Why Hagel Is So Well-Informed

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Joshua Roberts / BLOOMBERG NEWS

Hagel, evidently not reading Time, at a Senate hearing.

Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to be the next secretary of defense, may be making news today…but he’s been reading national and international news since he was a kid.

Hagel’s parents were intensely interested in history and politics, and that sparked their children’s interest, too. Chuck, the eldest, started subscribing to Time when he was in junior high. “My favorite was Hugh Sidey’s column on the presidency,” he said in 2004. And one of the best perks about being a U.S. Senator was the chance to meet Mr. Sidey, who passed away in 2005.

But Hagel wouldn’t have talked about that in the late 1950s. Afraid it would mess up his image as a sports-loving Nebraska kid, Hagel didn’t tell his friends he subscribed to the magazine. Of course, everyone found out after his little brothers spilled the beans — and the teasing began.

But the subscription continued.

Charlyne Berens, professor and associate dean at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the author of Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward, published in 2006 by the University of Nebraska Press.