Spring 2004

Quoted: Jim Sheffield

Jim Sheffield"Being a professional student is what being a member of the faculty is all about –– sharing what we know with others and learning more. That’s fun."

"The study of politics has been an art for a long, long time. Today, the study of politics also uses the methods of science. And I think that we’ve been able to enhance our understanding dramatically because we’ve done that."

"I have a quote on my door from Lord Kelvin that says, ‘Until you measure something, you don’t know it.’"

"For young people, there seems to be a lack of connection between them and the political system. That has to do with the circumstances of young people. They have other things that are important to them — and far more immediately important to them — than politics. If I had a nickel for every person who ran a campaign based on targeting young people and who then lost the election, I’d be a very wealthy man."

"I can’t be sure young people are going to agree with me, and I’m not sure, abstractly, that they know as much as I’d like them to know so that they can cast votes that are in their own best interest, much less in my interest."

"I don’t want people who don’t agree with me going to the polls. I want folks who agree with me."

"It’d be nice to have elections decided by people who know what they’re voting on and for and why."

"The most important figure in American history? There probably wouldn’t have been a United States of America without George Washington. The fact that he was, without controversy, named president twice after the Constitution was implemented makes the case for him."

"FDR confronted the single greatest crisis — after the Civil War — that the nation has dealt with once it was in place. He had to deal with the Depression and World War II. I don’t know that anyone else could have as easily done both of those things. He wasn’t always sound in judgment, but he was capable of seeing the endgame, capable of seeing what needed to be accomplished."

"The most fundamental required skills for a politician to have? The ability to communicate effectively and a body of information to communicate."

"John Kerry is an able candidate and is going to be a formidable candidate for the presidency this fall."

"The truest thing I know about the world of politics is that predicting things in the future, anticipating the future, is going to get you into trouble. In politics, a day is a real long time and a week is an absolute eternity."

"A friend of mine says Bill Clinton is an idiot savant. I’m not sure he’s wrong. There’s something about Clinton’s ability to connect with human beings on a one-to-one basis even though they’re in a crowd of thousands. It’s phenomenal. Whatever his flaws and faults, his other skills take him far beyond where an ordinary and average person could go."

"If I were king of the world, everything would be hunky dory. I would be sure to take care of you. Just trust me."

"Our good speakers are good speakers because they write well."

"I’m not sure that women and men are that different, most of the time, in terms of what they pursue through politics."

"If I had to explain the United States to someone by showing them five things I’d say this: They should see a courtroom where a jury trial is taking place. In much of the world those things are decided in an arbitrary and often unfair fashion. I’d like them to see a classroom, probably in a public elementary school — where children are unfettered in their learning. A college football or basketball game, which is huge and wonderful and which crowds are participating in. I’d like to include a representation of the vastness of the nation, particularly from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The fifth would be Manhattan and New York Harbor. You’ve got to work the Statue of Liberty in there. And the streets of New York, MOMA, the Museum of Natural History, Wall Street. I’d also include some passing reference to the capacity to move beyond 9/11 and the resiliency I think you see in New York City."

"I still like Casablanca. As I’ve gotten to know a little bit more about William Randolph Hearst, I’m more interested in Citizen Kane. That one still leaves me a little cold. It’s a great movie, though."

"Who was right: Rousseau or Hobbes? Hobbes was a cynic and Rousseau an optimist, they were both right."


Quoted: Jim Sheffield

Jim Sheffield talks about the science and the art of politics, who’s who in American political history, being king and who’s right, Hobbes or Rousseau.