Elise Stefanik grew up in a working-class family in upstate New York, where her father and mother ran a small plywood distribution business. After getting accepted to Harvard, she became not only the first Ivy Leaguer in her family but also the first to graduate from college.
“I’ll never forget what my dad told me the summer before my freshman year,” she tells me. “He said, ‘Elise, I can’t tell you what to expect or what’s going to happen because I never had this experience. I know you will do well and we will be proud of you. All I ask is that you remember where you came from.’ ”
He was right: His daughter would make him proud. Two days before she graduated from Harvard in 2006, she received a job offer from the George W. Bush White House (where I was a colleague). Afterward she helped on various Republican campaigns before returning home for a stint with the family business.
Then, in 2014, she ran for Congress—and won—in New York’s 21st, a mostly rural, upstate district between Albany and Canada. At the time she was 30, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
But now she’s not good enough for Harvard.