Roosevelt Launched His Career In College

As a Harvard undergraduate, gubernatorial candidate and State Rep. Mark Roosevelt '78 (D-Beacon Hill) was as close to the stereotypical briefcase-toting "gov jock" as you can get.

That is, except for one thing: he never took a single government class.

The American history concentrator, who is now vying for the top spot in Massachusetts government, bypassed Harvard's lecture halls and chose to receive his political education from the real world instead.

By the time he graduated, Roosevelt, now 38, had managed three Massachusetts political campaigns-including the unsuccessful bid of Lawrence R. DiCara '71 for state treasurer-and had earned a respected name in state Democratic circles.

"At 21, he was already a fixture in Democratic politics in Massachusetts," says Jonathan H. Alter '78, who also worked in Di Cara's campaign. "He knew everybody and was taken seriously as a political operative."

Roosevelt was one of many members of the Class of 1978 to pursue political careers in the aftermath of the anti-establishment wave that hit Harvard in the late 1960s.

His grand entrance into politics at such a tender age did not surprise those who knew him, says Andrew S. Lynn '78, Roosevelt's college roommate for three years and his classmate at St. Albans School in Washington D.C.

Even before he entered Harvard, Roosevelt had already decided to follow in the footsteps of his famous great grandfather and grand-uncle-formerpresidents Theodore Roosevelt, Class of 1880, andFranklin D. Roosevelt '04.

"He'd read every biography of Teddy Rooseveltthere was," Lynn says. "He very early on knew thathe wanted to be a public servant."

Roosevelt first gained a reputation for socialactivism in high school, when he publiclyprotested the notable absence of Blacks in a localWashington D.C. dancing school, Lynn recalls.

"There were no Blacks in the dancing class, soMark went up and confronted [them] about it...and caused quite a ruckus doing this," Lynn says."He's basically been an active, aggressivecharacter for some time."

At Harvard, Roosevelt continued the politicaland social activism that eventually developedinto a career in public service. But his politicalinvolvement was not on campus--rather, Rooseveltplunged straight into his work on state and localcampaigns.

After his first year at Harvard, Roosevelt heldfull-time jobs each semester. And though heentered the College with advanced standing,Roosevelt graduated with his original class afterhe took a year off to manage two campaigns.

In addition to Di Cara's campaign, Rooseveltalso directed the successful campaign of John O'Bryant, who became the first Black member ofBoston's School Board.

Little Time to Study