Chilling with Ed Rendell “only a smart, Jewish lawyer can get us out of it” By Rachel Thomas
from some of the things that were done well in the past.
itting in the conference room, waiting for an interview, The Soapbox can hear the voice of Governor Ed Rendell echoing down the hall. Rendell strolls in, carrying only a red Dixie cup, a napkin, and a pen, pausing for a second before grabbing a phone from the corner of the room. Before we get to talking, Rendell makes a quick call to discuss the budget, tossing millions of dollars to different organizations, as if he’s deciding where to go for lunch in an hour. The Pennsylvania Governor and Penn alum (CAS ’65) puts down the phone, and starts talking to The Soapbox about various subjects. Amidst going off on the occasional tangent, Rendell discusses his experiences at Penn as a Pi Lambda brother, and how events of his life shape the kind of politician he is today. The Soapbox, even got a glimpse of what retirement may look like for the Pennsylvania native when his term as Governor expires in 2010.
Any memorable moments? Well, in 1968, when I was in law school (not at Penn), both Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy came to the Palestra within a month of each other, and that was really exciting. Actually, the most practical lesson of my years around Penn was when I was directing the Hillary Clinton campaign in Pennsylvania this year—we needed a spot for our closing rally the day before the primary at the Palestra. It was just incred ible: Chelsea spoke, the President spoke, it was awesome. Remembering the McCarthy
Can you tell us about your time at Penn? What kind of person were you back then? I was a political science major, and I had a bad habit of not paying attention to the courses that didn’t interest me. But I paid a lot of attention to the courses that I liked, and I did very well in those, and not so well in the others. I was elected vice president of student govern ment and ran my junior year for president and lost. I was in a fraternity, I was in friars, but student government was basically the thrust of my extracurricular activities. And, you know, I made some very good friends there, many of whom are my closest friends today, so that was probably my most valu able experience of all. And of course there’s so much you can learn about government by looking back and not only not repeating the mistakes of the past, but also learning
I wanted to try to do something about the root causes. It never occurred to me to go into the private sector, probably because I came from a middle class family and we had never wanted for anything. Even after 3"#$%$#$,+$4#9#-+1+2#7+:8#%-"#5-%-/,%:#;2+' sure or any need to accumulate things. So I decided I wanted to try to do something to affect poverty and good education, and to me this place was Governor. Who were biggest forces to push you to keep trying in politics? Well really it came from internally and probably from the things I was taught from my dad when I was young. Both my desire to serve and my belief that I could serve well. But after "0)#:0'+#8&0#(,*(#;205:+#+:+/ tions its very hard to get back up and try again, the media brands you as a loser in very cruel terms—it isn’t a very happy experience. Interesting story—in 1990, I came home from work and I stopped to get, I forget, probably a chees esteak. And as I was waiting for my order, I saw this older, poor, Irish woman. She kept :006,-*#%8#3+4#%-$#5-%::"#'(+# said “Are you Rendell?” And I said, “Yes mam,” and she said, “Well are you going to run for mayor?” And I said, pretty truthfully, “I don’t know, what do you think?” I must have taken her aback, and she rubbed her chin, then after about 30 seconds she said, “You have to. This city is so screwed up”—she didn’t use screwed up—“that only a smart, Jewish lawyer can get us out of it.” And I decided if she knew that, then I had a real chance to win. So, obviously, your desire to serve, but your desire to serve is in the context of how 80)*(#,8#,'#80#2)-#702#075/+#%-$#(0P)*(#,8# is to lose—thank God I haven’t lost since.
Photo by Jonathan Coveney and Kennedy rallies made me choose the Palestra. What led you to go into politics? My dad, who died when I was 14, was a huge believer in the Democratic Party. !"#$%$#&%'#%#()*+#,-.)+-/+#01+2#3+4#%-$# so I had that interest, but when I went to law school, I had a Criminal Law profes sor who was so inspiring, that within four 02#51+#&++6'#07#8(+#/0)2'+4#9#-+	#&%-8+$# to practice criminal law. I was elected Dis trict Attorney and I never thought those days about running for governor or mayor, but you cant help realize, and it sinks in slowly, that you are dealing with problems after they have been created. So I decided
When it was mentioned that you may have been a possible candidate for Vice President, you said you weren’t interested, stating that you “like to be your own boss.”
The Soapbox, March 2009
Published on Feb 18, 2010
Published on Feb 18, 2010
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