Steele '10 is CSPC Presidential Fellow

Andy Steele '10
Andy Steele '10
Every four years, presidential candidates hurtle through the election process, aligning or distancing themselves from previous presidents. The role of the U.S. president is highly variable, depending on many conditions of the political atmosphere. The Presidential Fellows Program, sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC), encourages students to think more about this role, and this past year Andrew Steele ’10 was the first fellow from Hamilton.

The CSPC selects 75 students from universities all over the country to become fellows. There is no restriction on a student’s class year or major, although students with majors in political science, history and government have advantages with regard to analysis of the subject matter. “The work is so close to the way Hamilton’s History Department is run; there’s a lot of crossover,” Steele said. Applicants propose a topic for a 15-page paper with focuses on presidential history; “Domestic issues, foreign policy, the Founding Fathers to Bill Clinton—this is presidential history, so you can really play to your strengths,” Steele said.

When accepted, the fellows are assigned a mentor who is an expert in that particular field, then they submit their papers to the CSPC toward the end of the year. The Center publishes the 20 best papers out of the 75 submitted by the fellows. The Center also hosts conferences in the fall and spring in Washington, D.C., where fellows can meet one another and discuss their work.

Raised Catholic, Steele decided to write his paper on the history of the United States’ diplomacy with the Holy See, the diplomatic envoy of the Catholic Church. The U.S. only reestablished relations with the Holy See in 1984; why did it take so long and how did it happen, Steele wanted to know. His mentor for the project was Francis Rooney, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 to 2008. With Rooney’s help and support, Steele’s paper was selected to be one of the 20 published by the CSPC.

To Steele, the freedom granted to the fellows makes the Presidential Fellows Program a good fit for Hamilton students. “I feel that the character of Hamilton rubbed off on me,” Steele said. “The government department teaches more qualitatively than quantitatively.” Although some of the fellows’ projects were statistical analyses, Steele describes his paper as more of a “think piece.” He wanted to tell a story interesting enough to anyone who would pick up a book about the presidency, a type of paper that he relates to his Hamilton education; “There’s a character to each of these colleges, and the student embodies that,” he said.

After his success as a fellow, Steele was offered a job as a chief researcher at the Center, helping Rooney compile his book about Pope Benedict XVI and diplomacy. “With the new pope who was elected in 2005, I was trying to raise some questions about the legacy. There’s a fascinating amount of primary sources coming out of Rome about the evolution of the Catholic Church,” Steele explained. And despite tensions with the United States’ separation of church and state, the Holy See can no longer be ignored as a diplomatic entity.

“My conclusion [in my paper] was that the U.S. presidency is an interesting institution and can turn on a dime,” Steele said. “In that regard, an outlier like the Holy See is a great opportunity to look past religion. It doesn’t make any sense for us not to work with advocates of peace and justice. This partnership furthers global resolve for religious freedom. There’s going to be tension between the White House and the Vatican,” Steele said, “ but that can still be productive.”

Steele is a graduate of Lancaster High School in Lancaster, N.Y.

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