A Magical Night: Goodyear Fellow James Baker, III

Former Secretary of State James Baker charms an SRO crowd

James Baker, III, received a very warm reception Monday evening -- from the weather as well as the 450 or so people that filled Engelhard Activities Building for the 2009 Alison Harrison Goodyear Fellow's lecture. Temperatures nearing 90 degrees did little to dampen what Head of School Mary Louise Leipheimer called "a magical night."

In addition to our students, who looked lovely in their "banquet" dress and did us proud with their questions, a number of noted people were there, including at least one ambassador, several former presidential advisors and under-secretaries of various federal departments, two of the late Anne Legendre Armstrong's children and -- surprising his father on the eve of his birthday -- Douglas Baker. 

In a speech clearly aimed at our students, the former Secretary of State and Treasury and White House Chief of Staff spoke eloquently about leadership -- what it means, what it requires and how Mrs. Armstrong,  a 1945 grad of Foxcroft and longtime colleague of Baker's, exemplified it. During a lively question-and-answer period after the 25-minute speech, he discussed a wide variety of current issues, from Guantanamo Bay and the legacy of President George W. Bush to Iran, Pakistan and the economy.  After the presentation, Mary Lou led the assemblage in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" (Mr. Baker turned 79 Tuesday) and then led guests over to Covert for a splendid reception.

In his speech, Mr. Baker defined leadership in terms all could understand  -- "knowing what to do and doing it" -- and posited that we all can realize our leadership potential if we are committed to something bigger than ourselves, some set values, and having the perseverance to fight for those values. He further noted that leadership required enthusiasm, intellect, loyalty and good humor and must never, never surrender to pessimism.

Throughout the talk, Mr. Baker referred to Mrs. Armstrong and her extraordinary leadership. "She was involved in public service for the right reason, one that isn't always the case these days," he said. "She was in it not to elevate herself, but to elevate America." A true pioneer, Mrs. Armstrong was the first female keynote speaker at a national political convention, the first female Counselor to the President and  the first female Ambassador to the Court of St. James. But, he pointed out, she fought for increased presence of all women in public service, establishing the White House Office of Women’s Programs to provide a liaison between the president and women’s groups, to recruit female appointees to high-level government positions and to broaden opportunities for women in the federal government.

And yes, Mr. Baker did credit Foxcroft in large part for Mrs. Armstrong's being a "great, great American." He concluded his talk saying, "Anne Armstrong was an outstanding leader. She knew what to do and she did it. And guess what? She learned a lot -- if not all -- of that at this School."

Magical indeed.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.