By Simon Palmore '19
The presidential election of 2000 was monumental. After eight years of a scandal-prone Clinton administration, the election served as a marker of how the former Vice President could perform against a personable and charismatic Republican senator from Texas. Furthermore, it featured a Supreme Court case, a recount, and controversy that lasts even today. The Republican on the ticket was George W. Bush, and the Democrat was Al Gore. Bush was victorious and was president for the next eight years. As much as this election has been studied in the years since 2000, however, a little-known aspect of it is especially significant to the Cathedral Close. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), both Bush and Gore had connections to St. Albans.
Al Gore has always had a reputation as a geek. Many people from his past describe how he would delight in explaining certain technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to those who were less familiar (and quite possibly less interested). Gore enjoyed a peaceful, normal education at the St. Albans, where he likely developed this intellectual curiosity. A member of the Class of 1965, Gore played basketball. His yearbook entry reads: “Al is frighteningly good at many things. Perhaps it is more truthful to say he is excellent at almost everything he does (which in turn is a considerable amount). Varsity football, basketball and track standout. Liberal party Leader in Government class, scholar, artist extraordinary. Al has stood out in many fields of endeavor. Popular and well-respected, he would seem the epitome of the All-American Young Man.”
However, his son has quite a different reputation. Arrested for DUI, marijuana possession, reckless driving, and extreme speeding, Al Gore III is now an actor who appeared in “Accidental Love” in 2015. He got his start, however, at St. Albans. In the very same Lower School that we know today, at age 13, Gore III was caught smoking marijuana at a school dance. After the school suspended him, his Vice President father pulled him out of STA and enrolled him in Sidwell Friends School. Because he did not graduate, Gore III’s name does not appear on any wall in the refectory, nor is his picture displayed in any Marriott Hall classroom.
On the other ticket was George W. Bush. While Bush himself attended the prestigious Phillip's Academy in Andover, MA (along with his father President George H.W. Bush and brother Jeb), two of his siblings attended St. Albans. First was Neil Bush, the youngest in the family. Neil Bush entered St. Albans at age 11, and initially struggled due to his dyslexia and learning disability. However, he was able to work through these hindrances and graduate in 1973. It was due to her son’s difficulties with reading that First Lady Barbara Bush devoted so much time and energy to eliminating illiteracy from the U.S. An individual who attended St. Albans at the same time as Neil Bush describes him as a “tremendous point guard” on the basketball team, and emphasized Bush’s general athletic ability. The youngest Bush, Marvin, also attended St. Albans at one point, but graduated from Woodberry Forest in 1975.
Four years after he was elected President for the first time, George W. Bush would run for reelection against another former St. Albans student: John Kerry. Kerry attended the Lower School for a few years before his family moved and he transferred to St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH. Brit Hume ‘61 writes in Washingtonian Magazine that, during the controversial Army-McCarthy Hearings in the U.S. Senate, he witnessed Kerry in a fistfight with the son of the then-Secretary of the Army.
St. Albans has taught a number of notable young men since its founding in 1909, including NFL stars Odell Beckham Jr. and Jonathan Ogden, hotel tycoon J.W. Marriott Jr., Senator John Warner, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., and Jordanian Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein. However, it is rare for these former students to be so concentrated in one corner of history, and such a significant one at that.