When former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels was named Purdue University’s twelfth president, he became one of a small handful of nationally renowned figures to lead an institution of higher education. In an era when university presidents had largely abandoned the role of public intellectual, Daniels immediately captured broad attention for his willingness to take a thoughtful stand on America’s most pressing challenges—in academia and far beyond.
Boiler Up: A University President in the Public Square offers readers a fascinating compendium of commencement addresses, published columns, and transcripts of speeches and hosted events spanning ten years of insights and insightful interactions that put Mitch Daniels front and center among American thought leaders. Throughout the book, Daniels’s sharp intellect, incisive analysis, and delightful sense of humor reign supreme. Via embedded QR codes, readers can “attend” recorded content, including evenings with Condoleezza Rice, Garry Kasparov, Walter Isaacson, and other fascinating people. Whether the reader seeks lessons on leadership or immersion in engaging ideas, Boiler Up is a tour de force of transformative thinking.
Proceeds from the sales of Boiler Up support the scholarship fund at Purdue Polytechnic High Schools.
Foreword, by Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Part I. Speeches, Interviews, and Messages
Speeches and Interviews
Messages to the Purdue
Part II. The Columns
Keeping Our Democracy (Good Policy and Practice)
COVID and Our After Life
Our Cultural Crevasse
Bad Policy and Its Trappings
Lessons from Science
Part III. Presidential Lecture Series
No Greater Honor — Public Service at Its Finest
How We Got Here — Great Historians of Our Time
The Grand Experiment — The Future of Democracy
A Way with Words — Journalists Writers and Commentators
Great Challenges Great Courage
Science and Sound Thinking
Part IV. The Ten Commencements
Part V. Selected Media Interviews and Articles from the Daniels Decade
About the Author
Mitch Daniels is one of the few Americans to excel as a leader in the private, public, and education sectors, within the span of a decade having been called both “America’s best governor” and its “best university president.”
Elected Indiana’s governor in 2004 in his first bid for public office, Daniels was reelected in 2008, earning more votes than any candidate in state history.
During a decade as Purdue University’s president, Daniels exemplified the role of public intellectual and thought leader in poignant speeches, provocative opinion pieces, and national interviews on topics of great currency to American society. He captured the country’s attention by prioritizing student affordability and investment in faculty and research.
Daniels held senior positions in two U.S. presidential administrations as well as top executive posts at Eli Lilly and Company. In 2015, he was named to Fortune magazine’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, and in 2019, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2023, Purdue University named its business school for him.
Daniels earned a baccalaureate from Princeton and a law degree from Georgetown. He is a contributing columnist to the Washington Post.
Condoleezza Rice was the 66th United States Secretary of State, the 19th U.S. National Security Advisor, and is currently the Hoover Institution’s Tad and Dianne Taube Director and Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy.
"This compendium of common sense comes from a cheerful veteran of two arenas of anger—politics and academia. Mitch Daniels has spent a lot of time in two dens of intemperate lions and emerged with an abundance of a rarity: wisdom." —George F. Will, Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author
"Throughout our history, certain university presidents, such as Theodore Hesburgh and Robert Maynard Hutchins, were also our nation's foremost public intellectuals. In our era, Mitch Daniels has played that role, as this collection of his speeches and interviews shows." —Walter Isaacson, New York Times best-selling biographer, journalist, and professor of history
"This is a delightful collection of essays showing an academic and political leader grappling in real time with the challenges of our day. Unlike so much of our current public discourse, these reflections are not about scoring points or heating up the debate, but about providing insights drawn from maturity and judgment. We should hope that more of our leaders would display such virtues." —Keith E. Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University and author of Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech
"If you wish there were a blueprint for innovative, practical leadership that brings people together across all divides, Boiler Up was written for you. Mitch Daniels shares his wisdom gained across decades leading some of America's most prominent institutions. Every leader needs to read this book." —Arthur C. Brooks, professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, and #1 New York Times best-selling author
"This enlightening, inspiring—and eminently readable—collection draws upon Mitch Daniels's remarkably diverse experiences and expertise to provide fascinating information and wise insights about a wide range of current controversies, as well as timeless issues. As an educator and free speech advocate, I especially appreciate the many pieces that reflect Mitch Daniels's innovative, courageous leadership in both areas." —Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law Emerita, New York Law School; past national president, American Civil Liberties Union; and author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship
"The fearless and indefatigable search for ways to do things better is what Mitch Daniels is about, and that is why his career is such an important model. At a time when too many great universities toss rudderless in a storm of ever-spiraling costs, cancel culture, and eroding academic standards, Mitch demonstrated the way forward. He leaves Purdue with the cost of attendance lower than when he arrived, and that with an expansion of both the number of faculty and number of students, and with a new polytechnic academy to prepare a diverse body of students to enter Purdue and succeed. The campus is the national model for the free exchange of ideas. These things didn't happen by accident or luck. His gift to the nation is showing it can and must be done." —Michael Poliakoff, academic, educator, and president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni
"This book is an extraordinary look into the beliefs, principles, and values that have made Mitch Daniels one of this country's authentic American intellectuals. I once described him as 'a person of phenomenal intelligence with acute political instincts and extraordinary leadership abilities.' That description is affirmed in the words and interactions recorded within this book. In his many commencement speeches, newspaper columns, and other public events, Mitch has once again demonstrated the true meaning of a public servant—someone willing to take on the major challenges of governing and educating the next generation. What a contribution he has made to our country and our world. This book is yet another example for all of us to digest, honor, and be grateful for—not only for his words, but more importantly for his service." —Don V. Cogman, corporate and governmental affairs executive and author of Run Mitch Run: The Hard Decisions One Man Faced for the 2012 Presidential Election