Will Swift | Psychologist, Biographer, Historian and Coach

Will Swift

Psychologist, Biographer, Historian and Coach

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New York, NY, United States

Will Swift

Author and public speaker Will Swift offers a unique blend of skills: He is a historian, a biographer, and a practicing clinical psychologist, who specializes in cognitive and marital therapy. He offers personal coaching about how to thrive in your career and your personal life. An influential leader and a speaker on effective leadership, he has lectured at Oxford University on psychology and at the Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon libraries on history. Dr. Swift has founded speaker's series, international organizations, writer's groups and has participated in many panels at conferences. He speaks at annual conventions, private and university clubs, universities, public libraries, bookstores, museums and historical societies. He has also presented in training sessions at corporations and hospitals.

At the age of twelve, watching President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address in January 1961 led to Swift's lifelong interest in politics. In 2008 the United States ambassador to Poland invited Dr. Swift to Warsaw to lecture on "What Makes a President Great: Kennedy's Legacy in the U.S. Presidential Election of 2008" at the Casimir Polaski Foundation and at the American Embassy. Will Swift has spoken on presidential greatness, presidential elections and on wise and influential leadership in talks at various historical settings in New York, California, and in London, England.

For over twenty-five years, Dr. Swift has written on American leaders and British royalty of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His first two books The Roosevelts and the Royals (2004) and The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm (2008) tell the stories of the intersections of two of America's top political dynasties and the British Royal Family during wartime and the intervening periods of peace. Swift has written for Majesty magazine, History & Heritage magazine, the History Network, Politico.com, The Daily Caller.com and The Biographer's Craft.

Working with couples in his private practice, Dr. Swift became intrigued with how a husband and wife managed the rhythms of closeness and separateness within a marriage, the effect of political and public life on a marital union, and how couples keep a marriage together for higher purposes.His most recent book Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage (January, 2014) brings together his expertise on American political history and culture and his insights about the many phases and challenges of a private and a political marriage. Biographer Evan Thomas calls Swift's biography "a compelling and eye-opening portrait" that "gives us an incisive lens to understand the politics and psychology of late 20th-century society." A starred Kirkus Review said that Swift's work "smashes the stereotype of Richard Nixon as a cold personality...and Pat Nixon as a plastic female...The author's evidence is plentiful and he writes with grace...[this book is] a model of a well-documented revisionist history." The New York Times picked Pat and Dick as an Editor's Choice after novelist Thomas Mallon reviewed the book as "[A] fair-minded and thorough attempt to trace the long, jagged arc of the Nixons' marriage highly intelligent and far more sophisticated than the decades' worth of quick takes Swift's psychological paradigms serve him well." You can see all the reviews and blurbs on www.willswift.com.

He particularly enjoys exploring psychological and political insights about the relationships of world leaders and discovering facts which help repair historical reputations. An indefatigable researcher, he has uncovered archival materials which alter interpretations of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, the Kennedy family and Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. The Boston Globe said that Swift's book The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm "in an age of faux memoir, is a true memoir: a group portrait that comes to brief and haunting life, in a story remarkably well told." A starred Krikus review called it "An admirably balanced assessment of an enormously complicated man who, wrongly but not ignobly, stood athwart history.")

Will Swift is a co-founder of the Biographer's International Organization, a key organizer of their conferences, and a highly regarded speaker on writing beautiful biography, successful management of all the stages of creating a biography, and on dealing with the families of biographical subjects. He founded the private Gotham Biography Group that brings together some of New York City's top biographers on a bi-monthly basis to improve their craft. As a board member of the Columbia County Historical Society in New York State, Swift created a Distinguished Authors Series which celebrates a wide variety of artists, historians and biographers by inviting them to give lectures in period settings. A dynamic speaker, Dr. Swift has lectured in a wide variety of historic venues, on national radio, and on CSPAN. He been also appeared several times on MSNBC. Dr. Swift has presented workshops on relationships across the nation.

Swift grew up in a suburb of Boston, spent his summers as a child (with his cousin, novelist James Wilcox) on Cape Cod, and has worked in Hyannisport, Massachusetts where he first met Kennedy family members during the turbulent summer of 1968. He is the partner of lifestyle and cooking guru Kevin Lee Jacobs and the proud grandfather of Emerson, Piper, and Cole Swift. Swift now lives in Manhattan and in the Nathan Wild House, which, in the 19th century, was frequented by Martin Van Buren and in 1928 was visited by FDR, in Columbia County, New York.

Will Swift
Featured Keynote Programs


Will Swift tells the story of the challenges he faced as a liberal Massachusetts Democrat being accepted in conservative Nixonland while writing PAT AND DICK: THE NIXONS, AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE. A couples therapist, Swift details the many personal and political phases in the influential, but misunderstood Nixon marriage. He uses newly opened letters and archives and interviews with family and associates to debunk myths about Richard Nixon (that he was an unsentimental man), Pat ( that she was a passive and weak wife), and their relationship (that theirs was a one-sided "dance of unhappiness"). He sheds a humanizing light on the most polarizing president of the 20th Century and reveals that Mrs. Nixon was an activist for women's rights. This book was a New York Times Editor's Choice.


Using anecdotes from the failures and successes in the presidencies of Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama Dr. Swift discusses the key attributes of a great leader. He highlights the importance of Openness (to different points of view, to learning from errors, and to changing positions), Strategic Vision with manageable goals, the Capacity to Inspire and Motivate, and the Willingness to Maintain Courage of Convictions. Swift also explores the essential quality of Emotional Intelligence and the value of Self-Control, and the Ability to Relax and Have Fun. He shows how internal emotional conflicts derailed some presidents' visions while emotional stability helped others maximize their efforts. He applies these lessons to our current political environment and to leadership in your organization.


What can we learn from these powerful individuals about increasing personal happiness and fostering a thriving marriage? As a presidential historian, Will Swift examines the lives of our presidents and first ladies after they left the White House. In what ways are their character traits inspirational and how are they cautionary? None of our presidential couples have divorced. Long term married couples face many challenges in the second half of their lives: balancing intimacy and autonomy, making and deepening friendships, contributing to their communities, finding new sources of stimulation, leaving a legacy, enjoying a sense of well being despite coping with health crises. Dr. Swift asks what we can learn from the successes and failures of the Carters, Clintons, the Trumans, both Bushes and the Reagans about renewing our marriages,ourselves and our world in the last phases of our lives. He considers what the youthful Obamas might glean from their predecessors' choices.


During his forty-four years practicing as a cognitive therapist, Dr. Swift has heard hundreds of stories people tell themselves about why their lives are not good enough. He shows us how stress is the difference between where we think we are and where we think we should be; Swift explains how both points of view are often inaccurate. Using vivid anecdotes from his own life and from the lives of the people he has helped, Will Swift gives us practical guidelines for identifying our main myths and distancing ourselves from them. Drawing on the skills of mindfulness meditation, cognitive therapy and positive psychology, he shows us how to increase our feelings of well-being, foster resilience, combat feelings of boredom and uncertainty, and how to keep our negative stories from running our lives. This lecture is equally applicable to the workplace and to personal lives.

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