Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Daniel Kugler ’16

history

Hometown: East Aurora, New York

Who I was when I got to Reed: At my high school I was class president and on the board of trustees. I made the decision at Reed to pay as close attention to my academics as I possibly could. I held high expectations of the rigor required and considered work—in whatever form—the thing to do.

Favorite class: Urban Economics with Prof. Jon Rork [economics 2010–] revealed a new way of seeing everything from the houses and people I passed on a walk, to whole neighborhoods and towns I drove through. It made me question key factors that shape our society, and how those factors could become levers for improvement. The classes in the economics department have been my favorite because they totally rearrange how you see the world.

Influential book: In addition to being a masterful biography of LBJ, Robert’ Caro’s The Path to Power is a quarry of strategic thought, a source of laughter and awe. It was the inspiration for my thesis.

A concept that blew my mind: As a subject, history allows you to study almost anything. People say that you study history so that you can learn the mistakes of the past to avoid them in the present. But it’s tricky to draw lessons from history. I study it to know what happened and to be grounded in what I’m talking about. Studying history enables you to form arguments much better than almost anything else.

Outside the classroom: I did internships with New York Senator Chuck Schumer and a state assemblyman from New York. Discovered the joy of opera through a Gray Fund trip to see Don Giovanni. Took an opera class with Prof. Virginia Hancock [music 1991-]. Learned to play squash. Spent a weekend pretending to be the North Korean delegation to the United Nations, scurrying through Vollum and brokering backroom deals with other student-states.

How Reed changed me: Reed taught me to consider extremes, but ensure a balanced debate. It showed me that winning an argument isn’t everything.

Word to prospies: Take little techniques and experiences from each class. My freshman year I was not a huge fan of chemistry, but I came to realize I really enjoyed the lab experience, which was almost meditative. Even now that experience helps me concentrate for six hours at a time, be precise, and be organized.

Thesis: Staffing the Nation: Congressional Secretaries and the Professionalization of American Politics, 1893-1946

What it’s about: There were zero congressional assistants in 1893. By the midcentury there were 2,500, and more than 13,000 people work as congressional assistants today. These secretaries to U.S. congressmen drafted national legislation, wrote speeches, and foretold vote counts—all without raising journalists’ eyebrows or entering the public light. They professionalized our national politics.

What it’s really about: The unelected and unacknowledged power in American politics.

What’s next: I’m going to law school at NYU and eventually would like to do something with public policy, politics, advocacy.

 

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