A Changed Political World
David Axelrod, the man most responsible for shaping the message that twice helped propel Barack Obama into the White House, will be the featured speaker at Washington College’s Harwood Colloquy on National Affairs on May 1. The 5:30 p.m. event at the Decker Theatre is free and open to the public.
Axelrod, who served as chief political strategist for both of President Obama’s campaigns and was a senior advisor during his first term, will talk with the evening’s host John Harwood, political writer for the New York Times and chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC. The subject will be “Upside Down: Barack Obama and a Changing America.”
Now a political analyst for NBC, Axelrod is the inaugural director of the new University of Chicago Institute of Politics, a nonpartisan center where students can explore careers in public service and politics, as well as engage in ongoing discussions of political life and current events with experts in the field.
The seeds of Axelrod’s career in politics were sown early. At seven years old he witnessed a speech by President John F. Kennedy that sparked a lifelong passion toward progressive idealism. Decades later that ideology would inspire powerful common ground with the young senator from Illinois who would become the nation’s first African-American president. Axelrod majored in political science at the University of Chicago, and after graduation he worked for the Chicago Tribune, becoming the youngest political writer in the newspaper’s history.He made the leap to politics in 1984 when he left the paper to become communications manager and later campaign manager for U.S. Senator Paul Simon.
Axelrod would go on to create successful campaigns for candidates including Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and Bill and Hillary Clinton, but it is his work with Barack Obama for which he is best known. Obama’s idealism and lofty hope spoke deeply to Axelrod; he told the Washington Post he thought “that if I could help Barack Obama get to Washington, then I would have accomplished something great in my life.”
Axelrod developed Obama’s media strategy that focused on reaching minorities and overlooked constituencies and on harnessing the rapidly growing social media and Internet. The 2008 campaign, which the Washington Post called “nearly flawless,” raised millions of dollars in small donations from hundreds of thousands of people under the age of 30.
Axelrod will join a stellar list of journalists and politicians who have visited Washington College to speak in Harwood programs. Established to honor the distinguished career of the late Washington Post columnist and ombudsman Richard Harwood, who served as a trustee and a lecturer in journalism at the College, the Harwood series has featured Howard Dean, Robert Novak, John McCain, James Carville, Judy Woodruff, Al Hunt, Mark Shields and Paul Gigot.