The Center for the Political Future hosted its first installment of “Political Conversations” series on Thursday. The event featured David Axelrod, chief strategist and senior adviser during the Obama administration, in conversation with center director Bob Shrum.
The series invites noteworthy politicians and policy experts to converse on campus.
Axelrod discussed how he became interested in politics, describing how a John F. Kennedy campaign rally in New York changed his vision.
“He started speaking and his voice was booming off of the buildings and everybody was watching with rapt attention,” Axelrod said. “It just seemed very important and very exciting to me.”
He also discussed his experience in journalism and his transition to political consulting.
“[The Chicago Tribune] used to let me cover the candidate they thought would be the losing candidate,” Axelrod said. “One of them happened to be Jane Byrne, a woman running for mayor [of Chicago] — nobody gave her a chance and I ended up covering her. She won. And they gave me the political beat.”
Axelrod then spoke about campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008.
“I’ve never seen anybody who handles adversity and setbacks as well as he did,” Axelrod said. “One of the reasons he got elected was because people … were looking for someone who was more reflective, someone who saw the nuances in the world and in politics and someone … [who had] a desire for thoughtfulness.”
When discussing Obama’s legacy, including the Affordable Care Act, Axelrod told the story of his daughter, Lauren, who started having seizures when she was seven months old. Her medication was expensive and her insurance would not cover the cost, Axelrod explained.
“When the Affordable Care Act passed, I was crying because I knew that there were families who wouldn’t have to go through what my family went through,” Axelrod said. “I said thank you … and [Obama] put his arms on my shoulder and he said, ‘That’s why we do the work.’”
Axelrod also discussed the problems with the 2016 election — specifically what he considered to be problems with the Clinton campaign.
“I think a message was sent [by the Clinton campaign] that [they] had young people, minorities and women, so the working class white folks weren’t needed,” Axelrod said. “That just abetted Trump’s message and played into his hands.”
The next “Political Conversation” is scheduled for Oct. 2 with Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary under Bill Clinton, and Jon Macks, a writer on late-night shows.