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Kirst, Michael W.

Michael Kirst Photo

Michael W. Kirst

Linda A Cicero / Stanford News Service
Oral History Project: 
John W. Gardner Legacy Oral History Project
Mancini, Nancy
Interview Year: 
Oral History Type: 

Michael W. “Mike” Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and an emeritus professor of education at Stanford University, discusses his early career in government, teaching education at Stanford University, and his personal and professional relationship with John W. Gardner. Upon graduating from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Kirst worked for a task force on education led by Gardner during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, and he recounts stories from that time, including meeting with President Johnson to offer a cost estimate for the task force’s recommendations. He later became the associate director of the White House Fellowship, and recalls that Gardner was very involved in shaping the experience of the fellows. After working in the Johnson administration and then in the Senate, Kirst came to Stanford to teach in the School of Education, and he discusses making that shift. Upon Gardner’s return to Stanford in 1989, their families would frequently have dinner together. He fondly recalls those dinners and recounts stories from that time. He also comments on Aida Gardner’s personality and the enduring strength of her marriage to John Gardner. Other topics include Gardner’s emphasis on the importance of government, his focus late in his career on the power of local government, his belief in the need for campaign finance reform, and hiring Milbrey McLaughlin as the founding director for the Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities.

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