In 1996, Humanities Nebraska collaborated with Governor Ben Nelson to establish the Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities, an annual event to demonstrate the importance of the humanities in public life. His successors, Governors Mike Johanns, Dave Heineman, and Pete Ricketts have continued to enthusiastically support this lecture series, which is free and open to the public. The lecture features a nationally renowned speaker and is preceded by a benefit dinner. Each year the event alternates between Lincoln and Omaha. When held in Lincoln, the Governor’s Lecture is affiliated with the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues lecture series at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. In addition to bringing a nationally recognized speaker to Nebraska and building a strong working relationship with Nebraska’s governor, the Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities increases public visibility for Humanities Nebraska and its programs and generates income for statewide humanities programs. Annually, Humanities Nebraska honors individuals, institutions, businesses and communities with the Sower Award in the Humanities for contributions to public understanding of the humanities in Nebraska, based on nominations and letters of support from the citizens of Nebraska. The Sower Award is an original bronze sculpture by Nebraska artist Sondra Dunn Mahoney.

World-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin delivered the 25th annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln. The lecture was presented by Humanities Nebraska (HN) and the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues and sponsored in part by the Duncan Family Trust and the University of Nebraska. HN board members Connie Duncan and Chris Zygielbaum were co-chairs of the event.

Goodwin’s career as a presidential historian and author was inspired when as a 24-year-old graduate student at Harvard she was selected to join the White House Fellows, one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. Goodwin worked with President Johnson in the White House and later assisted him in the writing of his memoirs.

She then wrote Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, which became a national bestseller and achieved critical acclaim. Her next book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, was honored with a Pulitzer Prize. She also authored multiple other books, such as The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, Lincoln Prize winner Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and Leadership in Turbulent Times, each garnering critical acclaim and multiple awards.

Goodwin is seen frequently on major television stations, cable networks and shows including “Meet the Press” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” She has served as a consultant for various documentaries, including “Baseball” by Ken Burns and several about American presidents. She was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize, given by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, the New England Book Award, as well as the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

The Sower Award in the Humanities was presented to Dr. Natalie Hahn immediately preceding the lecture. The benefit dinner that typically precedes the free public lecture was canceled due to the pandemic, but this event still raises important funds for HN’s statewide programs. 

The E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues is a collaboration of the Cooper Foundation, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Humanities Nebraska is a non-profit organization that inspires and enriches personal and public life by delivering opportunities to engage thoughtfully with history and culture. Visit to learn more.

This lecture was not recorded for future broadcast.

Thank you to our 2020 co-sponsors:

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Thank you to our Grand Benefactors!

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