Getting to Know ... David Abshire

Getting to Know ... David Abshire

David Abshire is a former ambassador to NATO. His St. Asaph Street house was recently featured in the Campagna Center’s Holiday Designer Tour of Homes, and his new book, “Saving the Reagan Presidency,” recounts his effort to restore credibility to the White House after the Iran-Contra scandal.

Years in the Community:

I’ve lived in Alexandria since 1958, and I’ve lived in my current home on St. Asaph Street since 1968.

Educational Background:

I graduated from West Point in 1951, and I received a doctorate in American History from Georgetown in 1959. My dissertation at Georgetown was about the disputed Hayes-Tilden presidential election of 1876.

Current Jobs:

I am currently president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and president of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.


In 1962, Arleigh Burke and I co-founded the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I have served as assistant secretary of state, chairman of the United States Board for International Broadcasting, United States ambassador to NATO and special counselor to President Ronald Reagan in 1987. My experience with President Reagan, when I was brought back to fill the credibility gap created by the Iran-Contra affair, is the subject of my new book: “Saving the Reagan Presidency: Trust is Coin of the Realm.” It’s a double-barreled story of both executive and legislative responsibility — and irresponsibility — as played out during the Iran-Contra episode and the investigations.


My house is filled with hundreds of books. Mostly, I enjoy reading history. I spend time reading, lecturing and essay writing. Recently, I spoke at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Campagna Center.

What is your favorite place in the community?

My favorite place to be is at my home at 311 South St. Asaph St. Recently, my wife offered for it to be part of the Campagna Center’s Holiday Designer Tour of Homes. Several years ago, the pool in the backyard was featured in the murder scene of the Sony movie “Hollow Man” with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Shue.

What concerns do you have about the community?

I am concerned about the crisis of character-based leadership in this county, which was the topic of a lecture I gave at Loyola University about how this crisis has invaded government, business and education. Look at all the indictments in Washington. We must have people who have not only the skills of leadership, but the character to do something about it. That’s why I helped to start the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2002 to advance the idea of character-based leadership, and why I will co-chair a nationwide conference at Washington and Lee University on how to address this subject.

What brought you here?

As a lover of history, I’m inspired to walk where George Washington once walked, because he was our greatest leader of character and inclusion. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to Alexandria in the 1950s, when I first moved here.

What are the community's hidden treasures?

Alexandria’s hidden treasures are its people — the people who live here now and the many people who have lived here in the past. I am inspired to live in a city with so much wonderful history.

What are your personal goals?

I’ve spent most of my life building the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but I think the biggest challenge ahead is to turn around the crisis of character in America. Tolerance and civility lie at the very heart of what it means to be an American citizen and at the very heart of the message that we must communicate about ourselves as individuals and as a political culture. In its deepest sense, civility means respect listening and dialogue. Inclusive leadership means marshaling the best talent to address the major problems that face this nation at home and abroad. Yet, in the American experience, civility has not always prevailed, and its role in our political culture cannot be taken for granted.