Georgetown University has always been closely associated with national politics throughout its history. But this year’s election holds particular resonance for Georgetown students: Both Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have familial ties to the university.
While neither Clinton nor Trump attended Georgetown, both the candidates and their families have maintained connections with the university. Hillary Clinton’s relationship with the university is established by her husband, former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68), while Eric Trump (MSB ’06), the second son of Donald Trump, has also remained actively involved with his alma mater since his graduation.
The Clinton Family
Hillary Clinton has continued to work with Georgetown long after her husband’s graduation from the university. Hillary Clinton has made regular visits to Georgetown since the 1990s, both as first lady and secretary of state, prior to this year’s election.
Clinton sees herself as a member of the Georgetown community, according to Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security Executive Director Melanne Verveer. Clinton serves as the institute’s honorary founding chair.
“She once described herself at GU as ‘a Hoya by marriage,’ and on another occasion said her husband ‘still bleeds blue and gray,’” Verveer said.
Hillary Clinton gave a major speech at Georgetown in 1998 on human rights when she was first lady and has made several appearances at Georgetown in recent years.
Clinton gave a speech on energy diplomacy in October 2012, and spoke at a GIWPS event on women participating in peace efforts Dec. 3, 2014, among others.
Hillary Clinton’s involvement with the university has not extended to this election cycle, however. Given the close connections to Georgetown during this election cycle and the general campus interest in politics, Insitute of Politics and Public Service invited all presidential primary and general candidates to speak. However, only Senator Bernie Sanders and independent candidate Evan McMullin accepted the offer; Sanders spoke Nov. 20, 2015 while McMullin spoke Sept. 23.
Verveer said she hopes for Hillary Clinton to return to campus after the November election.
“If she’s elected in November, one can hope that she will return to the Hilltop only this time as President of the United States,” Verveer said.
Clinton’s presence on campus extends beyond speeches. In her position on GIWPS, Clinton presented the Hillary Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security on campus in 2014 and 2015 and by video in 2016.
The university has also created three fellowships in her name, which entitles recipients to year-long research positions at GIWPS.
Besides Hillary Clinton’s individual connections, many of her advisers throughout her career have had ties to Georgetown. Verveer was a classmate of Bill Clinton and served as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff while she was first lady and as United States ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
Executive Director of IPPS Mo Elleithee (SFS ’94) also worked as Hillary Clinton’s spokesman during her 2008 presidential campaign.
The Trump Family
Like Clinton, Donald Trump’s staff contains several Georgetown alumni. Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort (MSB ’71) and current Trump Campaign Senior Adviser Boris Epshteyn (SFS ’04, LAW ’07) both attended Georgetown.
CNN Commentator Kayleigh McEnany (SFS ’10), a Trump surrogate, studied in the School of Foreign Service, while Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump graduated from Georgetown. His daughter Ivanka Trump attended the McDonough School of Business for two years before she transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, her father’s alma mater.
According to MSB professor James P. Moore, who taught Eric Trump when he studied at Georgetown, Donald Trump has not sustained particularly close associations with the university.
“I think it would be incorrect to connect [Eric’s] father into today’s Georgetown somehow,” Moore said. “Eric has been the one who has maintained his loyalties to the university and business school.”
Eric Trump now serves on the board of advisors of the MSB Business, Society and Public Policy Initiative, which seeks to offer a greater understanding of problems facing businesses today.
This summer, current Georgetown students were given the opportunity to meet with Eric Trump at a private Georgetown breakfast during the Republican National Convention in Ohio.
According to Elleithee, Eric Trump offered the students a unique insight into the political process.
“He and his wife spent over an hour with our students,” Elleithee said. “He gave an interesting talk about what it’s like to participate and sort of be a first timer in the political process,”
Aaron Bennett (COL ’19), who attended the RNC as videographer and photographer for GU Politics, said the breakfast with Eric Trump was surprisingly straightforward and genuine.
“It was very clear that they wanted us there and were looking forward to speaking with us,” Bennett said. “He was very straightforward and answered everything that we asked, unlike his father who has a tendency to sort of spin things and not answer questions.”
Bennett said Trump and Clinton’s connections to the Georgetown community demonstrate Georgetown’s influence on politics.
“I think it is great visibility for our school and representation for the Hoyas,” Bennett said. “Either way, I think it just goes to show that Georgetown University produces people of great stature and people that find people of great stature.”
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