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. At each step, he has risen to prominence and won increasing positions of authority and responsibility as a thought leader and spokesman for a wide variety of public causes. In 2013, he was elected to membership in the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Edwards was a member of Congress for 16 years, rising from backbencher to party leader and chair of his party’s policy committee while also becoming a leading member of both the House Appropriations and Budget committees and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.
As a Republican—and as a conservative when 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 a group of joint House-Senate task forces advising Ronald Reagan’s 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 “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. When he left 11 years later, he had taught courses on Congress, elections, conservatism and social movements, had been a guest lecturer at the 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 courses at night on Congress and foreign policy, first at George Washington University and then at Georgetown. After years in politics and government, teaching was in his blood and he continued to teach whenever possible.
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, The Washington Post, The 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, including 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 Got Lost—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 like Charlie Rose, PBS NewsHour, Bill Moyers, Bill O’Reilly and a variety of appearances on networks ranging from CNN to MSNBC and Al Jazeera, and on radio programs such as Fresh Air, Diane Rehm, Radio Times and 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 before a wide variety of civic, business and professional audiences, including the League of Women Voters’ annual convention, the Association of Opinion Journalists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Center of the American West, the American Bar Association, 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, and major universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Texas, Tulane, Fordham, Penn, Bates (Muskie Lecture), Notre Dame (Hesburgh Lecture), Michigan State, 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 is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, The Constitution Project (emeritus board member), Project on Government Oversight (board member), Environic Foundation International (board member), a founding member of No Labels, and a member of advisory boards for a number of organizations, including the National Institute for Civil Discourse, Convergence, Intelligence Squared, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. He was a member of the American Society of 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.
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 current Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, members of the U.S. House and Senate (Gabby Giffords was the first graduate of the program to be elected to Congress), three who have been elected governors of their states, and the mayors of such cities as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Denver, Cincinnati, 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.
Edwards 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.
- Creating A Responsible Foreign Policy
- The Absent Congress
- Educating Citizens to be Citizens
- Does the Constitution Still Matter? Americans and the Surveillance State
- Fixing America’s Broken Political System