Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
KCC > Current Students > Academics > Graduation > Speaker


“The key to success is to say ‘Yes.’”
                                           - Ed Emerson

Ed-Emerson-D51_8293.jpgIn 1988, Emerson said yes to working for Illinois Sen. Paul Simon’s presidential nomination campaign.

That “yes” tipped off a long career—primarily behind the scenes. Highlights include working for 10 presidential campaigns, and being White House advance team associate director for President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Even today, Emerson enjoys working with youthful campaign volunteers, saying “They are fun and believe the democratic process works.”

Initially, Emerson didn’t have a plan. He was a delivery truck driver and enrolled in a summer history course at KCC. Regarding Professor James Paul and that course, Emerson says: “His teaching broadened my horizons. My view of the world was narrow, and his class provided an opportunity for me to expand my thinking beyond anything I thought possible.

“It was an exciting time to be at KCC, and the political science professors made it interesting,” he said. “Nixon resigned, the Vietnam War ended, and every class had component of justice, of civil rights, of some action that could be taken.

“As a student at KCC, I was connected to the faculty, the student body, the counseling staff ... we would sit in the cafeteria, play the jukebox, and talk about changing the world. We formed (a) group of 10-12 critical thinkers who found an arc toward something better in our lives, and we found it at KCC.”

Emerson earned a KCC Associate in Arts degree in 1978 and transferred to Illinois State University. He also spent more than three years working as KCC’s supervisor of veteran’s affairs before moving to California. He also has a master’s degree from San Francisco State University.

As part of KCC’s 50th Anniversary celebration last year, Emerson was named as one of the college’s “Fab 50” graduates.