In Their Own Words: Neil Levesque

Meet Neil Levesque, the executive director of the NH Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, and let him tell you about his role in celebrating the 100th anniversary of our first-in-the-nation primary.

Neil Levesque is executive director of the NH Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Among other tasks, the institute facilitates national debates and maintains a trove of political memorabilia, including a 1960 JFK lectern and a framed letter penned by Daniel Webster. As New Hampshire celebrates the centennial of its unique presidential primary, Levesque is the appointed chairman for “NH at 100.”

With the addition of our television studio, we conduct more presidential campaign activity than any other location in the United States.

My mentor, the late Governor Hugh Gregg, helped me turn a passion into a profession.  

One of my favorites pieces in our collection is a champagne glass Reagan used to toast his victory in the 1980 Nashua debate. It was taken from the Manchester Holiday Inn.

The first New Hampshire primary was held March 14, 1916. It was not the first-in-the-nation at that point. The Indiana primary was one week earlier and the Minnesota primary was held the same day.

“New Hampshire at 100” needs to celebrate, but more importantly educate America about the great service New Hampshire performs in the selection process.

Candidates view our primary as important because they like to campaign with people and not just hold press conferences and run ads. They want to interact with our voters.

I can’t really explain my love of history and politics other than the pile of books next to my nightstand.

I haven’t read fiction in 25 years. There are too many good stories from our past.

Hard to pick a favorite object from a collection of thousands of bits of campaign memorabilia, but Levesque did single out this button. Dwight D. Eisenhower is seldom mentioned in the list of presidential greats in spite of his immense popularity at the time and many big accomplishments to his credit. The 1952 election where Ike clobbered Adlai Stevenson marked a watershed time for the NH Primary, establishing it as the First-in-the-Nation testing ground for candidates.

Photo assistance by Wendo Mendolini. Big thanks to Kevin Ward, special assistant at the Institute, for his patience and help.



Categories: Politics, Q&A