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Boston Globe: Harvard Classmates Remember Steve Bannon’s Intellect and Leadership

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The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser profiles Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon’s time as a student at Harvard Business School. Though Bannon — who grew up in a working class Irish Catholic family in Richmond, Virginia, working at a junk yard during his summer breaks — was not from an Ivy League pedigree, he earned a coveted spot in the prestigious school after serving in the U.S. Navy and earning undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at Virginia Tech and Georgetown University. Bannon’s Harvard classmates remember him as a gregarious and intellectually gifted leader with a knack for cutting to the heart of an issue.

From the Boston Globe:

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From the very first day, Steve Bannon made an impression.

In a Harvard Business School classroom of about 90 people in 1983, he took a seat in the “skydeck” — a spot at the top giving him a view of the entire class. The marketing professor pointed up at Bannon, calling on him — without warning — and asking that he present the case study they were supposed to have read before coming to class.

“He was quite gutsy and pretty much blew the class away with an incredible performance,” said Cornelia Tilney, one of the classmates. “I remember thinking after watching him, ‘I am definitely flunking this class if this is where the bar is set!’ ”

Interviews with more than two dozen of his former classmates illustrate that many view [Bannon] as a brilliant thinker, even if they don’t always agree with his politics.

He was gregarious. He was preppy, often dressed in a favorite yellow sweater. As one classmate put it, “He didn’t strike me as out of the mainstream.” Minorities in the class said he didn’t make them feel uncomfortable. A Jewish classmate said he never heard him say anything anti-Semitic.

“I don’t think there’s a racist bone in his body,” said Thomas Meredith, who sat with Bannon in the skydeck.

“In my view, Steve was certainly top three in intellectual horsepower in our class — perhaps the smartest,” [classmate David] Allen said. “But he combined horsepower with logical, well-structured arguments. Whenever Steve spoke, my advice was to ‘listen for understanding.’ That is what I am doing today.”

“Steve’s comments in class were peppered with political history references and quotes — everybody thought he would make money for a while and then run for the US Senate,” [classmate Paolo] Pellegrini said.

The class wasn’t exactly diverse, and only about one-fifth of his section was women. But few recognize the harsh portrait they read of Bannon now.

“As a woman, minority [Asian], an immigrant, and as onetime supporter of Hillary Clinton, I believe I can be objective in my assessment of Steve Bannon,” Thai Lee said in an e-mail. “The Steve I knew in 1980’s was a very smart, studious, and polite young man. I have never heard Steve speak ill of women, minorities, or others.”

Read the rest here.


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