Episode #43: Lincoln on the Golf Course

With guest Tom Klingenstein

Peter Wood

Tom Klingenstein, an investor, political philosopher, playwright, and member of the NAS board of directors, joins Peter to discuss Abraham Lincoln, multiculturalism, and the liberal arts. Tom originated our Bowdoin Project after a golf game with Bowdoin President Barry Mills—a meeting characterized by the Wall Street Journal as “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World.” 

Show Notes

0:00 Peter introduces Tom Klingenstein

1:55 Tom describes Williams College when he was there—and tells the story of how he accidentally discovered a political philosophy book that set off his lifelong interest in Abraham Lincoln. 

7:21 Going to Swaziland as a member of the Peace Corps was the best thing he ever did, Tom says. 

10:11 Why did NAS do a 360-degree study of Bowdoin College? Tom tells the story of his pivotal conversation with Bowdoin President Barry Mills, characterized by the Wall Street Journal as “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World.” 

19:30 We used to know the names of college presidents, Tom notes, because they were scholars. Today, most college presidents are full-time fundraisers. 

21:10 Some memorable details from the Bowdoin study: The college offered only two courses on colonial history, one on sex and one on food. 

24:50 Peter and Tom discuss Tom’s play If Only…A Love Story. 

29:09 What lessons does Tom draw from Lincoln? 

39:19 We hear a lot about multiculturalism, but what is it? 

59:15 Peter and Tom discuss how to expand the Overton Window, the range of opinions considered fine for polite society. 

1:02:20 Tom lives an election district where only four voters voted for Trump. Tom and Peter talk about polarization. 


Thomas D. Klingenstein, “A Golf Story,” Claremont Review of Books, September 2017. 

David Feith, “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World,” Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2013. 

Thomas D. Klingenstein, “Our House Divided: Multiculturalism vs. America,” The American Mind, October 31, 2018. 

Peter Wood, “Abraham Lincoln, Matchmaker,” First Things, September 11, 2017. 

Peter Wood and Michael Toscano, What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts Education Shapes Students, National Association of Scholars, April 2013. 

Mitchell Langbert, “Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty,” Academic Questions, Summer 2018.

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