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William Kristol '73, chief of staff to former vice president Dan Quayle and current editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, began his political education long before arriving at Harvard.
The son of prominent neo-conservatives Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb, Kristol was raised in Manhattan's liberal Upper West Side. In 1965, at the age of 12, he passed out leaflets supporting the candidacy of future Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) for a seat on the city council.
After graduating from the private all-male Collegiate School, Kristol headed to Cambridge. Unlike most of his classmates, who violently opposed the Vietnam War and embraced the radical youth culture of the 1960s, Kristol defended America's involvement in the war and trumpeted conservative causes.
A government concentrator, Kristol found a mentor in Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53, who advised his thesis on the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.
Today the two are friends, and Kristol remembers Mansfield being "a tough grader and a great teacher."
Out of Kristol's extracurricular involvements, perhaps the highlight was his work organizing the Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Scoop Jackson in 1972.
During the presidential race that year, students across the country mobilized in support of George McGovern, who was challenging incumbent President Richard M. Nixon.
Kristol, however, managed to assemble a group of 10 students to distribute leaflets for Jackson, whom he endorsed over Nixon because Nixon seemed too soft on the war and not sufficiently anticommunist. Despite Kristol's efforts, however, Jackson came in seventh in the Massachusetts primary.
Yet Jackson's disappointing showing did not deter Kristol from pursuing politics. After graduating magna cum laude from the College, he pursued his government education at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Of his years in Cambridge, Kristol remembers having a "good time, being a conservative and arguing with everyone." However, Kristol's political beliefs were not a deterrent to his romantic life, as he met wife-to-be, Susan C. Scheinberg '75, on campus.
Although he was definitely in the minority as a right-wing thinker, Kristol says Harvard "had a greater diversity of opinion then than it has now."
After a brief stint teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Kristol returned to Boston in 1983 to teach at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He says he was the school's "token conservative."
"The atmosphere was congenial and cordial, but I'm not sure I really fit in," Kristol says.
So when he was called to Washington by William J. Bennett, recently appointed as Secretary of Education by former president Ronald Reagan, Kristol left the Kennedy School and academia for the world of policy-making.
As an aide to Bennett, Kristol showed such political acumen that he was promoted to chief of staff for Vice President Quayle. He was heavily involved in the vice president's family values crusade, including his attack on the television sitcom "Murphy Brown."
After Bush's defeat in 1992, Kristol stayed in Washington, where he founded a conservative think tank and served as a key Republican strategist. Kristol engineered the successful Republican assault on the Clinton health care reform plan.
In his present role as editor of the Weekly Standard, Kristol continues to set the tone for the conservative political agenda.
His appearances on CNN's "Crossfire" and "Inside Politics" and CBS's "Face the Nation," as well as speaking engagements and written opinion pieces in nationwide publications, consolidate Kristol's policy leadership.
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