Joe Biden’s administration is packed full of University of Oxford alumni

Nicholas Cecil
·3-min read
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg is an Oxford alum (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg is an Oxford alum (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden’s administration is packed full of Washington D.C. heavyweights, but another city looms large among the president’s top team: the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Three of Mr Biden’s Cabinet picks are University of Oxford alumni, as are prominent figures in at least seven other key positions.

His nomination for Commerce Secretary, Dr Gina Raimondo, was at New College in 1993, where she completed an MA and then a DPhil in sociology, with a thesis on single motherhood in the US.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who ran against Mr Biden in the Democratic primary last year, was at Pembroke in 2005, gaining a First in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

And Professor Eric Lander, who wrote a DPhil on algebraic coding theory while at Wolfson in 1978, will be heading the newly-created US Office of Science and Technology Policy.

On this side of the Atlantic, it is hoped that such connections can provide a bulwark for the US-UK “special relationship” in the Biden era.

Other key figures with Oxford links are:

  • The incoming CIA director Dr William J. Burns (St John’s, 1981).

  • New Homeland Security Advisor Dr Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (Balliol, 1981).

  • National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (Magdalen, 1998).

  • Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer (Balliol, 1999).

  • Dr Susan Rice (New College, 1996), the former National Security Advisor who will lead the Domestic Policy Council.

  • Dr Kurt M. Campbell (Brasenose, 1981) will be co-ordinator of Indo-Pacific affairs.

  • Bruce Reed (Lincoln, 1982) who will serve as White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

Dr Edward Brooks, who heads the Oxford Character Project on responsible leadership, said: “It is inspiring to see alumni who once took their places in Oxford’s seminar rooms and sports teams called into public leadership.

“It points to the importance of Oxford’s work to develop responsible leaders who are equipped to lead well in all sectors of society.”

All ten figures in Biden’s team benefited from the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. But research fellow Roger Revell stressed that their days in Oxford would have involved more than academic rigour.

“At a more fundamental level, it is bound up with the intellectual virtues the university has long sought to instil in its students: the capacity to think deeply and critically, to entertain alternative perspectives, and to undertake creative and generative research,” he explained.

Debating techniques would have been learned at the Oxford Union and other skills developed on the university’s sport fields.

REUTERS
REUTERS

Dr Rice, who wrote a prize-winning thesis on Zimbabwean politics, also rowed for New College and led the Oxford women’s Blues basketball team to victory over Cambridge.

“My experience as an athlete has shaped who I am in more ways than I can describe,” she recollected.

“It’s made me strong. It’s made me not fear competition or bruising here and there. But it’s also made me willing to take risks, willing to see the whole court.”

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