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Harvard Crimson Columnist Wins Job as Speech Writer

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For Andrei Cherny, it seemed just like another column, one in a regular series on American politics he had written for his college newspaper.

It analyzed President Clinton’s victory in November’s election, detailing how the nation’s leader had focused his campaign on “symbolic issues” like the television V-chip.

But because Cherny had written the piece for the Harvard Crimson, it traveled far--and got him a job.

A White House spokesman clipped it to pass around to the staff until it eventually ended up in Clinton’s hands. The president liked it so much he even used portions of it in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses.

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“I didn’t even recognize it,” Cherny recalled. “But then someone said, ‘Hey, remember that line? That’s from your piece!’ ”

Just months after the column’s publication but before his Harvard graduation earlier this month, Cherny was hired to write speeches, primarily for Vice President Al Gore. He is scheduled to start work Monday. At 21, the North Hollywood native is believed to be among the youngest White House speech writers in U.S. history.

Ginny Terzano, Gore’s press secretary, said the Clinton administration has always sought youth involvement.

“It’s possible that there have been speech writers around his age,” she said. “But he’s certainly one of the youngest ever . . . and it’s always wonderful to get fresh energy in the White House.”

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Over the weekend at his parents’ Valley Village home, the strait-laced North Hollywood High School graduate displayed keen awareness that thousands of recent college graduates still living at home or serving up side orders of fries would kill to get his access to power and prestige.

“It was a right-place, right-time situation,” he said with a shrug.

He also knows that his self-motivation and ability to voice political views are seen as rare qualities for a member of Generation X.

“For our generation, their image of government is a long line at the” Department of Motor Vehicles, he said. “But no, actually, people are interested in issues. They may not follow specifics on each candidate, but when election time comes, they know who’s in favor of what.”

Cherny said he plans to actively resist the lures of beltway politics and schmoozing among the elite. “I’m really a Valley boy at heart,” he said. “I made a promise to myself to come home after this. I see the White House [job] as a chance for me to get some experience and maybe help some people back here. But the real action is going on at a local level.”

Cherny’s family includes his 15-year-old brother; his mother, a psychotherapist; and his father, who runs the East European Film Office out of their home.

“We used to sit around the dinner table and talk [things] out,” he said, adding that his parents emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1972. “Especially from where they were coming from, they knew why it was so important to do that.”


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