Biography

David is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, positions he has held for the past decade. In addition, he serves as a senior political analyst for CNN and works actively with a rising generation of new leaders.

In the past, he has served as a White House adviser to four U.S. presidents of both parties: Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He wrote about those experiences in his New York Times best-seller, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

In the 1980s, he began a career in journalism. Starting with the McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour in 1984, he has been a regular commentator on public affairs for some 28 years. Twice he has been a member of election coverage teams that won Peabody awards. In the late 1980s, he was chief editor of U.S. News & World Report, working with publisher Mort Zuckerman to achieve record gains in circulation and advertising.

Over the years, he has been active on many non-profit boards, serving in the past on the boards of both Yale and Duke universities. Among his current boards are Teach for America, City Year, Schwab Foundation, the Aspen Institute and the advisory board for the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also chairs the advisory board for the new School of Law at Elon University and ch-chairs the advisory board for Duke Engage (Please see a more complete list below).

David's work as director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School has enabled him to work closely with a rising generation of younger leaders, especially social entrepreneurs, military veterans and Young Global Leaders chosen by the World Economic Forum. Through the generosity of outside donors, the Center helps to provide scholarships to 50-60 students a year, preparing them to serve as leaders for the common good. The Center also promotes scholarship at the frontiers of leadership studies.

A native of North Carolina, David is a member of the D.C. Bar, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the U.S. executive committee for the Trilateral Commission.

He is an honors graduate of Yale and the Harvard Law School. He has been awarded 24 honorary degrees.

David has been married since 1967 to Anne Elizabeth Gergen of England, a family therapist. They have two children and four grand-children. Son Christopher is a social entrepreneur in North Carolina as well as an author and member of the Duke faculty. Daughter Katherine is a family doctor, working with the underserved population at the Boston Medical Center.

He is currently at work on a new book about renewing America's political culture.

Recent Non-Profit Boards

  • Aspen Institute
  • Boston Museum Project
  • Campaign Against Teen Pregnancy
  • Center for Global Development
  • Center for the Study of the Presidency
  • City Year
  • Duke University (former)
  • Morehouse College Leadership Institute
  • Schwab Foundation for Social Enterprise
  • Teach for America
  • World Economic Forum
  • World Resources Institute
  • Yale Corporation (former)

Advisory Roles

  • Chair, National Advisory Board, Elon University School of Law
  • Co-Chair, National Advisory Board, Duke Engage
  • Co-Chair, Inclusive America Project, Aspen Institute
  • Member, Advisory Board, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Member, North American Executive Committee, Trilateral Commission
  • Former Chair, National Selection Committee for Innovations in American Government
  • Former Co-chair, National Selection Committee, Top American Leaders
    (co-sponsored by The Washington Post and Center for Public Leadership, Kennedy
  • Former Chair, Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery Peck Presidential Awards
    (for service to the U.S. presidency)
  • Member, Selection committees for Social Capitalist Awards
    (best social entrepreneurs, U.S.)
  • Judge, Civic Venture Purpose Prize Awards
    (citizens over 60 creating social change)
  • Judge, Gleitsman Awards

Professional Memberships

  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Trilateral Commission