Student Runs for Congress in West Michigan

February 25, 2010
by Lindsay Hodges Anderson

Even while he completes his Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) coursework in Cambridge, Bob Overbeek MC/MPA 2010 is already facing his newest challenge back in his home state. Overbeek – 31 years old, husband, father of four, former teacher, war veteran and current mid-career student – is running for the Republican nomination in Michigan’s 3rd congressional district. He is one of at least two GOP candidates seeking the seat of Rep. Vernon Ehlers, who is retiring after nine terms.

Inspired to launch his campaign by several members of the Kennedy School faculty – particularly David King and Steve Jarding – Overbeek said he is specifically eager to tackle the challenges posed by the influence of “big money” in Washington.

“They said, ‘here’s the facts about big money and politics – you don’t like it, do something about it’,” said Overbeek. “I see ‘big money’ in politics as counter to good governance.”

Jarding, who is a public policy lecturer at HKS, said he encourages students to make a difference in government.

“My classes try to instill in students the urgency of political leadership around the world,” said Jarding. “Governments today are full of politicians and you get what you pay for - literally. Leaders know that public service is not about those who serve but about those who would be served. My students get one shot at life, one shot to leave the world a better place than they found it. I expect them to lead and anything short of that would be a disappointment for me, and more importantly, for them.”

Overbeek – born and raised in west Michigan – said his Harvard Kennedy School education has helped prepare him for his race.

“My time at the Kennedy School has helped me think about and face some of the most fundamental problems,” he said. “I view my time here as preparation for what lies ahead. This perspective helps carry me through each day.”

The Michigan primary will be held on August 3 with the general election scheduled for November 2.

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Bob Overbeek

Bob Overbeek MC/MPA 2010 takes part in a November 2009 mock presidential debate as part of Steve Jarding's class. Photo credit, Martha Stewart.