Cutting It Close: The Last Voter at Harvard

Five minutes before the polls closed on Tuesday, a man rushed into the Quincy lobby. “I’m trying to be the last Kerry voter in Massachusetts,” said Richard J. Parker, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government. Parker and his 12-year-old son Sam had just returned from canvassing in New Hampshire, where they braved rain and cold to bring out the vote. Parker dropped Sam off at home, where he unwound by watching some Harry Potter. Dad then scrambled to beat the clock. He succeeded—his ballot was the last one dropped into the official black box.

This passionate campaigner has had quite a history of political involvement, especially with the various JFKs. “The first campaign I ever worked on was JFK’s [John F. Kennedy] in 1960, so I thought it’d be good to return,” Parker said. Since that first campaign—at the tender age of 13—Parker has worked on 13 presidential campaigns in all. Twelve years in academia didn’t blunt his political edge either. He led Greenpeace and co-founded Mother Jones, a magazine devoted to investigative journalism.

Despite his long day, Parker was still excited and energetic—a good thing, too, since he was engaged to do commentary on the election in the Quincy Junior Common Room. “I just got some early exit polls from friends in the Kerry campaign, and it’s looking good,” he said. However, celebrating in Copley Square wasn’t on his agenda. His wife had been on the road for the Kerry campaign in the days leading up to Tuesday, so Parker was forced to hold down the family fort. “I’ve been raising two boys for the last few days—I might just turn in,” Parker laughed. “I’ll let you young people celebrate.”