W hen George W. Bush first ran for elected office, he lost. Badly. Democrat Kent Hance retained his House seat in northwest Texas by demonizing Bush as an untrustworthy, carpet-bagging elitist. And of course by emphasizing his local education, nicely contrasting Bush’s Ivy League degree.
“We tried to make it Texas Tech vs. Yale. And in that district, the Red Raiders will beat the Bulldogs every time,” Hance recalled years later to the Associated Press.
Nonetheless, a politician like Hance might feel rather out of place in the 113th Congress, where nineteen members boast at least one Yale diploma. Indeed, Yale is better represented in the House and Senate than almost any other college — Harvard has 42 alumni in this Congress.
Nine Congressman and Senators received undergraduate degrees from Yale over the years while six graduated from the Law School, one graduated from the School of Management, three graduated from the Divinity School and two claim degrees from the Graduate School of Arts and Science. (Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting House member from Washington, DC, and David Price both have two Yale diplomas.)
While few members of Congress play up their Yale credentials in close elections, most are unashamed of their degrees.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who was among the first class of women accepted to Yale College, often reflects on her college years with nostalgia. “I am at home,” said Jackson Lee in an address at the Omni New Haven Hotel in 1999. Yale was where Jackson Lee first became active in the political fights of the day — like civil rights legislation — and where she hopes students would continue to engage politically.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), whose membership in the Skull and Bones society garnered press coverage during his 2004 Presidential run, credits his interest in politics in part to his experience in the Yale Political Union, where he was the Chairman of the Liberal Party in 1963 and President of the Political Union itself the subsequent year.
Delegate Norton (D-DC) addressed Yale students on Class Day in 2005, telling them that it was at University that she gained much of the drive behind her political career. She then implored them to also strive to make a difference: “As you leave Yale today, I hope you will conclude that the world is yours, but that the world that receives you today is not good enough for you. [...] I hope that your Yale education has increased not only your devotion to Yale and to your country but also your desire to make them both better than you now find them.”
Despite Yale’s notable presence on Capitol Hill, the school has fewer alumni in the 113th Congress than in the 112th. (Unlike in Bush’s 1978 run, it does not appear that the former members’ Ivy League credentials played any significant role in their respective losses.)
Perhaps unsurprisingly (given the ideological breakdown of current Yale undergraduates), there are sixteen current Yale alumni on the Democratic side of the aisle compared with only three on the Republican side. Yale graduates are also better represented in the Senate, where their eight members account for 8% of the total body. (In the House, the ten members, not including Norton, make up only 2.3%.)
Below is a full list of the Yale graduates in the 113th Congress: