The former campaign adviser for President Barack Obama said he chose the University of Chicago because the school has become a hotbed of political discourse — a dramatic change from when he was a student there four decades ago.
"When I came here 40 years ago, there wasn't a great receptivity to contemporary politics — or anything after 1800," he joked.
Since then, the university has become the stage for broad-ranging conversations about politics from both alumni of the university and others, including a visit from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in February.
"Madeleine Albright sat in that room and talked to about 25 young women from the University of Chicago,” Axelrod said of the opportunities a permanent home at 5707 S. Woodlawn Ave. gives the institute.
His nonpartisan political institute is active already. It hosted a series of lectures last year on the 2012 election, but Monday marks the first day it will have an official home.
“This house, which the university-renovated, is going to be the fulcrum of so much activity,” Axelrod said.
The event looked more like a taping of “Meet the Press” than a ribbon-cutting. William Kristol, founder of the conservative Weekly Standard, Republican strategist Mike Murphy and other institute advisory board members joined Axelrod and university President Robert Zimmer on the porch under star-spangled banners for the dedication ceremony.
Axelrod’s neighbor’s home is not quite complete yet. Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will set up offices for his new institute soon at 5711 S. Woodlawn Ave. The Paulson Institute is also nonpartisan and focuses on economic and environmental issues, particularly in China.
“Hank and I have had lunch, and I’m on good terms with him,” Axelrod said of the last Republican appointee to the Treasury Department before Obama was inaugurated in 2009.
The next Institute of Politics discussion is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at International House, 1414 E. 59th St. Kristol and Murphy will be joined by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Mitt Romney adviser Beth Myers and National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnoru for a talk about the future of the Republican Party. The event will be moderated by Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.”