Alumnus and Texas Senate Candidate Tom Leppert Comes Home

Board of Trustees member Tom Leppert ’77, a current candidate for the United States Senate in Texas and former mayor of Dallas, returned to Claremont McKenna College this past Saturday, October 22, to participate as the keynote speaker for the "Forum for the Future" Athenaeum luncheon. An Economics major and former president of the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College, Leppert went on to attend Harvard Business School for his MBA before serving as a White House fellow in the Reagan Administration. He later pursued a successful career in corporate management and became CEO of Turner Corporation, the largest commercial builder in the United States. When asked to explain his decision to run for Senate, Leppert jokingly responded with, “Because I’ve lost all sanity.” All jokes aside, his desire to make a difference at the national level and his dedication to his campaign were made very clear.

"I'm not a lawyer or a career politician, I'm a businessman,” asserted Leppert. “Honestly, I am skeptical and cynical of politicians in Washington. They only made careers for themselves.” Leppert believes his strong experience as a businessman sets him apart from the rest. During his long and illustrious career, Leppert has run five different businesses with operations on five different continents. To learn more about Leppert and his campaign, you can visit his website here.

During the luncheon, Leppert mentioned the importance of commitment, public service, and taking risks. “People that succeed don’t work harder; they work much, much harder,” Leppert explained. He believes that success evolves from fundamental work ethics. In fact, he was audacious enough to state, “Average doesn’t count for much. Exceptional counts for everything.” He underscored his point with a Winston Churchill quote, stating “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”

Above all, he shared how his education at CMC has significantly shaped his worldview and provided him with many opportunities he would not have otherwise had. “If you look back in your life, you realize how important little events are,” Leppert said with great candor, leaving his audience of young alumni to contemplate their own personal experiences at CMC.

Following the luncheon, Leppert attended a student panel discussion with a group of current CMC undergraduates. The discussion was left open to any topic and each student was given the opportunity to ask Leppert their questions. One student asked the former mayor to name a person who he looks up to or admires. While he does seek to embody positive traits he sees in others, Leppert said he did not look up to anyone in particular and sees himself as a unique political candidate. “I am me,” said Leppert.

His advice to students who are considering running for office one day is to specialize in something specific. Whether that something is in business, law, or non-profits, it is important to provide a solid base of experience before running for office, advised Leppert. In addition, he encourages current CMC students to get as much experience as possible while they can. “Get a breadth of experience, work with people who you may not be interested in working with, get exposure to different subjects,” explained Leppert with a big smile on his face. “It will all pay back dividends.”