The Washington Post

Gingrich urges students to get part-time jobs — apparently unlike himself

Newt Gingrich thinks today’s youths have it way too easy. Then again, there was a day when some people thought that about young Newt himself.

The former House speaker has already generated some controversy — and praise — with his suggestion that poor kids have no work habits and his idea that they should be put to work in janitorial jobs.

In a speech to local Republicans on Saturday, he suggested that they are not the only ones who should learn the value of sweat.

Asked about the high cost of college, Gingrich said that today’s students are being coddled, with luxury dorms and lavish extras, such as lobster nights in their dining halls. And he praised institutions such as the University of the Ozarks that incorporate work into their financial aid programs.

“Students take fewer classes per semester. They take more years to get through. Why? Because they have free money,” Gingrich said. “I would tell students: ‘Get through as quick as you can. Borrow as little as you can. Have a part-time job.’ But that’s very different from the culture that has grown up in the last 20 years.”

Or maybe it is not so very different.

In a 1995 profile for Vanity Fair, author Gail Sheehy discovered that Gingrich financed his own education largely via the hard work of this then-wife. When things got tight, finding a job was not high on his to-do list. Sheehy wrote that Gingrich turned first to his adoptive father for help, and then to his biological one:

“Newt, who avoided Vietnam with student and marriage deferments, resisted taking a job. During his college years, Newt called up his father and stepmother to ask for financial help. His stepmother, Marcella McPherson, can still hear his exact words: ‘I do not want to go to work. I want all my time for my studies. . . . Bob Gingrich told me he will not help me one bit. So I wondered, would you people help me?’ Big Newt began sending him monthly checks.

“Dolores Adamson, Gingrich’s district administrator from 1978 to 1983, remembers, ‘Jackie put him all the way through school. All the way through the PhD. . . . He didn’t work.’ ”

The Gingrich campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

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