Student Following Dream to Top

News Story:

Jason Guberman-Pfeffer, president of the class of 2009 at Sacred Heart University just turned 21, but can already envision someday running for mayor of his hometown.He believes he could do a better job right now than Mayor James R. Miron, the town's first mayor elected two years ago.

Guberman-Pfeffer was already working in local political campaigns by age 4, and two years ago designed the Website for Republican mayoral candidate Domenic Costello.

His grandmother, longtime political activist Sylvia Guberman, worked with President Bill Clinton on local campaigns 30 years ago when the former president was a student at Yale University Law School.

She has even loftier ambitions than mayor of Stratford for her oldest grandson.

"When Bill Clinton was 27 and sat in my kitchen, I told him he would someday be president and he just laughed and said I was crazy," Guberman said. "Now, I tell Jason he may become the first Jewish president because he has the intellectual capacity, the intelligence and compassion to appeal to a great number of people."

Guberman-Pfeffer isn't quite ready to think about that.

But the mild-mannered political science major can easily quote Cicero, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and he wants to become a public servant, "not just a typical politician.

"I don't accept you have to become cynical and corrupt to be elected and contribute at the political level," said the admittedly idealistic student. "I know many people start out feeling idealistic, but lose sight of their original goals along the way."

Guberman-Pfeffer said he's aware of those potential pitfalls, and the cynicism that infects many veteran politicians.

"You have to be an idealist without illusions. Cicero said you can't capitulate to wicked people, you can't let them tear society apart. You have to have good people willing to fight for these ideals when leaders just want to further their own interests and themselves. You have to be self-motivated, well-rounded and well rooted."

He jokes that he is inspired by Cicero, who lost his hands and head for defending his beliefs in the ideals of the Roman Republic "Hopefully I can achieve a great deal but without suffering the same fate," he says laughing.

Guberman-Pfeffer recalls the exuberance of his first political campaign as a 4-year old and admits being "completely fascinated" by politics, law and government ever since.

"That first campaign I stood in front of Nichols School handing out campaign literature for [former] longtime Councilman Ray Voccola," he recalls. "I didn't know much about what was going on, but I remember saying over and over to vote for Ray Vocolla." That's because Sylvia Guberman, along with Voccola was among the leaders of the former United Democrats of Stratford - a political action group established in the early 1990s after becoming fed up with the leadership of the Democratic Town Committee headed by the mayor's father Richard Miron, who is still the Democratic Registrar of Voters.

Now, with yet another political season starting to heat up during the summer he has dedicated to learning more about law, politics and public service in fellowships in Quebec City and Washington D.C., Guberman-Pfeffer appears ready to chart a career that could someday include elective office.

He was among 50 college students nationwide selected to take part this summer in a prestigious national fellowship program, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute based in Delaware, that held conferences, lectures and seminars earlier this month in Quebec City.

The ISI Honors Program, a highly selective law fellowship, is offered to only 50 undergraduate students each year.

The theme of this year's fellowship is "Law in the Western Tradition: Common, Constitutional, Natural, and Divine." While the one-week main conference ended several weeks ago, Guberman-Pfeffer is continuing the fellowship in an online weekend program with his faculty mentors and in regional conferences throughout the year. The fellowship culminates with ISI's National Leadership Conference next spring.

"I am gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the history, development and continued relevance of Western law to our society," said Guberman-Pfeffer, who will next travel to Washington, D.C., Thursday to take part in an international weekend fellowship program with an emphasis on achieving peace in the Mideast. " The best part about being involved in these programs is interacting with people who have similar thoughts and ideals," he said.

The weekend conference in Washington, D.C., is sponsored by Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance, a non-profit group that encourages Americans to "unite to demand guaranteed civil rights for all in the Mideast." The group is non-sectarian and appeals to all people of conscience, according to its literature.

HAMSA calls itself an "international civil rights initiative of the American Islamic Congress" that promotes interfaith tolerance and mobilizes American Muslims and others to stand for individual rights across the Muslim world.

"I think we have to create a new vision in the Middle East that includes tolerance and stresses that not all Arabs are terrorists, in fact most are not," Guberman-Pfeffer said.

Two political science professors at Sacred Heart University praise Guberman-Pfeffer as among the most promising students they have ever had.

"He is the best student I've seen during my 36-year career," said John F. Kikoski, professor of government and politics at SHU. "Jason is a gifted and mature young man who has an unusual grasp of everything for someone his age. He's intensely intellectual, loves ideas, but is also intensely social. He has a wonderful sense of humor and knows everyone at every level of the university. He is also quite a mean jazz pianist.

Gary Rose, professor and chair of government and politics at Sacred Heart University, determined two years ago Guberman-Pfeffer is destined to become mayor of Stratford after he wrote a 20-page paper on the town's change from a town manager to mayoral system of government, and insights of the campaign from within the Costello campaign.

"The exceptionally detailed treatment and analysis of the various components of this historic campaign/election are truly outstanding," Rose wrote of Guberman-Pfeffer's work. "Something tells me the day is drawing near when you will be a mayoral candidate in Stratford."

Author: RICHARD WEIZEL Rweizel@ctpost.com

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