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Q&A with two Exonian presidential hopefuls

A crowded field of candidates for president of the United States has thinned, but two Exeter alums relatively new to politics are still in the running. 

October 23, 2019
Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer on the campaign trail

 

Andrew Yang ’92

Age: 44

Hometown: Born in Schenectady, N.Y.; lives in Manhattan

Career: Former technology executive; founded a nonprofit to create jobs

Signature issue: He wants to prepare for the future of an automated America by making universal basic income a reality.

Andrew Yang

What’s the best part about running for president?

Meeting people from different walks of life all over the country. Makes you feel more human and American.

Describe your favorite campaign stop — or the stop that has been the most impactful for you — so far.

I’m giving $1,000 a month to several families around the country. Giving it to Kyle Christensen and his mom in Iowa Falls was very touching for me. Kyle’s mom is recovering from cancer.

What’s the best question you’ve been asked by a voter on the trail and why did it resonate with you?

A high school student in Iowa told me that his classmates were already addicted to fentanyl and had patches on their shoulders, and asked what we could do to help. It was rough to hear. I found other countries have gotten rates of abuse down by referring users to treatment instead of prison.

What’s the oddest question you’ve been asked?

Can you sign my forehead?

What’s something you’ve learned about America or the American people that you didn’t know when you started this campaign?

I might have known this, but many Americans are confused as to why they feel like D.C. doesn’t care about the people anymore. They do not feel confident about the future.

How have the Exeter tenets of Harkness and non sibi served you as you have crisscrossed the country and met voters?

Learning at the Harkness table definitely prepared me to listen to other points of view at roundtables around the country. And Exeter classmates have helped me at every turn. I would never be running if it weren’t for my time at Exeter.

What are some other Exeter lessons you find yourself leaning on when you’re campaigning?

If someone else is capable of doing something, you probably can do it, too.

Describe the campaign process with a movie title.

"Until the End of the World."

Tom Steyer

 

Tom Steyer ’75

Age: 62

Hometown: Born in New York; lives in San Francisco

Career: Started and managed a hedge fund for 25 years

Signature issue: He says his top priorities are breaking the influence of corporations and addressing climate change.

What’s the best part about running for president?

Meeting the people around the country.

Describe your favorite campaign stop — or the stop that has been the most impactful for you — so far.

Denmark, South Carolina. I went down to see people who were being mistreated by the state government. They were upbeat and optimistic despite the deep hardship they’d been put through by being denied basic access to clean water. It reminded me of the resilience of the American people.

What’s the best question you’ve been asked by a voter on the trail and why did it resonate with you?

The most important question I’m asked is “Why are you running?” It’s what everyone needs to answer, because it’s not about me. It’s about what I’m going to do in the job.

What’s the oddest question you’ve been asked?

Why are you wearing that belt? [Editor’s Note: Steyer bought the colorful, beaded belt from female artisans on a trip to Kenya to visit a school for girls supported by a friend. He has said he wears it as a reminder not to be so formal, and also as a symbol that the world is a better place when we educate women and girls.]

What’s something you’ve learned about America or the American people that you didn’t know when you started this campaign?

How angry they are.

How have the Exeter tenets of Harkness and non sibi served you as you have crisscrossed the country and met voters?

Harkness is about active listening, which is at the core of what I’m doing. As an organizer, the notion is that you aren’t doing it for yourself, but rather for the cause.

What are some other Exeter lessons you find yourself leaning on when you’re campaigning?

One of the big lessons from Exeter is that you take people for who they are so you take them genuinely without judgment.

Describe the campaign process with a movie title.

"Field of Dreams."

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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