The Obama administration: a Colorado College cabal?

Every presidency has its own biases about the kind of education that makes for good leaders. JFK stacked the deck with Harvard grads; Bush I and Bush II leaned toward Yalies, of course. Snobbery, Eastern elitism, Ivy Leaguism--it's been expected of the White House since the days of Woodrow Wilson, a Princeton man himself (and later the university's president, before his descent into politics) who didn't mind tapping the old school for his brain trust.

So what's with all the Colorado College connections emerging in the administration of Barack Obama, a Columbia-Harvard Law guy?

Consider the cabal of CC grads who have found their way from a small liberal arts college nestled at the doorstep of Pikes Peak to the grand halls of power. First, there's Ken Salazar, class of 1977, the Secretary of the Interior. And Jane Lubchenco '69, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and undersecretary of commerce.

Add to those two Lori Garver '83, second in command at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. And Marcia McNutt '74, expected to be confirmed this week as director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

And let's not forget the recent nomination of Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, as agriculture undersecretary for natural resources and environment. That's Harris Sherman, class of 1964.

Colorado College's own website boasts of even more insidious connections: Sherman's new boss, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, is the parent of a 2003 CC graduate. Obama senior adviser David Axelrod is married to a 1974 grad and is the parent of Ethan Axelrod, an '09 grad now helming the Huffington Post's Denver bureau. And Christine Varney, an assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice, also is the parent of an '09 grad.

Hmmm. Put aside the Justice Department link as freak coincidence, and the rest falls into an ominous pattern. NASA. NOAA. Interior. The Forest Service. USGS. Natural resources, climate change, space exploration... if I wanted to put together a crew to hand all the impossible problems, so my egghead buddies from back East won't get embarrassed, that's where I'd start.

But what do I know? CC is my alma mater, too. That makes me part of the Colorado College media cabal. Don't get me started on that.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast