The Christian Martyrdom Movement Ascends to the White House - 2020-06-05
Four months and several thousand news cycles ago, Harvard historian James Kloppenberg wrote in Commonweal about his former student Pete Buttigieg, then the rising star in the Democratic presidential primary field. A lifelong overachiever, the former South Bend mayor probably made writing "Reading Buttigieg" easy. At 38, he had already published a memoir, and two decades of academic papers, newspaper articles, and stump speeches were available to anyone interested in parsing his words to find out how he reached such heights so soon.
As a former teacher of undergraduates, I wondered as I read Kloppenberg's essay what it must be like for a professor to watch a student suddenly attain national renown. Friends who teach writing, as I once did, often relate the pride they feel seeing young women and men who sat in their classrooms launch careers as authors or journalists. This spring I had a different experience: A former student became the most prominent storyteller in America, and now the future of the country seems to hang on the meaning of the stories she might tell.
I haven't talked to Kayleigh McEnany since she was in my memoir-writing class at Georgetown a dozen years ago. My first thought upon hearing in April that she had become President Trump's new press secretary, shortly before her thirty-second birthday, was that it wasn't much of a surprise. When I knew her, she was an intern for the Bush White House and had already worked for Hannity & Colmes on Fox News. Noticeably more driven than many of her peers, she seemed bound for success at the intersection of media and politics.