Carville Returns for Round Two with Jesuit Civics Students

Posted January 26, 2017 / Last updated January 28, 2017

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James Carville speaks to a captive Blue Jay audience.

Best-selling author and renowned political strategist James Carville visited Jesuit on Tuesday, Jan. 24, for his second annual “Lunch with James” session with civics students.

All of the students had recently viewed The War Room, the Academy Award nominated documentary about the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign, a film in which Carville, then Clinton’s campaign manager, “starred,” together with deputy campaign director George Stephanopoulas.

“I’ve been showing The War Room in conjunction with the civics unit on campaigns and elections for almost 20 years now, dating back to my days at Mount Carmel Academy,” says Jesuit civics teacher Jay Combe ’83. “With some good prep on the front end, it never gets dated.”

Of course, the local angle helps keep student interest. Carville spends the entire movie, it seems, alternating between his purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras rugby shirt and an LSU t-shirt.

“I also make sure that the boys, many of whom might not be in agreement with Carville’s politics, are nonetheless aware of what a champion James and his wife have been for New Orleans, especially post-Katrina.”

Carville and his wife, former republican strategist turned libertarian Mary Matalin, were named co-New Orleanians of the Year by Gambit Weekly in 2012.

The “Lunch with James” concept hatched after Combe had a chance encounter with Carville at Katie’s Restaurant.

“It was a classic ‘only in New Orleans’ moment,” said Combe. “I’m at Katie’s with my wife and some out-of-town friends showing them a real local restaurant, and Carville walks in, sits at the bar and orders a bowl of gumbo.

“Almost simultaneously I run into a former student of mine from Mount Carmel (Marcelle Beaulieau, now an aide to state representative Walt Leger ’92). Beaulieau, as chance would have it, briefly taught with Carville at Tulane. She introduced us and I immediately hit him up for a visit. He was gracious enough to accept the invitation. The rest is history. Hopefully, we can keep this tradition going.

“I’m really gratified by the turnout,” Combe continued. “This isn’t mandatory for any of my students, nor is there any extra credit involved. These are just kids who want to be here, who want to challenge themselves.”