When Maggie Jackson ’82 arrived on campus in the fall of 1978, she and another incoming student immediately clicked. Her friend — a hardworking Midwesterner — grew up to be Senator Amy Klobuchar ’82, who recently pulled off a surprise 3rd place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary.
Former classmates, like Jackson, and current students on campus told the News that Klobuchar’s performance in the Feb. 11 primary sparked discussion about the Yale alumna both on-campus and off.
“She is a very strong person, just always had a lot of tenacity,” Jackson said. “She worked really long and hard, put in a lot of hours in studying and did a really good job.”
Jackson, a former Boston Globe columnist and author, recalled how they both were members of Yale’s Women’s Bicycling Team, a club sport that no longer exists on campus. She told the News that “she showed a ton of grit.”
“We had to bicycle 35 miles a day in training, and I could tell that she was someone who never gave up,” she said.
During her time at Yale, Klobuchar was a member of Jonathan Edwards College and studied political science. As an undergraduate student, she worked for Jimmy Carter’s campaign and served as a member of the Yale College Democrats.
Klobuchar’s other classmates similarly commented on their fondness for the Senator and a confidence in her abilities. Scott Williamson ’80, who was acquaintances with Klobuchar at Yale, became good friends with the senator after the two attended law school together at the University of Chicago.
“I think she’s great and would take Trump apart in a debate,” he wrote in an email to the News. He added that many of his classmates actively support her campaign.
Williamson added that the significance of a woman running for president, especially coming from a college that only began to allow women to attend 50 years ago, cannot be discounted. He recalled their all-class Jonathan Edwards College reunion in the fall of 2014, when he and Klobachar were in a circle with two or three others. Then a blue-blazered, grey-slacked alum from the early 1960s — before Yale became co-ed — entered the conversation. He stepped in and planted himself directly in front of Klobuchar — blocking her off from the conversation. According to Williamson, Klobuchar looked at him and said, “This doesn’t happen to me anymore. I’m a Senator!”
“Nonetheless, she brushed it off in good humor,” Williamson said.
On campus, however, reactions to Klobuchar’s viability as a candidate are mixed. Mel Eskender ’23, co-founder and treasurer of Yale Students for Bernie, emphasized that Klobuchar has consistently placed in the bottom in the two contests that have occurred: fifth and third place in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. Campus coordinator for Yale for Pete Nader Granmayeh ’23 cited similar concerns. He added that Klobuchar is campaigning on electability, and although she has “generated buzz” from her third place finish in New Hampshire, that does not erase her fifth place finish in Iowa and lack of greater national support.
“At the end of the day, it looks like she is further fracturing a moderate vote that needs to coalesce behind one candidate,” Granmayeh said.
For current members of the Yale Dems, seeing alumni of the organization pursue careers in public service continually serves as a reminder for what is possible after graduating from Yale.
“It’s yet another reminder that the work we do in college has an impact not only on elections and legislation nationwide, but also that being in Yale Dems provides an invaluable platform to gain political experience that can reap professional benefits later on,” said Yale College Democrats Elections Coordinator Liam Elkind ’21.
The 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucuses will take place on Feb. 22.
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