Presidential Hopefuls and Academic Backgrounds

The remaining Republican and Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential elections in the United States have followed rather different educational careers. While the Republicans have been trained in some ‘typical republican’ fields, the Democrats spend their formative years in the elitist private liberal art colleges and Ivy League universities.

Although John McCain is very likely to become the Republican candidate, there is still a theoretical chance that Mike Huckabee will be elected. It’s no surprise that Huckabee, the most conservative of the candidates, graduated from a college with a strong religious affiliation. He earned a BA from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The liberal arts university is affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. It “seeks to combine the love of God with the love of learning” and “affirms that life is lived most abundantly when it is lived in response to the love of God through Jesus Christ”. After graduating from OBU, Huckabee became a pastor and he was the youngest president ever of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The conservative and religious views are very apparent in Huckabee’s positions.

McCain’s educational career is dominated by military education and training. John McCain earned a BS degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1958. After graduating he started a career as a naval aviator. After serving in Vietnam (being a POW from 1967 until 1973), he attended the National War College in Washington DC from 1974-1975. The NWC was a a training ground for higher officers and has delivered well known graduates such as Collin Powell. Although McCain is often seen as surprisingly liberal (for a republican) he is considered a War-Hawk Republican. His support for the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq war has been consistent.

In the democratic camp, the educational careers of the two remaining candidates show much more similarity. Both have a BA in political science, both attended Law School and both taught in Law School. Barack Obama started his academic career at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After sophomore year however, he transferred to Columbia University where he majored in political science and specialised in international relations. After his graduation in 1983 he worked for some years, but decided to enter Harvard Law School in 1988. In 1990 he was elected as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review in its 104-year history. Obama graduated magna cum laude in 1991 but re-entered academia in 1993, this time as a senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago. And he seems to have been very good at it. “He was good enough that students showed up at 8:30 in the morning in the dead of winter for him“. Obama has been ‘on leave of absence’ from the U of Chicago Law School since his election as senator in 2004.

Hillary Rodham attended the prestigious Wellesley College near Boston. Wellesley is a women’s liberal art college “for the student who has high personal, intellectual, and professional expectations“. This is also where her first political activities started, first for the Republicans, later for the Democrats. Her senior thesis was on community organiser Saul Alinsky and has led to quite some controversy during her husband’s presidency of the US. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1969, Hillary Rodham entered Yale Law School. Here she specialised mainly in issues related to civil rights and children’s rights. In 1971 she met her future husband who was also in Yale Law School. After graduating in 1973, she stayed involved in children’s right issues. In 1974, Hillary became a faculty member at the Fayetteville School of Law of the University of Arkansas. Here Hillary served as an assistant professor and director of the legal aid clinic from 1974 until 1977 after which she joined a law firm in Little Rock Arkansas.

So what will the arena look like on November 4? On the right side it is likely to be a candidate with a strong military affiliation and experience. On the left side, it will definitely be a candidate with a background in political science and law from some of the most elite institutions of the US. Whether it will be a Mac or a PC will be decided later this year…

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