When Donald Trump called to scold me...July, 2023
- In American politics, you can meet anything... But really. Even people like Donald Trump.
In the winter of 2019, the "unconventional" President Trump is in his element so while talking to Nancy Gibbs I don't even look at my served dinner in the restaurant on the top floor of Harvard University.
Not even a guy like him!
Pretty bold... But that sentence coming from Nancy Gibbs, a remarkable journalist and manager who has just left her job as an editor-in-chief of Time Magazine, a publication that often dictates not only American, but also foreign politics. A publication that doesn't have a president or prime minister in the world that it doesn't closely follow and absorb every line of.
And Nancy, the first woman ever to hold that office, was now standing across from me, also not touching the "Harvard" sandwiches and mincing words. For peace, for conflict, but also for presidents.
- You know Max, there is no profession as fascinating as being a journalist in America. Every single day is different, no - not even every single hour interferes with the one in front of it, and I often don't even notice how the months go by... Not to mention that running a publication like Time Magazine is an adventure on top of everything else.
Harvard is probably the most interesting place
in the world.
Any tourist attraction or incredible museum quickly fades in front of the colorful world of university buildings, student restaurants, soft furnishings scattered on the floors and in the huge open spaces filled with people... With amazing young people! Of all nationalities, colorful, smart, and intelligent, all to one colorfully and leisurely dressed and all to one with tablets or laptops in their hands...
Even one day in this environment can change anyone who has even the smallest sparkle in their eyes and wants to succeed, whether in management, science or just in life.
My days at Harvard Kennedy School really changed my view of the world because... the whole world was there.
It was also the months right before the pandemic, and no one could imagine for a second that soon those very buildings would be deserted for two or three years and
the world would never be the same again.
Some of the most beautiful moments throughout my time at Harvard were - unexpected as it was - the dinners, each one with a special guest, each one bringing up topics that my colleagues and I would continue to discuss until late after midnight over a glass of beer in the hotel.
It was on one such evening that Nancy Gibbs and I met, and as I was the only one with a journalism background from our small and very carefully selected group in the Leadership Decision Making course, our conversation naturally went on at length and quite specifically.
Nancy is an extremely balanced interlocutor, always smiling and with incredible respect for everything that goes on at Harvard.
The Book and “The Presidents Club”,
written with Michael Duffy, is the world's most remarkable study of the American presidential institution and the "games" inside the White House, she herself has interviewed five American presidents, and since Donald Trump is right then in the middle of his term, I expect her to harshly criticize him.
- Trump is a rather atypical and interesting president, we've never had in our entire history the likes of him. And the most interesting thing is that in the logic of American presidents, it's always the next one to criticize the previous one. But really - without exception. Until the advent of Donald Trump. Not a word has been said about any of his predecessors as if they didn't exist.
"Is this good, or is it bad?"
- I ask rather bluntly.
Nancy smiles, and this time, just like a diplomat, not a journalist, she answers me with unanswered sentences...
- Can anyone tell? I don't believe that will change, though. Usually US presidents, no matter how much they criticize each other, become good friends when they get out of power. I believe that one day
Trump no longer being in the White House
he'll still be distant, he's just different.
- Selfish, aggressive, unyielding. At the end of 2015, he picked up the phone to tell me he wasn't on the cover of the magazine as "Man of the Year," probably the most prestigious award a politician in the world can receive, to appear on the cover of "Time Magazine" with that title. I've spent a long time convincing him that he hasn't earned it yet, because after all, we'll have to see what he does in the election. Well, he won them, and just a month later, I was already at Trump Tower in New York to photograph him for the cover and do the traditional interview with him...
"Actually, a real journalist is this
- a politician with the politicians, and a diplomat with the diplomats.” In both cases, though, being better than them. That's what Nancy Gibbs tells me, and we promise each other that our next meeting will be back at Harvard, especially since this is now one of her prestigious jobs, and I'm sure she'll be communicating like a scholar with scholars here, too.
And - probably - will be better than them. If only for coming from practice.
In the picture: Maxim Behar and Nancy Gibbs, Harvard Kennedy School, 2019