Mickey Edwards has built not one but a series of overlapping careers – a political leader, a reformer, a journalist, a teacher, an author, a public speaker, an activist, and a mentor to some of the nation’s most prominent public figures.
Edwards was a member of Congress for 16 years, rising from back-bencher to one of his party’s top leadership positions, chairing his party’s policy committee, and serving as a ranking member of both the House Appropriations and Budget committees and the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.
As a Republican – and as a conservative when American conservatism was considerably different than it is today – he was one of the three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation and national chairman of both the American Conservative Union and Washington’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference. He directed joint House-Senate task forces advising Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, served on a congressional steering committee advising George H. W. Bush’s presidential campaign, and was a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush’s first presidential campaign. While still a Republican Edwards is now highly critical of both political parties and a leader of a national reform movement to (as the subtitle of his 2013 book announces) “turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans”.
When he left Congress, he was invited to teach a course on Congress at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; the contract was for just three semesters. When he left eleven years later, he had taught courses on Congress, elections, conservatism, social movements, and public leadership, had been a guest lecturer at Harvard Law School, had been granted a named lectureship and been honored by Kennedy School students as the top professor in the school. When his friend and Harvard colleague Anne-Marie Slaughter was named dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Edwards joined the Princeton faculty. Later, after returning to Washington as a vice president of the Aspen Institute, he continued to teach occasional courses on Congress and foreign policy, first at George Washington University and then at Georgetown, the University of Maryland Law School, and American University. After years in politics and government, teaching was in his blood and he continued to teach whenever possible.
Mickey Edwards is a politician, a lawyer, and a teacher; by training and inclination, however, he is a journalist. In Oklahoma, where he grew up and went to college, he received a degree in journalism and became a newspaper reporter and editor. As a member of Congress he continued to write, with articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers and public affairs journals. While teaching at Harvard he became a regular weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Herald (later switching to the Boston Globe) and broadcast a weekly political commentary on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”. His articles have appeared in a host of publications as widely varied as Daedalus, The Atlantic, The Nation, Proceedings (the journal of the U.S. Naval Academy) and Playboy (he did not pose).
He also writes books, four so far, plus another he co-wrote, and chapters in a number of others. His two most recent books are “Reclaiming Conservatism: How a Great American Political Movement Lost Its Way and How It Can Find Its Way Back”, published in 2008 by Oxford University Press, and “The Parties Versus The People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans”, published in 2012 by Yale University Press. Both books created predictable stirs and his arguments were magnified by the subsequent broadcast appearances, on television shows as widely varied in content and style as Charlie Rose, PBS News Hour, Bill Moyers, Bill O’Reilly (Moyers and O’Reilly: covers the waterfront pretty well), and a variety of appearances on the range of networks, from CNN to MSNBC and Al-Jazeera, and , on radio, such big-audience programs as FreshAir, Diane Rehm, Radio Times, Marketplace, and local talk shows from New York to Los Angeles. He delivered a widely viewed TedX talk, debated on Intelligence Squared (with David Brooks as his debate partner), and debated former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander on an MSNBC special broadcast. Edwards has also written books or book chapters about the role of religion in the public square (“Religion as a Public Good”, chapter); battles between Congress and the President (“Rivals for Power”, chapter); the citizen’s role in public affairs (“Winning the Influence Game”, co-author); conservative philosophy (“Behind Enemy Lines” and “Hazardous to Your Health”), and assessments of the current political environment (“Obama and America’s Political Future”, chapter).
Edwards’ speaking engagements have taken him all across America, again before a wide variety of civic, business, and professional audiences including the League of Women Voters’ annual convention, the Association of Opinion Journalists (editorial writers and columnists), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Center for the American West, the American Bar Association (a featured speaker at national meetings in New York and Jackson Hole, Wyoming), the Goldwater Institute, the Clinton Library, the Arizona Town Hall on Civic Leadership, the Morrison Institute, the National Association of Corporate Directors, the National Constitution Center, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Global Green USA, Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (a very small sample) and major universities including (again, a small sample) Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Texas, Tulane, Fordham, Penn, Bates (Muskie Lecture), Notre Dame (Hesburgh Lecture), Michigan State, Wisconsin, Marquette, NYU, Texas Tech, Central Florida, Oklahoma, University of Memphis Law School, LSU (Manship Lecture), University of Chicago Law School, Furman, Nebraska, Brigham Young, and many others.
Edwards was a member of the American Society for International Law’s select task force on the International Criminal Court and the American Bar Association’s special committee to investigate presidential signing statements. He has chaired task forces on the war power (with former White House counsel Lloyd Cutler) and on the constitutional amendment process (with former White House Counsel and federal judge Abner Mikva). He has also chaired a joint Council on Foreign Relations-Brookings Institution task force on foreign assistance programs and a Council on Foreign Relations task force on congressional reform.
Mickey Edwards is currently a vice president of the Aspen Institute where he directs a highly selective leadership program for elected officials. Graduates of Edwards’ program include DNC Chair and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, members of the U.S. House and Senate (Gabby Giffords was the first graduate of the program to be elected to Congress), six who have been elected governors of their states, and the mayors of such cities as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Cincinnati, Albuquerque, etc., as well as state legislative leaders and a host of high-ranking statewide elected officials. The purpose of the program is to promote civility in public discussion and reduce partisanship in public office.
In 2014, Edwards was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mickey is married to Dr. Elizabeth Sherman, an award-winning professor of government at American University and former director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
Boards & Memberships (partial list)
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow
Project on Government Oversight, Board Member
The Constitution Project, Board Member
U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Advisory Council Member
National Institute for Civil Discourse, National Advisory Board Member
Environic Foundation International, Board Member
Council on Foreign Relations, Member
No Labels, Founding Member
Intelligence Squared, Council Member