Representing opposite sides of political spectrum, 2 SM East grads make appearance on Meet the Press on same day

Ramesh Ponnuru was one of two SM East alumni to appear on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday.
Ramesh Ponnuru was one of two SM East alumni to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.

The green room for NBC’s “Meet the Press” hosts some of the most well-respected political thinkers and policy makers in the country each week. And on Sunday, it also served as the location for a very small SM East reunion.

By coincidence, SM East graduates Ramesh Ponnuru, class of 1991, and Thomas Frank, class of 1983, were both scheduled to field questions from host Chuck Todd on Sunday’s show — albeit representing opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Ponnuru attended Briarwood Elementary and skipped eighth grade at Mission Valley before graduating from SM East at 16. He went on to Princeton University and then launched a career in political science that led him to his current positions as senior editor of the conservative National Review and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Frank attended the University of Virginia after high school, and went on get a PhD from the University of Chicago. He gained national prominence as a cultural critic with the publication of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” a critical exploration of the rise of conservative Republicans in his home state.

On Sunday, Frank served as the foil to Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist, arguing that the tax-cutting agenda of Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration hasn’t produced the economic growth Brownback promised. Frank noted that the tax cuts have threatened public school budgets.

“Public schools are a particularly big deal in Kansas. Because first of all their very proud of their schools — I went to their public schools, as someone else did here,” he said glancing over his shoulder at Ponnuru.

Ponnuru sat on this week’s panel of pundits, talking about the effectiveness of trying to distance oneself from a unpopular sitting president when seeking reelection.

Check out Frank’s segment here and Ponnuru’s segment here.

Ponnuru said after the show Sunday that he had heard Frank also attended SM East, and mentioned it to him in the green room.

“[We] talked a little about how much we loved Larry Brown, the debate teacher we both had,” Ponnuru said of their encounter.

Ponnuru and his family now live in D.C., and he says he doesn’t get back to KC as often as he’d like, but that the family always goes to Winstead’s when they’re back. For more on Frank (including his personal vendetta against the Plaza Christmas lights) see our interview from 2012 here.