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Master Minds

Commencement, 1981

Photograph courtesy of the SLC Archives

Commencement 1981

As he sat among his classmates, listening to Nobel-prize-winning scientist George Wald, did Rahm Emanuel have any idea that he’d wind up in the White House?

The former congressman became President Obama’s chief of staff in January, and has already been dubbed “arguably the second most powerful man in the country” and “one of the highest-profile chiefs of staff in recent memory” by The New York Times.

In his commencement address, Wald eschewed inspirational clichés, speaking instead about nuclear proliferation, the cold war, global politics, and the function of government—fitting subjects for a future political mastermind. Even if Emanuel doesn’t remember the speech today, he probably has a much fuller appreciation of Wald’s assertion that “electing somebody isn’t the end of a process, but the beginning.”

Look for a full profile on the chief of staff in the fall issue of Sarah Lawrence.

Emanuel and Obama

Photograph by Heather Stone, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune Archives.