2023 Symposium: Army Leadership

From the creation of the Continental Army to today, the U.S Army has fostered leadership at all levels.

Throughout U.S. history, Army leaders adapted to field conditions. They maintained a clear vision, built strong organizational cultures, and motivated troops. Some leaders showed skills early and rose through the ranks, while others rose to the occasion. Leaders emerged at every level, often in the face of adversity. They demonstrated an ability to sacrifice, act decisively, and carry out a commander’s vision. Today, effective Army leaders serve as role models and case studies for future generations.

The 2023 Fall Symposium examines over 200 years of Army leaders and leadership.

All events are offered for in-person OR virtual attendance.

Register to attend in-person

Register to attend virtually


Schedule of Events


Friday, October 20, 2023

8 – 8:30 a.m. – Check-in and Late Registration. Army Historical Foundation Book Sale

Check-in starting at 8 a.m. Pick up grab-and-go snacks in the Museum Café. Enjoy complimentary coffee service and explore the book sale, which includes a general selection of military history books—new and used copies will be available.

8:30 – 8:45 a.m. – Museum Director’s Welcome with Tammy E. Call

8:45 – 9:15 a.m. – “Army Leadership”

The U.S. Army is the nation’s largest leadership academy. For almost 250 years, Soldiers from privates to general officers have defined what it means to lead. The experiences of Army leaders and leadership hold valuable lessons for all.

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. – “The Real Miracle at Valley Forge: George Washington’s Leadership,” with David O. Stewart

George Washington and the Continental Army faced many low points during the Revolutionary War. None were lower than the six-month encampment at Valley Forge. Soldiers were hungry, sick, cold, poorly supplied, and defeated. For the commander in chief, the challenge was to rebuild a demoralized fighting force. Washington did this while rivals maneuvered to supplant his position. Washington’s leadership in the face of adversity set an Army standard. How he did so bears study two and a half centuries later.

David O. Stewart has published five books of history and four historical novels. His most recent nonfiction work, “George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father,” won several awards and was a finalist for Mount Vernon’s George Washington Prize.

10:45 – 11:45 a.m. – “The Secret to Ulysses S. Grant’s Success During the Civil War,” with John Reeves

Ulysses S. Grant rose from regimental colonel at the outset of the Civil War to general in chief of the United States Army in March 1864. What accounts for his astonishing success? Was it destiny? Or was he just an ordinary man, benefitting from the turmoil of the Civil War to advance to the highest military rank? Grant’s accomplishments as a military leader underscores the importance of understanding people.

John Reeves is the author of “Soldier of Destiny: Slavery, Secession, and the Redemption of Ulysses S. Grant;” “A Fire in the Wilderness;” and “The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee.” He has taught European and American history at Lehman College, Bronx Community College, and Southbank University in London.

11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Lunch on your own and gallery exploration

12:45 – 1:45 p.m. – “Uncommon Valor of the Common Soldier,” with Robert Child

Leaders rise from all levels. The Army traditionally called for excellence, and individual Soldiers have undertaken acts of bravery, going beyond the call of duty. Robert Child’s own great-grandfather, Thomas W. Child, was cited for bravery during the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. Focusing on World War II’s Black Medal of Honor recipients, Child brings to light little-known stories of heroic deeds and lessons of leadership from front-line Soldiers.

Robert Child is an Emmy® nominated screenwriter, director, and author. His book “Immortal Valor: The Black Medal of Honor Winners of World War II” was published in 2022. He has garnered more than 26 writing and directing awards and is one of only a handful of writer/directors whose work has screened in the United States Congress.

2 – 3 p.m. – “Douglas MacArthur: An Instructive Leader,” with Chris Kolakowski

The public lionized Douglas MacArthur for his vision and boldness. Throughout a colorful career from World War I to the Korean War, many saw him as the model for Army leadership. While brilliant, his ego and self-aggrandizement damaged his effectiveness. Why did controversy follow him? Why did President Truman fire him? What can we learn from his explosive career?

Christopher Kolakowski is director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. He has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of military history and leadership from 1775 to the present. He has published three books on the Civil War and two on the Pacific Theater in World War II. Previously, he served as the director of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. – “The Leadership (and Followership) of Colin Powell,” with Jeffrey Matthews, Ph.D.

Colin Powell forged a distinctive leadership style over a decades-long career. His development as a senior subordinate was crucial to his professional career. From his start as a junior officer in Vietnam to his appointment as the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell demonstrated effective leadership. Yet, his record as President George W. Bush’s senior foreign policy advisor during the war on terrorism remains controversial. How important are management skills to leadership development? Does the ability to be a follower impact leadership?

Jeffrey Matthews is the George F. Jewett Distinguished Professor of Leadership at the University of Puget Sound. His book “Colin Powell: Imperfect Patriot” was a finalist for the Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award. His forthcoming book is “Generals and Admirals, Criminals and Crooks: Dishonorable Leadership in the U.S. Military.”

4:15 – 4:30 p.m. – Conclusion

4:30 – 5 p.m. – Symposium attendees are invited to visit the galleries and Museum Store.

Register to attend in-person


Register to attend virtually