Jesse 'The Body' To Be Fellow At IOP

He’s laid the smackdown for a living and wiped the floor with Minnesota politicians, but his next stop may be the bench press at the MAC. Professional wrestler and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura has accepted a paid post at Harvard for next semester, Institute of Politics (IOP) spokesperson Andy I. Solomon ’89 confirmed yesterday.

The former Navy SEAL will join the IOP as a visiting fellow, a post which will enable him to share his political wisdom with undergraduates—and pump iron at the Malkin Athletic Center, to which he gains keycard access.

Ventura is still in talks with Harvard representatives to hammer out the details of his visit, Solomon said. But he added that, as a visiting fellow, Ventura’s “primary reason for being here is to interact with students.”

Ventura is just one of a host of a high-profile figures to be tapped for an IOP visiting fellowship in recent years. Former fellows include onetime vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, prominent feminist Betty Friedan, and cadre of senators and cabinet officials.

Solomon said that the IOP would unveil its full roster of spring 2004 fellows later this month. Ventura will join a group that represents “a diversity of ideologies, geography, expertise and experience,” Solomon said.

According to incoming fellows committee chair David M. Kaden ’06, the IOP has also offered fellowships to former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose father was Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and failed Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, one of the Republican Party’s rising stars.

Kaden, who is also a Crimson editor, said that Ventura’s name recognition would generate at outpouring of student interest in the IOP.

The former governor will “engage students who are interested in third parties and looking to shake up the status quo,” said outgoing IOP Fellows Chair Brian M. Goldsmith ’05.

Ventura stunned political observers in 1998 when—running as a third-party candidate—he defeated well-established Democratic and Republican contenders to capture the North Star State’s governorship.

When he visited Harvard the following year for a live telecast of Chris Matthews’ cable-news show “Hardball,” nearly 80 reporters followed him to campus.

Ventura ruffled more than a few feathers when he told Playboy magazine that religion was a “sham and a crutch for weak-minded people.”

And at his Harvard appearance, he raised eyebrows when he said three times that he had “no sympathy” for young people who attempt suicide.

After choosing not to seek reelection in 2002, he joined MSNBC as host of a Saturday evening talk show, “Jesse Ventura’s America.” The network announced last month that the show’s “holiday hiatus” would be extended “indefinitely.”

Ventura’s political success largely centered around his ability to reach young voters.

“He understands a lot of people out there who care about the country but don’t think either party has an answer,” said former fellow Bill Hillsman, a media consultant to Ventura’s 1998 campaign.

Solomon said that the invitation to Ventura stemmed from the IOP student leaders’ suggestions.

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