As part of the White House’s ongoing effort to build support for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, a Harvard Law School assistant dean and graduates holding public interest jobs briefed the media Tuesday on Kagan’s expansion of public service opportunities when she was dean. But it was a former Harvard Federalist Society president, now a Republican political consultant, who captured most of the spotlight.
Sarah Isgur, a 2008 graduate of the law school, had high praise for Kagan’s assistance in “helping me get the Federalist Society to the level I felt was needed.” According to Isgur, Kagan encouraged the conservative student group to give an award that would bring conservative leaders to campus so students could interact with them and build relationships. She also helped the society bring speakers to campus.
Before Kagan became dean, Isgur said, “Harvard was not known as a place where conservatives flocked to law school. I tell people now the law school to go to for conservatives is Harvard. She proved partisanship is no barrier to changing an institution where there is good faith and mutual respect.”
But would the Texas GOP consultant vote to confirm Kagan for a seat on the Supreme Court if she were in the Senate?
With all the smoothness of a more veteran political operative, Isgur replied, “There might not be a single policy issue on which Dean Kagan and I agree. I don’t agree with her jurisprudential view. But she is qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, and the president has selected a qualified nominee.”
Alexa Shabecoff, who is Harvard Law’s assistant dean for public service, said Kagan created “a culture of support” for public service and backed up her words with increased funding for programs, such as a loan repayment program for students working in public service jobs and a summer public service program. Enrollment in those programs doubled because of her efforts, Shabecoff said.
And Lauren Lucas, a 2005 Harvard Law graduate, said she could not have been an intern and now a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights without the programs supported and enhanced by Kagan.
Public service, said Lucas, is “not just an alternative at Harvard or a niche. It was her particular accomplishment to transform Harvard into a place where public service is a core value of the community.”
The White House also recently sponsored a briefing with former White House officials who had worked with Kagan.