Richard Norton Smith had a goal: to kick off the Dole Institute of Politics' first major lecture series with academics who appeal to the masses.
Judging by response to the series which features three presidential historians he's succeeded.
"If you look at all three of these speakers, they really embody the crossroads of substantive scholarship with great story-telling ability," he said. "This is, in many ways, a prototype for what we want the Dole Institute to offer, not only to the academic community but to the public at large."
The series features 8 p.m. lectures on three consecutive Sundays at the Lied Center. The first is Edmund Morris this weekend, followed by Michael Beschloss Nov. 10 and David McCullough Nov. 17.
Smith said about 1,550 free tickets had been reserved for the McCullough lecture, and about 1,350 each for the Beschloss and Morris lectures. The Lied Center seats about 2,000 people.
Free tickets can be reserved by calling the Lied Center at 864-2787, University Theatre at 864-3982 or Student Union Activities at 864-7469.
Each speaker will sign books after each speech. McCullough and Beschloss also plan to have dinner with faculty members and donors to the Dole Institute before their speeches.
Smith, himself a presidential historian who has led several presidential libraries and museums, is personal friends with all three speakers.
Morris' speech will be "The Badger on the Pullman: TR Visits Kansas, 1903." Teddy Roosevelt's 1903 trip to Kansas was the last visit to Lawrence by a sitting president, Smith said.
Morris won a Pulitzer Prize for "Theodore Rex," his best-selling biography on Roosevelt. He also wrote a biography of Ronald Reagan, "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan."
Beschloss, a frequent commentator on ABC News and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, will speak on "Presidential Leadership." He recently published "Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965," the second in a projected trilogy on the tapes.
He also recently published "The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945."
McCullough will speak on "Presidential Decisions in Times of Crises," focusing on George Washington, John Adams, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
McCullough, who is host of "The American Experience" on PBS and narrated Ken Burns' "The Civil War," recently earned his second Pulitzer Prize for "John Adams," a biography of the president. He also won a Pulitzer Prize for "Truman."
Smith said he hoped future Presidential Lecture Series speakers would cover a variety of topics related to the presidency. Having Morris, Beschloss and McCullough kick off the series sets a high standard, he said.
"They're three of the best," Smith said. "I think having three people of this caliber inaugurating this series sends an unmistakable message in terms of the standards we want to set."