I Have a Dream" speech at march on Washington
1964 John Gardner awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom for contribution to education
  "Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society" published