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Eagleton Institute of Politics
Eagleton Institute of Politics

About Eagleton

Message from the Director

Ruth B. Mandel photo
Ruth B. Mandel
Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics
Board of Governors Professor of Politics
bio available here


Summer 2017

I am a naturalized American, granted citizenship as the daughter of refugees who narrowly escaped Hitler's Europe to spend the WWII years living as boarders with an elderly lady in a small English town 100 miles north of London, hiding in air raid shelters deep in the night as German bombers flew overhead, my father impressed into service in the British army. My parents emigrated to the United States after the war, when I was almost nine. Seven years later, when they pledged allegiance to become naturalized citizens, I was granted citizenship too.

Securing visas for entry into America meant getting past wait lists and quotas, locating US relatives they'd never met to vouch support so we would not be burdens on the state. But once here, they inched forward into factory employment, boarding room rentals, and eventually citizenship.   I benefitted from public education in elementary school, high school, and Brooklyn College (registration fee: eight dollars per semester). All that unfolded a long time ago. But the promise of America, the pathways to citizenship, the commitment of public support for an educated citizenry—I have spent decades taking for granted that these basic elements of our culture are rock solid.

By dint of coincidence and more than a little good fortune, I've spent a rich professional life as a member of the faculty and program builder at Rutgers University, a public institution of higher education that is the home of an institute of politics dedicated to the advancement of learning in the field of practical political affairs and government [so] that a knowledge of the meaning of democracy may be increased through the education of young women and men in democratic government.

Those words belong to Florence Peshine Eagleton, the woman after whom the Eagleton Institute of Politics was named in 1956. Under her good name and benefiting from her initial bequest, we have earned the reputation of a jewel in the Rutgers University crown. A small institute with a big reach, Eagleton has benefitted over the years from thinkers, doers, and academic entrepreneurs who have studied and taught lessons about the democracy we inherited and value, about the democratic institutions and practices we are tasked to understand. Together, we explore opportunities for making them better.

Our individual and collective heritage; the expectations; the obligations to history and to the Institute's namesake—everything has been more daunting to contemplate and more challenging to confront this past year. Nothing is clearer than the urgency to keep steadily focused on basic values and guiding principles. For me, it is imperative to recall that the day I sailed into New York harbor as a child passing alongside a gigantic statue holding high a welcoming torch, and the day I became a naturalized citizen—those sparkling yesterdays and this year's murky todays are entwined with one another. They are bound by a cord fabricated from the strongest, most resilient human materials—the sturdy threads of inspiration and obligation to pass forward the best democracy that can be envisioned and achieved.

In the pages of this year's report, you will glimpse who we are and what we've done this past year. Watch as we go forward. Hold us to promises inherited from the best lessons of the past. See them as beacons for the road ahead.  Hold us to another statement from Florence Eagleton's will: It is my settled conviction that the cultivation of civic responsibility and leadership among the American people in the field of practical political affairs is of vital and increasing importance to our state and nation…I make this gift especially for the development of and education for responsible leadership in civic and governmental affairs and the solution of their political problems.

Could we hope for wiser guidance at this moment?

Ruth B. Mandel
Ruth B. Mandel