Former President’s Senior Adviser Discusses Politics on Rose Hill Campus


David Axelrod, former advisor to President Barack Obama, was a guest speaker at Fordham on April 9. (RUBY GARA)


“I’m really thrilled to be here because all of you are the makers of change…you all have the ability to make a real difference in the future” David Axelrod said, his voice echoing through the auditorium of Keating Hall at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) on April 9. The guest speaker, a key figure in the realm of politics ― former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition team, as well as served as his Chief Strategist during his campaigns in 2008 and his reelection in 2012― was welcomed by a cheering audience at the event hosted by the College Democrats of Fordham University.

The student-led organization welcomed Axelrod onstage after presenting an introductory statement on his personal background and political involvement. Today Axelrod is the director of the Institute of Politics at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, and is currently a senior political commentator for CNN. Before he spoke, the executive board of the College Democrats read off a list of Axelrod’s lifetime achievements. He formerly served as political analyst for NBC News and currently hosts  the “Axe Files,” a series of interviews with significant political figures, including Arizona Senator John McCain.

As founder of the Chicago consulting firm “AKPD Message and Media,” Axelrod has “managed media strategic communications for more than 150 national campaigns with a focus on progressive candidates,” according to the graduating President of the College Democrats Eleanor Werner, FCRH ’18.

Axelrod has also written a New York Times bestselling memoir entitled “Believer: My 40 Years in Politics,” a book that, as stated by Werner, “spans 40 years which include corruption and transformation, turmoil and progress, offering a look behind the closed doors of politics.”

When Axelrod was welcomed onstage, the crowd applauded with admiration. The speaker’s humor immediately set about the lively atmosphere of the event. However, he was also aware of moments in which a serious tone should be conveyed, such as when he shared personal anecdotes about his daughter’s medical condition of epilepsy that inspired his wife to be the founder of the non-profit organization Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE).

Axelrod became directly involved with the political world during his early childhood. He traced his “political awakening” back to one of the speeches President John F. Kennedy gave in New York in 1960, where he stated that “being an American citizen in the 1960s is a hazardous occupation, filled with peril, but also with hope.”

“That concept about politics is the concept that has guided me throughout my life…politics is the way we grab the wheel of history and democracy and turn it in the direction that we think is best,” Axelrod said as he stared out at the crowd filled with hopeful Fordham students who“care[d] enough to make a change.”

Axelrod shared that he began engaging with politics at the age of 9, when he worked for New York Senator Robert Kennedy and his duties consisted of distributing leaflets for the campaign. However, before officially entering politics in 1984, Axelrod spent 8 years as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune where he covered national and local politics, consequently becoming the youngest political writer and columnist at the time.

He shifted then to the lead-up to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign which resulted in a landslide victory, as he shared his experience in the White House. Axelrod believed that “if he could help Barack [Obama] win the election, that is something I could be proud of for the entirety of my life.” Working alongside Obama, he saw the State Senator’s foreign policy vision when he wrote “one of the most transient critiques of the potential of war in Iraq as he warned about undetermined cause.” He was also witness to the advertising process during the campaign; he saw Obama come up with the hopeful slogan of “Yes We Can”. “I thought this line summed up everything we envisioned in our campaign.”

The speaking event then shifted to a Q&A as the students were eager to know Axelrod’s insights on topics such as the 2016 campaign. One of the students was curious about the outcome of the next election as he asked “what do you, as a political consultant, think could be a potential strategy could be for the Democrats during the 2020 Presidential campaign?”

“I am leaving Fordham tonight hopeful and optimistic with how much hope you give me,” Axelrod concluded.