Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr Visits University


Former U.S. attorney general William Barr – who served in two presidential administrations – visited Saint Francis on Sept. 12.

His visit was organized through SFU’s Robert and Thelma Gleason Lecture Series on American Politics and Government.

Barr conducted a question-and-answer session in the atrium of the Science Center before delivering a brief lecture in the Vista Room in Schwab Hall.

He also met with a small group of history and political science majors during his visit.

During the Q-and-A, Barr touched on his experience working as attorney general in former presidents George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump’s administrations.

Barr, who served as the 77th (1991-93 under Bush) and 85th (2019-20 under Trump) attorney general, is one of two people in American history to serve as attorney general under multiple presidents.

John Crittenden served as the 15th and 22nd attorney general under William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (1841) and Millard Fillmore (1850-53).

Barr candidly responded to the questions posed by members of the campus community during his visit, including one from a student who asked how he maintains his professionalism in today’s politically charged environment.

“We live in a period of time where people are afraid to make decisions,” said Barr, who earned his bachelor’s degree in government from Columbia University in 1971. “They are afraid of making decisions because they’re worried about being destroyed by the press.

“My attitude is – if you’re going to succumb to that, you shouldn’t have the job.”

When asked how he dealt with bad publicity during his time as attorney general, Barr told the audience that when the media seemed to be scrutinizing him most closely, one of his daughters was battling a deadly illness.

Barr said he disconnected himself from the media because what truly mattered was his daughter’s life, not the headlines being generated by media outlets.

An analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1971-77, Barr said that he originally wanted to become the director of the CIA.

The candid style Barr demonstrated during his visit to SFU is on display in his new book, One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General.

The book was released by William Morrow Publishing last March.