Charles D. Baker ’79 learned to love politics at a young age.
“My interest in politics came mostly from my parents,” says Baker, who is running on the Republican ticket for governor of Massachusetts.
He recalls heated discussions across the kitchen table between his father, a conservative Republican, and his mother, a lifelong Democrat—discussions in which Baker and his two brothers were expected to take part.
Baker says that he learned many lessons about politics from those dinnertime debates.
“The biggest one is that you can disagree without being disagreeable,” he says. “[My parents have] been married for 55 years, and this is going to be the first time they vote for the same person.”
FROM HARVARD COLLEGE TO HARVARD PILGRIM
Though he was born in New York, Baker spent most of his childhood in Massachusetts, aside from a stretch in Washington, D.C., while his father served in the administration of then-U.S. President Richard M. Nixon.
The family returned to Massachusetts in time for Baker to enter high school there. He traveled less than 15 miles from Needham High to Thayer Hall when he began his freshman year at Harvard in 1975.
At Harvard, Baker played for the junior varsity basketball team as a freshman and served as its assistant coach as a senior. He was part of the Delta Upsilon club—a final club which is no longer extant—and according to basketball teammate Andrew P. Buchsbaum ’79, he frequently spent time in friends’ dorm rooms listening to “head-banging rock.” Though Baker concentrated in English, he recalls being drawn toward many courses in government and social studies.
Classmates remember Baker as amiable, enthusiastic, and passionate about sports but say they did not foresee his political future.
“You would want him to be on your team because he was a go-to guy that would not give up on a play,” recalls R. Stewart Shofner ’79, who played basketball with Baker and shared a suite in Lowell House with him during their sophomore year.
“I remember Charlie as a clean-cut Massachusetts native,” says Shofner, who hails from Tennessee, “which is rare, because most of the natives that I met were either a little scraggly or way out there.”
“I wouldn’t have imagined that he’d be the classmate I’d have who’s running for governor,” Buchsbaum says. “He didn’t have that hard edge you see in some people who are really motivated to run for office.”
“I could see him going into the ministry as easy as what he’s gone into,” says Shofner. “That’s the picture I have of Charlie Baker. He’s a kind of easygoing nice guy who’s an honest fellow—a gentleman of the caliber that it’s nice to see that Harvard can produce.”
Baker—who told the Boston Globe that he chose to go to Harvard, following in his father’s footsteps, “because of the brand”—does not ascribe any credit to his education in his decision to go into politics, nor does he look back fondly on his college years.