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For the many Harvard undergraduates and alums who sacrificed their sleep and studies to stump for presidential candidates, President Bush’s victory last week may dictate their upcoming job prospects for at least the next four years.
Harvard students who campaigned across the country sporting Bush-Cheney signs and screaming “four more years,” said they are optimistic about potential jobs working for the President.
Since graduating in June, Betsy A. Sykes ’04 has been stationed in the national Bush campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va. where she has worked for the President’s policy team and helped with debate preparation.
Sykes—who will begin to send out her resume to D.C. politicos now that Bush has won reelection—said a White House job would allow her to see her work come to fruition.
“I got to help work on a second term agenda and now I might get to be on the team that gets to implement the policies,” she said. “To spend so much time talking about what the President stands for, and then getting to actually do that, that’s really exciting.”
Sykes recognized the advantages her work with the campaign has afforded her.
“It’s going to be easier for me because there are so many more options for me and because I have been working with lots of people that are in power,” she said.
But like many other students in her shoes, Sykes emphasized that while having job prospects with the administration is exciting, ensuring a Bush win was the real motivating factor in dedicating herself to the campaign.
“If money and a job were so important, I wouldn’t have worked for free for the past seven months. There was no guarantee that Bush was going to win. My dad was having a heart attack a couple weeks ago. He thought I would be unemployed,” she recalled.
Stephanie N. Kendall ’05—who remained a full-time student while working for the Bush campaign—said she recognizes the benefit of her dedication to the Bush campaign.
“If you worked on a campaign, and put in your dues, you’ve proven yourself and you’ve met the people who are going to be at a high level in the administration,” Kendall said.
She pointed to the advantages of the strong Republican presence in D.C.
“Because of the way the presidency and the Senate and the House went, it certainly opens up a lot more job possibilities looking to get involved in the government,” said Kendall.
She added that there are no guarantees for a White House job.
Assistant Professor of Government D. Sunshine Hillygus, who teaches Government 1352, “Campaigns and Elections,” warned against any assumptions that volunteer work on a campaign will translate directly into a job.
Hillygus noted that with an incumbent president, the competition for jobs is much more fierce.
“[Incumbent presidents] already have so many employees on board with experience. It is more likely to be the case that had people been volunteering for a challenger, they would be able to parlay their experience into a job,” she said.
But for Michael B. Firestone ’05-’06, working for the challenger Kerry, his candidate’s loss means more time for thesis research.
Firestone—who took the semester off to work for the Kerry campaign in Florida—will return to Harvard for the spring semester, busying himself with the research that took a backseat to campaigning.
“I really slacked on that because I was working on the Democratic National Convention and then went to Florida,” Firestone said.
Peter P.M. Buttigieg ’04 acknowledged that “everyone quietly hopes that there will be something waiting for them in the White House.”
“Now it is going to be another four years until us Democrats get a chance to do that,” said Buttigieg, who has worked for Kerry in Arizona and New Mexico since early July.
Even though he was on the losing side, Buttigieg spoke highly of the connections he made.
“The world is smaller than you think in politics. If it is on your resumé that you worked in Arizona, chances are someone will say ‘Hey do you remember this kid Pete? Was he any good?’” Buttigieg said.
And Firestone joked that he, too, has taken away much from his early mornings on the campaign trail.
“Hopefully, now, I should be able to get up on the weekends before 2 p.m.,” Firestone said.
Whether on the winning or losing team, many students agreed that with such intense work on the campaign trail, it was hard to imagine a post-election world.
“It felt like jinxing it to be thinking past Nov. 2 because it was so up in the air,” Sykes said. “I remember my friends making plans for Nov. 5, but I couldn’t think past Nov. 2.”
—Staff writer Faryl W. Ury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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