With the Presidential Election fast approaching and candidates courting the youth vote, one candidate’s stepson returned to Yale Sunday afternoon to discuss his famous stepfather’s campaign.
Thirty students gathered to hear Chris Heinz ’95 — John Kerry’s stepson — and Max Weinberg — drummer for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and musical director for Late Night with Conan O’Brien — discuss their involvement in Kerry’s campaign for the presidency. The two speakers offered insight into the inner workings of a presidential campaign, critiqued the Bush Administration’s foreign and domestic policies and explained their personal reasons for supporting Kerry. After the discussion Heinz and Weinberg participated in a fund-raiser at Backroom at Bottega run by the group Yale-New Haven For Kerry, where they raised $2500 for Kerry’s campaign.
Heinz, who has been working on the campaign for the past 14 months, discussed his stepfather’s character.
“If he’s half the president as he is a stepfather, he’ll be amazing,” Heinz said, recalling how Kerry came into his life after the death of his father, U.S. Sen. John Heinz, in 1991. “He’s a good listener and believe or not he’s passive at the dinner table, which is not like most politicians.”
Heinz also suggested that for Kerry to become elected president he will have to remain true to himself and not try to pander to voters’ wishes for a more sociable candidate.
Alison Lungstrum ’04, a longtime friend of the Kerry family, said she and Heinz discussed his visit to the Yale campus while working at the New Hampshire Primaries this past January. Lungstrum, whose brother graduated alongside Heinz in 1995 and whose father graduated with Kerry in 1966, thought it would be a great idea for Heinz to have an informal discussion with Yale students about his reasons for working on the Kerry Campaign.
Weinberg, a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party told students how he came to know of Kerry during his own college days, and began to know him more personally as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band became politically active. Weinberg said he remembers being especially influenced by Kerry when he came back from Vietnam and discussed what it meant for America to be in the war.
“When I was in school, [Vietnam] was the main question on campus. This was some place we shouldn’t be,” Weinberg said. “And for this young guy to take up the issue of what it meant to be there and give a speech before Senate was huge.”
Weinberg, who was drafted but excused for medical reasons, also said for a Yale graduate to enlist was very brave and unusual.
After explaining their reasons for joining the Kerry campaign, Heinz and Weinberg opened up the conversation to questions from the audience about Kerry’s campaign strategy, the challenges he may face unifying the Democratic Party in the coming months and his credibility.
Throughout the discussion, Heinz stressed the idea that Kerry’s campaign is an open campaign, and critiqued the Bush Administration for its cloud of secrecy.
“We want to have an open conversation and an open door policy,” Heinz said.
Yale students who participated in the discussion said they appreciated hearing about the inside of a political campaign, especially the personal stories about Kerry.
Jeremy Ershow ’06, who headed Yale students’ campaign for Wesley Clark earlier this year, also said he enjoyed hearing the speakers’ personal perspectives on such a public figure.
“Hearing the speakers talk about Kerry got me refocused and energized,” Ershow said, after getting his Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band album, “Born to Run,” signed by Weinberg.