David Axelrod, AB'76

(Illustration by Zach Meyer)

David Axelrod, AB’76

Questions for the political strategist, College alumnus, and Institute of Politics director.

What surprising job have you had in the past?

Page at the dance collection of the New York Public Library.

What would you want to be doing if not your current profession?

Taking long walks on a country road with my wife, Susan, and dog, Mac.

What do you hate that everyone else loves?

Complaining about politics.

What do you love that everyone else hates?


What was the last book you finished?

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend?

Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein.

What was the last book you put down before you finished it?

War and ...

What UChicago course book left the biggest impression on you?

Suicide by Émile Durkheim; We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent by Milton Rakove [AM’49, PhD’56].

What book changed your life?

My memoir, Believer, because it forced me to think about my own life more deeply and honestly than I had before.

What’s your least useful talent?

Wiggling my ears.

Tell us the best piece of advice you’ve received—or the worst.

Former senator Gary Hart once told me, “Don’t forget that Washington is always the last to get the news.”

What advice would you give to a brand-new Maroon?

Use these four years to explore subjects and ideas that are outside your range or comfort and interest. You never know what treasures you will find.

What did you learn at UChicago that still benefits you today?

Tolerance for—or, at least, openness to—divergent thoughts.

What’s your most vivid UChicago memory in two sentences or less?

President Edward Levi’s [LAB’28, PhB’32, JD’35] welcoming speech, in which he said, “Forty percent of you won’t be here four years from now.” I was pretty sure he was looking directly at me!