Fifty years ago, The Daily Northwestern editor Al From (Medill ‘65) was in the inaugural class of aspiring political journalists at Northwestern who made the quarter-long trek to D.C. for Medill on the Hill. After starting his political reporting career at Medill, From took his skills to Washington permanently and became a chief architect of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, as well as a major player in the Democratic Party.
Northwestern has produced countless political strategists like From, working in all sectors of government and influencing major elections across the country. As the 2016 election cycle ramps up, Wildcat alums are already leading many major campaigns in positions such as Hillary Clinton’s chief speechwriter and Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager. And in 2008, a former Wildcat managed Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the Democratic primary.
Patti Solis-Doyle (Speech '89) began working for Hillary Clinton in 1992 as Clinton’s husband Bill was running for president, well before she was herself a presidential candidate.
“She didn’t have any people, any staff; I was a one woman show,” Solis-Doyle says of her early days with Hillary Clinton. “By the time she announced she was running for president, I knew Hillary so well – I had worked for her for 16 years.”
Solis-Doyle worked for Clinton until the 2008 election, in which Clinton ultimately lost to Barack Obama. She now works as a political commentator with CNN.
Another major player in recent elections, Stephen Krupin (Medill '04) worked as Obama’s director of speechwriting in his 2012 reelection campaign after advising several other major Democratic players. He attended Medill because of an initial interest in political reporting, but after doing his journalism residency, Krupin realized he wanted to pursue a career where he could still be involved in politics, but not necessarily through journalistic writing.
“I’m enormously grateful that Northwestern gave me a chance to take a speechwriting class from a former presidential speechwriter,” Krupin says. “That was the first time I said to myself, 'This is a job you could do full time.'”
Starting in 2007, Krupin worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, before working on Obama's reelection campaign, where he wrote speeches for surrogates speaking on Obama's behalf, among other tasks.
Mirroring the path of Krupin and others, From worked for years climbing the political ranks to become a close confidant of the Clintons, even using NU connections to land new positions.
“When I graduated, I was supposed to go work for the Chicago Daily News,” From says. “But instead I ran into Medill alum Edgar May, and he asked me to help him with the War on Poverty.”
Afterwards, From worked in Congress before founding the Democratic Leadership Council, a center-left political organization that helped further Bill Clinton's moderate appeal.
Republican political pundit Guy Benson (Medill '07) also landed his first post-college job “purely out of a Wildcat connection,” he says.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what was next after graduation, but then I got an email out of the blue from an alumnus who had read a profile of me in a magazine,” Benson says. “He offered me a serious job working in Chicago media, starting my career in Chicago, which was a dream come true.”