“I had a wonderful Oklahoma childhood. My family imbued me with the frontier spirit. It is a can-do spirit…the frontier ethic that you can do anything – everything – always. This is what I heard, ‘Jeane, you can do that.’ I was always told doing something well is just a matter of trying harder.”
Oklahoma native Jeane Duane Jordan lived in Duncan until the age of twelve, when she moved with her family to Illinois. After graduating from Stephens College in Missouri and Barnard College, she earned her Master’s degree in 1950 from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from Columbia. She married Evron Kirkpatrick, former director of the Center for Hemispheric Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and worked for the state department as a research analyst with the office of intelligence. She served as assistant to the director of Economic Cooperation Administration (1953-1954) and worked as a research associate with the Human Resources Research Office of George Washington University. Between 1955 and 1972, she also served as a consultant to the American Council of Learned Societies and to the Department of Sate, Defense, Health, Education, and Welfare. She taught political science at Trinity College in Washington for five years and in 1967 was appointed associate professor of political science at Georgetown University. Upon completion of her dissertation she was appointed a full professor in 1973 and became Leavey Professor in the Foundation of American Freedom in 1978.
After reading Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” in Commentary, Ronald Reagan, a few months away from declaring for the Presidency, sent her a long fan letter and asked if they could meet. Ultimately, she joined Reagan’s presidential campaign. She coached him for the campaign debates and became a trusted foreign policy advisor, despite her lifelong membership in the Democratic Party. In 1980, President Reagan invited her to join his team as United Nations Ambassador, and upon her acceptance, she was the only woman in the 154-member U.N. She was also the first woman, and only Democrat, appointed to the Reagan Presidential Cabinet.
Kirkpatrick was born in Duncan, Oklahoma.