Although frequently known as a breeding ground for academics and Silicon Valley moguls, Stanford is dedicated to public service. What better proof than a recent study in the *US News and World Report *that rated**Stanford as number two in terms of the number of alumni in the 111th Congress.
Stanford boasts 11 members, while Harvard, which tops the list, claims 15. Three distinguished representatives spoke with the* Review, *reliving their time at Stanford and reflecting on the university’s influence on their careers.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) calls the Farm a “foundational experience” in his life. At Stanford, the congressman was a student of pre-med and politics.
“One thing I loved about Stanford is that there was no uniformity of opinion,” he remarked. “If you put five Stanford students in a room together you get 8 opinions.”
Rep. Schiff also fondly remembers the “long, dark hallways” of the Terman Engineering building. He was on the crew team as a freshman, played rugby for most of his sophomore year, and practiced Karate for the rest of his time at Stanford.
He compared being an undergraduate at Stanford, where students “brag about how little they work,” to being a law student at Harvard, where students “brag about how much they worked.” He called Stanford an “incredible mix of academics and fun.” He also credited his academic background at Stanford with his ability to understand science-related issues in the legislature.
Representative Judy Biggert (R-Illinois) talked about the many challenges and rewards that Stanford posed.
“Stanford makes you work hard,” she remarked. As an “unabashed conservative,” the congresswoman had a slightly different experience on campus.
“I felt left out, but Stanford taught me that if you don’t like the way things are done, change them,” she said.
Besides serving on the Committees on Education and Labor, Financial Services, and Science and Technology, Rep. Biggert is also co-chair of the Caucus on Women’s Issues. She commented upon the discrimination she faced after college.
“I really disliked it. I saw a lot of discrimination against women which was something I hadn’t experienced at Stanford.”
However, she does remember at least one occasion on which she did see gender discrimination on campus. In Western Civilization, her TA had one A to give, and chose a male member of the class.
“The TA said that ‘There are two of you who deserve an A, but I can only give it to one.’ He gave it to the man.”
Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-California) attended both college and law school at Stanford. “It opened my eyes to things that could be, and allowed me to explore in a way that only a few things would,” he said*.*
Although he initially intended to be a biochemist, Rep. Bacerra decided to study economics. He was impressed by Stanford’s approach to the subject: “In many ways, economics involves numbers and requires precision. But it’s not a natural science and so you get some fudge room. That’s the part where you get to explore.”
He also remembers the quantitative nature of the education at the law school and said that this approach played a role in why he chose to stay at Stanford.
“You’re lining up words like an equation, and I applied here because you really do need to have a sense of numbers,” he said.
All of the representatives commented upon the perception that Stanford’s campus has recently become politically apathetic. Congressman Becerra remembers a different impression of campus. He was a member of many political and social organizations and participated in several rallies. He admired the conversations about diversity with the faculty.
Representative Schiff recalled that although Stanford was no hot-bed of controversy, students were generally well informed and engaging.
Congresswoman Biggert however, thought that Stanford was fairly apathetic.
“Students were smart, but didn’t want to talk about it especially when it came to politics,” she said. “This disappointed me because I come from a family where we always discussed politics.”
Representative Becerra offered a word of advice to Stanford students: enjoy your time at the University.
“It’s probably the last time that someone who’s going to come out with a Stanford degree can have the luxury of not having the weight of the world thrust upon his shoulders,” he said.