At 31, Stephen Miller has reached a political stature few have matched - he is drafting president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration speech, to be delivered Friday.
But the Santa Monica schoolmates of Trump’s top adviser were hardly surprised that the Jewish kid who insisted on standing and placing his hand on his heart during the pledge of allegiance, ended up alongside a politician like Trump.
The Los Angeles Times went back to Miller’s high school, where being an ultra conservative teenager in the otherwise liberal enclave taught him what it means to be an outsider.
Here are some of these school years intersections that may have shaped the views of Trump’s top adviser:
No one liked his politics — or him
Described as “the student body’s best-known and least-liked conservative activist,” Miller managed to get under the skin of many of his classmates and teachers. It wasn’t only for his tennis shorts and polo shirt attire, but rather Miller’s crusade against what he identified as a destructive culture of political correctness, long before his future boss would ever turn this argument into a political rallying call.
“This guy is 17 years old, and it’s like listening to someone who’s 70 years old — in the 1930s,” said Oscar de la Torre who was a counselor at Santa Monica High School.
No habla Espanol por favor
He took special issue with the school’s multicultural outreach, bemoaning the Spanish language announcements and the school festivals celebrating minorities’ food and culture. Miller wrote articles describing the Spanish announcements as “a crutch … preventing Spanish speakers from standing on their own” and took his case to the school board, where he showed up in a suit and tie arguing against special treatment for immigrants. Latino students heard Miller lecture them on how they would be better served improving their English than creating clubs based on ethnicity.
Gun rights got Miller hooked on right wing politics
Miller grew up in a Jewish Democratic house and turned to conservatism, and then extreme conservatism, almost by chance. He began reading Guns and Ammo magazine where he found interest in the writings of Wayne LaPierre, leader of the National Rifle Association.
“The conservative ideas were like nothing he had ever heard,” the article stated, and by the time the terror attacks of 9/11 hit, Miller was fully on the conservative side, writing an article for the school paper titled “A Time to Kill” which supported the Iraq war.
David Horowitz gave him his first chance at punditry
Miller’s first steps on the national stage came thanks to David Horowitz who published his article in Frontpage Magazine. The article, “How I changed my Left Wing High School” argued that “anti-Americanism had spread all over the school like a rash.” He later invited Horowitz to speak at his school, despite many of his classmates’ reservations.
High school politics were Miller’s toughest challenge
Surviving as a lone voice of conservatism in a predominantly liberal school left an imprint on Miller. “These challenges were some of the toughest I faced in life,” he told the L.A. Times. “When we think of nonconformity, we tend to imagine kids in the ’60s rebelling against ‘the system.’ This was my system. My establishment was a dogmatic educational system that often uniformly expressed a single point of view.”
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman