Hail to the Chief
    Illustration by Lynne Carty / North by Northwestern

    He’s a president to all, a friend to some, admired by many and known to everyone. Morton O. Schapiro, the 16th fearless leader of Northwestern University, has become a widely discussed figure on campus since his inauguration in 2009. He’s steered us through trials (the “brothel law” incident of 2011), begun new traditions (March Thru the Arch) and made plans for a better Northwestern (a student center other than Norris), all while wearing his signature purple sweaters. With the 2012 presidential election less than six months away, would Morty have what it takes to run the nation? He shares many of the responsibilities as the president of the United States, including governing a diverse population, authorizing spending and controlling the parties. Take a look at the ties that bind Morty and these five former U.S. presidents.


    Franklin Delano Roosevelt personalized his relations with Americans through his frequent radio addresses known as “Fireside Chats.” Roosevelt talked about Depression-era issues in a personal and casual way. Americans gathered around their radios to hear from their president. Roosevelt’s name, shortened to the catchy FDR, made him seem more approachable to the common man. President Schapiro, sporting the congenial nickname Morty, operates in a similar manner, hosting occasional fireside talks himself. He tries to befriend as many students as possible by getting involved in student events and organizations. These presidents communicated with an air of informality that reached people in a distinct way.


    When John F. Kennedy spoke, people listened.

    He captivated audiences in the first televised presidential debates in 1960, appearing cool and confident against his less photogenic opponent Richard Nixon. His aura of confidence gave him charisma unique to the presidency and unusual for the White House, which fascinated Americans. Morty, like JFK, gets much of his presidential bang from his exceptional public speaking abilities. The man single-handedly inspired 2,400 students embarking on Northwestern SCAPE Service Day. Whether or not you like what they do, one cannot deny the charisma these two presidents share.


    No one knows how to rock a sweater like Morty, but Jimmy Carter comes close. The two have similar styles — sort of a Mr. Rogers meets Mr. President. Each is able to dress down a presidential suit with a snazzy sweater. To them, color coordination is second nature. In a presidential display of pride and loyalty, each man dresses using a limited color palette to mark his territory. Morty reps his purple pride for the ‘Cats and Carter opts for a red, white and blue theme for the United States of America. These men are not only fashionable; they may very well be considered trendsetters. Carter certainly knows how to mix things up by pairing a patterned tie and a striped button-down, while Morty specializes in mixing and matching shades of purple, including, but not limited to, grape, lilac and lavender. Fashion critics can hate, but these presidents both know how to dress the part.


    Young Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor, and even as president, he was still a star. For us, Morty is basically a rock star, right? Admit it, when you see Morty walking around campus, you feel a little shell-shocked. What’s behind that confident countenance? Reagan was a wildly popular president in many ways. For instance, he bounced back from the Iran-Contra Affair that damaged his presidential approval ratings. Both Morty and Reagan have a perception of popularity that carry them, and in a way, serve to mask their actual work. With the use of their winning smiles and a carefully orchestrated wink or two, it seems there’s nothing these men can’t charm their way into.


    When it comes to a love of economics, George H.W. Bush and Morty are two peas in a pod. Bush Sr. graduated from Yale University in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He started the Bush-Overby Oil Development in 1951 and made his first million dollars before age 50. Morty holds a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in Economics from Hofstra University and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. He also chaired the Department of Economics at the University of Southern California from 1991 to 1994. At Northwestern, Morty has taught an undergraduate economics course every fall since he became president, fo- cusing on his area of research, “Economics of Education.” These fellas are well-versed on everything from opportunity costs to supply-side policies, and even better, it seems that they actually enjoy learning, talking and teaching about economics.


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