Presidential Transitions in a Bipartisan Setting

Please note that the event described below will be held at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Attendance is by invitation only, but the public is encouraged to return to this page at 9 a.m. July 11 to watch a live webcast of the conference. 

Every four or eight years, our nation undergoes a profound and peaceful transfer of power. One administration sheds the trappings of the office while the other assumes the immense powers of and responsibilities for the executive branch. Though observers typically focus on the incoming team, “Presidential Transitions in a Bipartisan Setting” — the first event in a new series sponsored by the Moody Foundation — draws attention to the important role that the outgoing administration plays in laying a strong foundation for its successor. In addition, the speakers will address the complexities of shifting from campaigning to governing, highlighting smart strategies for fostering a smooth beginning.

Participants in this conference, hosted at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, will include a select group of former White House staff members with a wealth of transition experience. They will no doubt provide fresh ideas and keen insights about how to run a successful transition.

This event, part of the Moody Series on Bipartisan Leadership at the Texas Presidential Libraries, is sponsored by The White House Transition Project, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, the George W. Bush Presidential Center and the Moody Foundation.







8:00 am



Arrival and Breakfast

9:00 am



Welcome Remarks

Allan Matthews
Director of Grants, The Moody Foundation

Holly Kuzmich
Senior Vice President and Executive Director, George W. Bush Institute

Emily Robison
Acting Director, George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Martha Joynt Kumar
Director, White House Transition Project

9:20 am



Panel I – Conversation: Presidential Transition in a Bipartisan Setting

Moderator: Martha Joynt Kumar, Director, White House Transition Project

Joshua Bolten
Chief of Staff, President George W. Bush

Thomas “Mack” McLarty
Chief of Staff, President William J. Clinton

10:35 am




10:45 am



Panel II – Administration Transition Preparations

Moderator: Terry Sullivan, Executive Director, White House Transition Project

Lisa Brown
Co-Director of Agency Review, Obama-Biden Transition Project

Clay Johnson III
Former Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget, and Executive Director, Bush-Cheney Transition Project

Christopher Lu
Executive Director, Obama-Biden Transition Project

12:05 pm




Martha Joynt Kumar
Director, White House Transition Project

Terry Sullivan
Executive Director, White House Transition Project


About the Series

Following his decision to not run for re-election in 1952, President Harry S. Truman began preparations for a presidential transition. After the national party nominating conventions, Truman invited both candidates to the White House. “We will have a luncheon with the Cabinet and after that, if you like, I’ll have my entire staff report to you on the situation in the White House, and in that way, you will be entirely briefed on what takes place,” he told them. Dwight Eisenhower turned down the invitation in part because he was running against Truman’s policies. In a handwritten letter to Eisenhower, Truman said, “I am extremely sorry that you have allowed a bunch of screwballs to come between us. You have made a bad mistake and I’m hoping it won’t injure this great Republic.” In 2008, President George W. Bush achieved what Truman could not.

During the summer of 2008, representatives of the two major presidential candidates came to the White House at the request of Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and under the direction of President Bush. With the United States engaged in two wars, the president believed the country was in danger and that bipartisanship was the key to a successful handoff of power. The preparations he oversaw paid off, even allowing the two presidential teams to work together to deal with a terrorist threat on the day of President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

As partisan wrangling has increased in Washington, a counter-trend has gradually taken hold over presidential transitions, where members of the two parties agree to act in unison. In 2008, 2012 and even in this election year, competing campaign staffs have met together with academics and experienced practitioners in and out of government to learn how to plan an effective transfer of power. Government officials from different parties have pulled together to assure a smooth change of government.

Can this island of bipartisanship expand to include additional areas of government action and further develop the cooperation between parties and campaigns into more than occasional cooperation? This bipartisanship in presidential transitions is the focus of a new series of public discussions sponsored by the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Texas, and carried out by the joint efforts of the White House Transition Project and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.




Mon, July 11, 2016
8 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
(GMT-0500) US/Central


By invitation only: George W. Bush Presidential Center
2943 SMU Boulevard
Dallas, Texas 75205
United States

Southern Methodist University