The newly elected Members of Congress pose for the freshman class photo on the House steps of the Capitol on Nov. 19.
While the Harvard University Institute of Politics Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress hosted liberal speakers such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Elizabeth Warren in 2008, this year’s program seems more tailored toward the incoming Republican class.
Bush administration officials, such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-Chief of Staff Andy Card, are among the big names on the four-day training session for new Representatives.
Every two years since 1972, Harvard’s Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Mass., has hosted the optional bipartisan seminar series. This year, the session runs Nov. 30 through Dec. 3.
“The main goal of our program is basically to get all the new Members in a room by themselves outside the pressures of Washington,” Harvard spokesman Christian Flynn said. All but one of the sessions will be closed to the press, he added.
While the official House orientation was heavy on logistics and light on policy, Harvard’s is another story.
Rice will kick off the proceedings with a Tuesday evening talk called “The National Interest, Africa and the African Diaspora: Does U.S. Foreign Policy Connect the Dots?” She’ll follow that up the next day, joining two Harvard professors for a panel discussion also on foreign policy.
Wednesday will also see a discussion with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan moderated by noted political consultant and TV personality David Gergen.
On Dec. 2, Larry Summers, outgoing chairman of the White House’s National Economic Council, will address the Members-elect, as will Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
Later, Card will join a discussion with President Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff, Ken Duberstein; John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress; Dan Meyer, former chief of staff to ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); and Dan Turton, White House deputy director of legislative affairs. The session is called “The White House and Congress: Building Relationships.” Dec. 3 will hold a panel on education featuring Bush-era Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
And for the first time, the session will host a panel on new media. It will feature Adam Conner, associate manager for privacy and global public policy at Facebook; Speaker-designate John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) new-media director, Nick Schaper; and Nicco Mele, one-time Internet operations director for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s (D) presidential campaign.
Other panels will focus on health care, the economy and budgeting, appropriations, revenues and spending.
It’s not all policy, though. Members-elect will be treated to a New England clambake at the opening dinner. And a Wednesday dinner will include the presentation of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award by the president’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.