Alex Okrent ’05, Paid Media and Polling Regional Director for the Obama campaign, passed away on July 13 after collapsing in campaign headquarters at the age of 29. His death was a great loss to his family, his colleagues on the campaign team, and to the Wesleyan community. According to the Chicago Tribune, the autopsy came back inconclusive for cause of death.
President Obama posted a tweet in honor of Okrent, writing, “A beloved member of our campaign family, Alex Okrent, passed away today. Our prayers are with his loved ones. We will miss you, Alex.”
Other Obama staff members also tweeted, expressing their respect and admiration for the hard-working Okrent.
David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign adviser, tweeted that Okrent was a “beloved member of our team. It’s been a very emotional day.” Jeremy Bird, Obama’s National Field Director, tweeted “We will miss you, Alex. You left a beautiful legacy. We will never forget your spirit or your passion. Rest in peace, brother.”
Governor Mitt Romney also tweeted his condolences earlier that day.
“Ann & I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alex Okrent,” he wrote. “Prayers are with Alex’s loved ones and the entire Obama campaign team.”
Unfortunately, neither Okrent’s death nor subsequent tributes escaped the political fray of this election season; online comments derided Okrent’s passing as politicking and accused Republicans of being insincere in their condolences.
Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Okrent arrived at Wesleyan in the fall of 2001, already highly engaged and involved in politics. He was accepted into the College of Social Studies, and is still remembered by his professors for his energy and love of progressive politics.
Professor of Government Nancy Schwartz, who taught Okrent and advised his thesis, wrote the following in an email to faculty in the Government Department:
“Alex loved justice; it formed the aesthetic of his life. He had strong political views and he chose to work for a decade in the midst of a mainstream political party. I have the utmost respect for him and am deeply grieved at his death. He is part of the beloved community.”
In the fall of 2004, Okrent took a leave of absence from the University to campaign for Obama in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. When he returned, he wrote his honors thesis titled, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?: Security and Morality in the South African Jewish Community” in one semester.
Okrent will be remembered for his activist spirit and will be greatly missed.