While politicians often hold have four-year degrees from prestigious universities, some elected officials come from education backgrounds that can closely resemble their voters, Kelsey Sheehy writes at U.S. News & World Report.
"More and more voters" are starting to realize most legislators do not represent the populations electing them, says Patrick Riccards, director of media relations at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which mentors future leaders.
But not every politician graduated from an Ivy-League school—some come from institutions that are a closer match for the typical American. These candidates can often use their background to emphasize their down-to-earth qualities, says Riccards. He explains, "we want candidates who understand what it is like to struggle, to worry about a paycheck or about the bills."
For example, former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) did not earn his bachelor's degree until more than 40 years after he was first elected to the Senate.
Career and technical development at community colleges
Several political figures earned a degree from or attended classes at community colleges. U.S. News rounded up five particularly well-known individuals:
- Rep. Anna Eshoo (D- Calif): A graduate of Cañada College in California, Eshoo was elected to the House, and in 2011 was named one of the "10 most powerful women in Silicon Valley" by San Jose Mercury News.
- Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: The movie star studied at Santa Monica College before transferring to University of Wisconsin-Superior, where he earned a bachelor's in business administration—ultimately being elected governor of California.
- Former Gov. Jesse Ventura: The professional wrestler and Navy veteran studied at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota before serving as the state's governor from 1999 to 2003. Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government also invited him to be a visiting fellow.
- Former House Speaker James Wright (D-Texas): Wright studied at Weatherford College in Texas for two years before transferring to University of Texas-Austin. Eventually, he was elected as a representative, became House majority leader, and then took over as Speaker of the House.
- Ross Perot: The two-time presidential candidate and Texas native attended Texarkana College prior to transferring to the United States Naval Academy. Success in the business world financed his 1992 and 1996 presidential runs (Sheehy, U.S. News & World Report, 11/4).
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