WASHINGTON -- Alice Stewart, the CNN political commentator with numerous Arkansas ties, is headed to the Ivy League later this year.
The Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School named Stewart one of its fall resident fellows earlier this month. Fellows "immerse themselves into the Harvard community by residing on campus, mentoring a cohort of undergraduate students, holding weekly office hours and leading an eight-week, not-for-credit study group based on their particular experience and expertise," school officials said in a news release.
The Kennedy School is named after the late John F. Kennedy, the nation's 35th president and a member of Harvard College's Class of 1940.
The Harvard announcement came shortly after Stewart returned from a trip to Israel, where she walked the streets of Jerusalem and was baptized in the Sea of Galilee.
Stewart, originally from Georgia, lived in Arkansas for about 17 years, as a journalist at KARK-TV, a radio talk show host, a deputy secretary of state and an aide to then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Over the years, she also served as a presidential campaign spokesman for Huckabee; former U.S. Sens. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Other fall resident fellows include former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Black Voters Matter Fund co-founder LaTosha Brown; The Atlantic President Bob Cohn; former White House social secretary Deesha Dyer; and former Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado.
The topic of Stewart's study group will be: "From the Reagan Rule to Trump Tweets: Was 2016 Incivility an Aberration or Precedent-setting?"
The class will examine the caucus and primary systems, campaign data and analytics, as well as voter demographics. The rise of social media and its effect on civil discourse will also be discussed.
Things weren't always this divided, she'll tell them.
Then-President Ronald Reagan used to tout a rule he called the Eleventh Commandment, Stewart says. It states: "Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Any Fellow Republican."
Critics say Reagan's commitment to the principle may have wavered, for a time, during the 1976 Republican presidential nomination fight; he narrowly lost to incumbent President Gerald Ford after fighting all the way to the convention in Kansas City, Mo.
But as a candidate and as president, he repeatedly urged Republicans of all stripes to eschew trash-talking and name-calling for the good of the party.
While often critical of Democrats, he also was able to work with them. In order to succeed, he had to -- Democrats controlled the House of Representatives throughout Reagan's presidency and retook the Senate midway through Reagan's second term.
The hyper-partisan and hyper-divisive politics that young Harvard students know aren't the only option, Stewart said.
"The dynamics have changed," she said. "I want to explain to the students that it hasn't always been like this and, hopefully, we'll get back to a little more civil tone at some point."
Stewart isn't the first Arkansan to be selected for the program. Past fellows include Huckabee; Betsey Wright, a former chief of staff to then-Gov. Bill Clinton; Little Rock attorney Arkie Byrd; and former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., who was later tapped to serve as director of the Institute of Politics.
Stewart will go to Massachusetts in August. Side trips to New Hampshire are also likely.
That's the state with the first-in-the-nation presidential primary; its largest city, Manchester, is only 50 miles from the Harvard campus.
It's a great opportunity, she said, to watch the 2020 elections unfold.
"I love the energy and the excitement of the primary process and the town halls and the meet-and-greets and the gripping-and-grinning at the local diner," she said.
Though a Republican herself, she'll be happy to observe the roughly two-dozen Democrats who are vying for their party's presidential nomination.
"It helps me as a political commentator on CNN to not just read about them in the press but to see them face to face," she said.
She hopes the students she teaches will also enjoy the campaign season as it unfolds, she said.
It's best to work, not just watch, she added.
"This is an exciting time. It'll certainly be an exciting election. Politics is not meant to be simply a spectator sport. It's meant for everyone to get involved in some way shape or form," she said.
Tapping her virtual Rolodex, she's inviting colleagues from both sides of the aisle to share their insights with students. One of Trump's key advisers, Kellyanne Conway, has already agreed to speak, she added.
Stewart will continue to make appearances on CNN, traveling to New York City or Washington when necessary. Since the school has its own television studio, it'll be easy, logistically, for her to fulfill her cable news commitments, she added.
When she's not immersed in politics, Stewart will also be running. A five-time Boston Marathon finisher, she's already familiar with Beantown's jogging paths.
Ron Fournier, a former Arkansas Democrat reporter and Associated Press Washington bureau chief, says the fellowship is an incredible opportunity.
"That was the best semester of my work life; I'll put it that way," he said. "Everything about it was wonderful."
The students, in particular, left a positive impression, he said.
"The kids are amazing," he said. "So smart."
The young scholars will benefit from being exposed to someone like Stewart, Fournier predicted.
"For all the stars that have come in there and been fellows, very few bring her combination of real world campaign experience and real world journalism communications experience," he said.
The semester's going to be good for Harvard, but it will also be good for Stewart, he said.
"If you admire her now, you're really going to admire her when she gets [a] semester of Harvard education beneath her belt," he said.
SundayMonday on 07/01/2019
Print Headline: Ex-Huckabee aide, former journalist at Little Rock TV station is Harvard fellow