A Life of Public Service

Michael L. Zuckerman '10

Earlier this month, Senator Barack Obama stepped off the national stage and joined campaign volunteers on the ground in Ohio, going door to door to pick up votes.

Though Obama only spent an afternoon walking through the community that day, Michael L. Zuckerman ’10 has been working in northeastern Ohio on behalf of the campaign since the beginning of the semester, talking to locals about issues of political importance.

He called his greatest challenge “making sure that I am working as hard for the people of Mahoning Valley and the principles that we hold in common as they have been.”

But while many campaign workers have long-term political goals of their own, Zuckerman does not see himself in Obama’s shoes 20 years from now.

“The highest government-paid position I’d like to hold right now is that of civics teacher in a public school,” he said in an e-mail exchange.

Zuckerman’s path to the campaign trail began during the primary season, when he and his blockmate Seth E. Packrone ’10 traveled to Texas to campaign for Obama—a trip that Zuckerman said was the reason he ultimately decided to take this semester off.

The social studies concentrator and Lowell House resident cited government professor Michael J. Sandel—who teaches the perennially popular Moral Reasoning 22: “Justice”—as another key factor in bringing him to this level of political involvement.

Zuckerman said that while he takes issue with some aspects of the communitarian ethic that Sandel espouses, the two courses he took with Sandel last year “definitely underscored for me the important role that active participation in public life plays in keeping our democracy robust.”

While on campus, Zuckerman says he was able “to take on a more active role in community life.” as part of the Phillips Brooks House Association’s CIVICS program.

CIVICS places undergraduates in Cambridge middle and elementary schools to teach the “basics of American government and the role of active citizens,” according to the program’s web site.

Beyond these shaping forces, Zuckerman called the Financial Aid Office, the Social Studies Committee, and the Lowell House office—which helped him arrange the logistics of his time off—“extremely supportive and facilitating.”

After election day, Zuckerman plans to return to Portland, Maine, where he spent the summer in the foreclosure prevention group at the non-profit law firm Pine Tree Legal Assistance. This spring, he will continue his time away from Harvard, studying abroad in England.