All Politics Is Personal

Evan Mandery

If there was ever a campus version of a "career politician," Evan J. Mandery '89 would probably fit the bill better than anyone else. In his four years on the Undergraduate Council, Mandery chaired two committees, served as parliamentarian, chair and, this year, as the body's unofficial elder statesman.

Underlying Mandery's campus political career is a love of competition--as part of a team, against others and, most of all, against himself. That same competitive instinct also shows up in Evan's interest in athletics. Whether as a spectator or as a participant, Evan has made sports a vital part of his life.

But the recreational rivalry which Mandery loves so much did not prepare him for the cutthroat competition which sometimes dominates Harvard activities. In his dealings with the council and with the student body, Mandery consistently had problems accepting criticism--particularly from political rivals. That fact sometimes led him into political difficulties on the council and personal frustration.

Mandery's competitive instinct shows up first in his love of sports. "I like sports," Mandery says. "Sports are probably the thing I get the most enjoyment out of."

"I like good competition, but I like competing against myself...I love golf more than anything and I'm horrendous at it." he continues. In other sports, "I enjoyed being on teams more than winning."


Mandery's interest in athletics is more than just talk. He has a passion for bowling. When at home on Long Island, he often bowls with his father, who is the principal of a public high school. "He's the only person I know who has a picture of a bowler in his room," says Rushika Fernandopulle '89, a former roommate. "I didn't know they made bowling posters."

Mandery--who has a taste for polyester shirts--looks the part of a professional bowler, and he this year competed in two tournaments in Connecticut. But Evan says in the self-deprecating style he often employs, "I'm not good enough to be a professional."

An ardent New York Mets fan, Mandery also enjoys betting on horse and dog races. Friends say that he is just as interested in the science of betting as he is with the actual wager. "I like thinking numerically," Mandery says. "I like anything that pretends to be a science."

While attending East Meadow High School, Evan played several sports--he says he was a "decent basketball player." He played trumpet in what he described as his high school's "bad jazz band."

Evan's love of athletic competition and his high-school experiences did not prepare him for Harvard's political scene. Elected to the council as a freshperson, Evan became heavily involved with it. He ran important committees and jockeyed for the most important offices.

In high school, "there was never any direct competition, but I liked competing against myself," Mandery says. "I've always felt that at Harvard, people become very competitive and driven. That's certainly very different from what I'm used to."

"I never had the feeling in high school that someone would stab me in the back," he says. "When I think of Harvard I think of that sort of thing."

As council chair during his junior year, Mandery did not always find it easy to be in the public eye. He says that he often found it difficult to separate criticism of the council and personal criticism.

"I take everything personally," he says. He notes that when the press and students criticized the council, "they weren't cutting on the council, they were cutting on Evan Mandery. It ate at me. It shouldn't have."

Partially as a result of his personal sensitivity, and partially as a result of council events, Evan's attitude changed during his year as chair. By the end of the year the optimistic and animated Mandery had become frustrated and worn out.