The Crimson Party

Braced for the outcome

Remember the giant sucking sound as the Harvard professoriate drained south when John F. Kennedy '40, LL.D. '56, was elected president? So many jobs in his administration went to Harvard folk that the University was said to be "the fourth branch of government." The New Yorker ran a cartoon showing two old boys in suits watching the spectacular Inauguration Day parade. One says to the other: "Oh, it's a grand day for Harvard."

The College gave General George W. an honorary degree before he became president, but the first graduate to hold the job was John Adams, A.B. 1755, LL.D. '81, who had served two terms as Washington's vice president. He had been restive in the second slot. It was, he complained to his wife, "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."

John Quincy Adams (painting)
Gilbert Stuart's and Thomas Sully's John Quincy Adams, done between 1825 and 1830, is part of the Harvard University Portrait Collection.
Theodore Roosevelt (cartoon)
The hyperactive Teddy on vacation, drawn by Joseph Keppler for Puck, is in Harvard's Theodore Roosevelt Collection.
Franklin Roosevelt (photo)
FDR at the Tercentenary in 1936 (Harvard University Archives)

Adams's son John Quincy, A.B. 1787, LL.D. 1822, the sixth president and, so far, the only son of a president to serve in that way himself, made history thanks to Anne Royall, who, the story goes, meant to interview him for her newspaper. He refused repeatedly. Knowing that he often swam nude at 5 a.m. in the Potomac, she went there and sat on his clothes until he relented--she thus becoming the first woman to interview a president.

Rutherford B. Hayes, LL.B. 1845, LL.D. '87, won the election of 1876, but it was a near thing, involving disputed electoral votes, and amid the tension he took the oath of office secretly in the Red Room of the White House. Theodore Roosevelt, A.B. 1880, LL.D. 1902, wrestled, rowed, birdwatched, and shot through college and kept lobsters, snakes, and a substantial tortoise in his room. His cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt '04, LL.D. '29, failed in his great ambition--to be admitted to the Porcellian, Harvard's most prestigious social club--and went on to become a "traitor to his class."

JFK was the sixth president to hold a Harvard degree. The seventh will likely be Ralph Nader, LL.B. '58 (running with Winona LaDuke '80), George W. Bush, M.B.A. '75, or Albert Gore Jr. '69, LL.D. '94--and November 7 will be a grand day for Harvard.

John Adams (painting)
John Adams in 1783, by John Singleton Copley. (Harvard University Portrait Collection).
Rutherford Hayes (photo)
Rutherford B. Hayes (Harvard University Archives)
John F. Kennedy (photo)
JFK in football costume in 1937 (Harvard University Archives)
The College Pump

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