Stanford alum and Congressman-elect Ted Lieu reflects on his Stanford career
By Michael Gioia
Stanford alum Ted Lieu ’91 is the congressman-elect from California’s 33rd district. Prior to his election to Congress, Lieu served in the California State Senate and State Assembly. Lieu also served in the United States Air Force, where he received the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal.
The Daily spoke with Lieu following his election to hear his reflections on his career and years at Stanford.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): First off, what did you study while you were at Stanford?
Ted Lieu (TL): Computer science and political science – I got a degree in both.
TSD: At the time, did you know that you wanted to go into a career in politics?
TL: I knew I wanted to be in a position where I could affect change, whether that was in politics or as a lawyer or another capacity, I wasn’t exactly sure. But I did want to be in a position where I could affect change.
TSD: How did your time at Stanford help you in becoming a public servant?
TL: I think [being with] the incredible student body was a tremendous and eye-opening experience for me. I had grown up in Ohio, where it wasn’t the most diverse schools that I went to. So just to see the amazing people and talent and awesome student body at Stanford inspired me to want to go do my little part to try to change the world for the better. I also had some very outstanding professors and just some very interesting courses. That was terrific, and it made it an experience to have been an undergraduate at Stanford.
TSD: On that note, are there specific professors or other mentors that you are grateful for?
TL: I liked my political science classes quite a bit. One of my professors was Condoleezza Rice, who taught the class “The World of Military Politics.” Even though I don’t agree with Professor Rice on a lot of issues, I thought the class she taught was outstanding, and it made me think a lot about how the military functions in our democratic society, and how it interacts with the different segments of society.
TSD: Are there other special memories that you have from your time on the Farm that many years later still stand out to you?
TL: Yeah! One of my best memories was being a weekly columnist for The Stanford Daily.
TSD: That is great to hear!
TL: I loved doing that. And, in fact, for a while in college, what I really wanted to do was be an opinions columnist. I remember getting an op-ed published in The Washington Post in 1999, one of the best days of my life up until then, and then I realized six months later that it was never going to happen again. So I ended up going to pursue politics.
TSD: What would be your advice to those who are considering going into public service, especially as we hear a great deal about dysfunction in Congress?
TL: I believe that our government and Congress is still a force for good. We clearly are facing some challenging times right now, but Congressman Waxman, the person that I am succeeding, is a living legend, and he passed numerous pieces of legislation that have saved the lives of millions of people, and have improved the quality of life for millions of others. It took him a long time to do that. The Clean Air Act Amendment, that took him 15 years to pass. The Ryan White CARE Act took him nine years to pass. But the end of nine and 15 years he had done so much work and had gathered so much evidence that both of those got bipartisan support. So if you are persistent and you keep fighting, eventually you will prevail. And it is still a remarkable institution.
TSD: For those here who are uncertain about what they will do in their future, do you have thoughts as to how they should use their four years at Stanford?
TL: Yes; they should take the classes that interest them. And this is not just for their four years at Stanford, but as far I can tell, you only live once. And if you don’t pursue the dreams you want to pursue, in what other lifetime are you going to do that?