A Political Asset?

In politics these days, image is everything. But "Spin Control 101" has yet to appear in Harvard's course catalogue. So what's an alumnus with political aspirations to do?

On the one hand, being affiliated with an institution that is reputedly elitist, exclusive, ultra-liberal and an integral part of the Eastern establishment could prevent a candidate from ingratiating himself with the masses.

On the other hand, having attended the world's premier university is a significant achievement and might help establish legitimacy in the eyes of voters.

"The Harvard name is equivalent to George W. Bush's cowboy boots," says Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles. "That is, the school's moniker is doffed or donned according to whether the candidate wants to appear folksy or polished."


Sorry; I Went to Harvard

The question of whether to trumpet or downplay one's Harvard ties when running for office comes up "all the time," according to Professor Philip R. Sharp of the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Mickey Edwards, who represented Oklahoma in Congress for 16 years and now teaches a course on election strategies and organization at the Kennedy School, repeated his advice to Harvard students eyeing a run.

"I would certainly not make a big thing [out of having attended the University], and I'd hope that voters never noticed it," Edwards said.

"Voters want to know you're from their environment, that you're one of them and didn't go off to be an elitist," he explained.

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