Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stanford has second-most graduates in new Congress

Stanford has the second-most graduates in Congress, according to a list compiled by U.S. News & World Report. Eleven Cardinal alumni currently serve in the Senate and House of Representatives, five of whom were re-elected on Tuesday. Stanford places second only to Harvard, which dropped its representation to 13 members from 15 after the election.
Among the alumni, seven are senators and five are representatives. Two are women; nine are Democrats.
Although the members represent states as far away as the Illinois, there is a higher concentration of elected alumni holding office in the West Coast.
Political science professor Simon Jackman said the drive to enter public office probably begins even before college.
“The flicker of political ambition begins probably as soon as high school and that interest matures during the college years,” Jackman said. “The prescribed college path for a career in politics tends to begin with politicians earning degrees in the humanities or social sciences, which is then usually complimented by a J.D.”
The majority of the alumni hold degrees in political science, history, economics or international relations.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein ’55, D-Calif., who has served in the Senate since 1992, received her bachelor’s degree in history. She is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Sen. Judy Biggert ’59 earned her degree in international relations and is one of the two Republicans in the group. Biggert, a representative from the 13th district in Illinois, is finishing up her 12th year in the House. She serves on various House committees, including the Committee on Financial Services, Committee on Education and Labor and Committee on Science and Technology.
Rep. David Wu ‘77, a Democrat representing Oregon’s first congressional district, has the only science degree in the cohort, with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. Wu serves on the Education and Labor Committee.
Biggert and Wu were re-elected on Tuesday.
Political science professor Gary Cox, who teaches a class on Congress, believes there are a variety of reasons why Stanford might produce more liberal politicians, including the geographical backgrounds of the members of Congress.
“People that come to this institution tend to come from more liberal backgrounds or more liberal parts of the country,” he said. “To figure out what the Stanford effect is, one would have to have an idea of their beliefs coming in and what they look like when they exit.”
Jackman believes the political movements of the 1960s in California may have also influenced the views of the budding politicians. “The period of the ‘60s and early ‘70s was a radicalizing experience for a lot of kids,” he said. “San Francisco and Berkeley were the centers of opposition to the Vietnam War. Stanford, as well, was the source of a lot of protest and turmoil. These events made a powerful impression on people that were here at the time by influencing their views and pushing them in a more liberal, Democratic direction.”
Ellen Huet contributed to this report.
Contact Theo Matthews at

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