On April 17, the New Albany Community Foundation welcomed Chris Matthews, the award-winning author, journalist and host of MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," as part of the Jefferson Series.

Matthews captivated his audience with rare insights into such political legends as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill.

Though he acknowledged that conservative Republican President Reagan often disagreed with the staunch Democrat Speaker of the House O'Neill, Matthews shared how the two giants routinely found common ground, often over an evening drink.

They socialized together and developed a healthy respect for one another, so despite their often opposing views, they were able to advance important legislation on any number of issues to move the country forward.

When Reagan was shot and thought to be in danger of not surviving, Reagan's chief of staff, James Baker, recommended that O'Neill be among the first and only visitors to see the badly wounded president.

According to Matthews, Baker recommended O'Neill to signal unity to the country and the world. He also knew that Reagan and O'Neill were not just rivals but also friends.

Matthews drew the distinction between how our country's leaders were able to build relationships and work together then in contrast to the divisiveness and animosity that defines politics in Washington today.

Indeed, Matthews said, he decided to write about Robert Kennedy because he so admired his deep desire to unite the country.

The community foundation has brought to New Albany scores of award-winning authors, historians and journalists over the years, and they have provided similar insights into our country's leaders.

And for those who attend the lectures for students, it's not difficult to discern which speakers inspire and truly connect with the students. Matthews did, joining the likes of David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Walter Isaacson, Dr. Paul Farmer and Condoleezza Rice.

Five hundred students representing about 15 central Ohio high schools participated in the student lecture with Matthews. The community foundation made sure they all received his new book, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit," prior to the lecture.

Several students recounted after the lecture that they found Matthews to be authentic, direct and responsive to their questions, and they said he seemed approachable. It was clear too, that Matthews thoroughly enjoyed interacting with New Albany audiences, especially during the question-and-answer portion of the programs.

The community foundation's mission is to provide a platform for lifelong learning, civil discourse and community dialogue on important issues.

We are grateful to foundation donors and sponsors for supporting the Jefferson Series and helping to advance the foundation's mission.

Everett Gallagher is a member of the New Albany Community Foundation's board of trustees and is senior vice president and treasurer at Abercrombie & Fitch.