Though the 2012 election madness has finally drawn to a close, the political whirlwind has only just begun for the five Georgetown alumni elected into the 113th Congress for the first time. In January, these five new Democratic members of the House of Representatives will join an additional nine former Hoyas reelected into the House, as well as two alumni elected into the Senate.
Representative Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) (L’84) won her seat in New Hampshire’s Second District after losing her bid in 2010 by one percent. “The reason I got involved is really about equal opportunity and fairness,” she said, “Making sure that all families in New Hampshire and around the country have opportunity for education, and training, and good jobs, and access to affordable healthcare.”
“When I lost, I came very close in a big Republican sweep election,” Kuster said. “So the biggest difference for me was having President Obama on this ticket and to have such an organized, grassroots campaign for the presidential [election].” Kuster coordinated with the Obama campaign, having been a supporter of the president since 2006.
“The big news really was young people voting,” she said. “We had in New Hampshire 100,000 new [young] voters register on election day, which was a lot in a state that’s less than a million and a half people, so that was the biggest difference in terms of the electoral impact.” Kuster ran what she called a “people-powered campaign,” throughout which she utilized volunteers and attended over 200 grassroots events in her district over the past two years.
The kind of public connection Kuster showed in her campaign aligned with what Professor Mark Rom of the Public Policy Institute and the undergraduate Department of Government attributes to the political success of Georgetown alumni.
“I think a lot of it has to do with Georgetown as an institution and the kind of people we attract,” Rom said. “And we do attract people who are smart, ambitious, hardworking, and nice. Those characteristics are the characteristics of most politicians … They’re interested in other people, they’re concerned about other people, and those things, it helps bring them to Georgetown.”
Such qualities are what attracted Kuster to both the Hilltop and public office. “I think the focus of Georgetown on public policy is unique. First of all, you’re uniquely situated in D.C., I mean that’s why I chose Georgetown,” Kuster said, who worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative director prior to law school. “I had lots of classmates who were involved, so I’m impressed with the opportunity that Georgetown students have for practical internships and experiences on Capitol Hill.”
Kuster also believes Georgetown prepared her for her work in public policy and running for election, noting particularly the positive experiences she had with her law professors, including the reelected Eleanor Holmes Norton. “What I really appreciated was the practical, hands-on perspective of my professors,” she said. “It wasn’t a strictly academic approach. My law professors all had been engaged in public policy themselves, and that was very helpful to me, their practical knowledge and experience.”
While Ivy League schools boast numerous Congressional alumni as well, Georgetown is unique in its Jesuit identity, fostering cura personalis in its students and alumni.
“I think there is something to me that feels important about working at an institution that says, ‘We care for the whole person and we have an educational mission to serve the greater good,’” Rom said. “I don’t think that we glorify individual success or wealth. We want our people to be successful, but I don’t think what identifies a Georgetown graduate is someone who is rich and famous, but more someone who is solid and important, important in doing real work for society.”
On whether Georgetown’s Jesuit identity guides her work as a politician, Kuster said, “Not in the religious sense, but certainly the values do. My political career is guided strongly by my values of equal opportunity for all, liberty and justice for all, fairness, and I think those are values that are very consistent with the Jesuit philosophy.”
Now that the election is over, Kuster and the other Georgetown alumni prepare to enter or return to Congress, and current Georgetown students are applying to intern on the Hill next semester. Kuster said she welcomes all Hoyas. “I would love to have Hoya applicants, absolutely,” she said. “They should feel free to be in touch with my office as soon as we open our doors on Jan. 3rd.
Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) (GRAD’94), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) (L’73), John Delaney (D-Md.) (L’88), and Filemon Vela (D-Texas) (C’85) declined to be interviewed.