John Kerry, Lackluster Student

John Kerry, who was beaten by George W. Bush in last year’s presidential race, was also narrowly edged by the Texan as a student at Yale.

Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student (Boston Globe)

During last year’s presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences. But newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.

In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year. Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D’s in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

The grade transcript, which Kerry has always declined to release, was included in his Navy record. During the campaign the Globe sought Kerry’s naval records, but he refused to waive privacy restrictions for the full file. Late last month, Kerry gave the Navy permission to send the documents to the Globe. Kerry appeared to be responding to critics who suspected that there might be damaging information in the file about his activities in Vietnam. The military and medical records, however, appear identical to what Kerry has already released. This marks the first time Kerry’s grades have been publicly reported.

The transcript shows that Kerry’s freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class. [French was his best subject! -ed.]

Kerry explains away his poor grades by noting that he was heavily involved in extracurricular activities; of course, the same holds true for Bush. In reality, they’re both quite intelligent men who have gone on to distinguish themselves since their undergraduate days. Of the two, Kerry is clearly more articulate and Bush more socially adept. In any case, there’s not much we can glean from their college grades thirty-odd years later.

How they have chosen to deal with their mildly embarrassing transcripts is, however, interesting. Bush fully acknowledges that he goofed off and had a good time and makes jokes about the situation; Kerry apparently was willing to endure years of speculation about what might be in his military records in order to hide them. Once again, this goes to something we already knew: Bush has a keener sense of how ordinary people will react to things.

via Memeorandum

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Maggie says:

    All true, but Kerry speaks French!

  2. ICallMasICM says:

    And to think the MSM portrayed him as smarter than Wyle E. Coyote, supergenius.

  3. Just Me says:

    I think you are right. Bush while not brilliant, does have a good sense of people and how to relate to them, I think this helped him a lot during the election. Kerry just doesn’t seem to be much of a people person in action or understanding.

  4. daveZ says:

    Grades & intelligence are not the same thing. College is a game — jump through hoops, get degree, get job. My most valuable college experience was the social interaction.

    Besides, with Bushie’s family conections, there was no way he wasn’t graduating. When your grandfather was a senator and your dad is in congress, you get all the hook ups.

    Kerry’s family, while not poor, was more upper middle class. Dad was a higher level gov’t beareaucrat.