Class Day co-chairs Addisu Demissie ’01 and Theodore DeWitt ’01 have been receiving congratulatory e-mails and pats on the back as they walked to class the past two days since news broke that the pair had secured New York senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 to address this year’s graduating seniors May 20, the day before Commencement.
But classmate Daniel Mindus ’01 — who is organizing a petition asking Yale to find a different speaker — said the entire Yale community, including Demissie, may be reading about the results of his campaign in national papers soon.
Mindus’ petition states that signers will boycott the speech if Clinton gives the address.
He said he hopes to garner enough student signatures to attract attention in the national press. Mindus said he hopes the Drudge Report and The New York Times will cover the results of his petition if a few hundred students support it.
Mindus and a team of volunteers will sit outside Commons and residential college dining halls today and tomorrow to attract signers. Although the Yale College Republicans are not spearheading the petition, Howard Clark ’01, former head of the group, is assisting the effort and sent out an e-mail Monday night to encourage other conservative students on campus to join.
Mindus said he hopes Yale will find a different speaker so the boycott will not be necessary.
But Demissie said such a change would likely not happen. Today, the University will confirm that Clinton will speak at Class Day, Demissie said.
“The probability is virtually zero that the speaker will be changed,” Demissie said. “We went into this knowing we couldn’t please everyone, but I feel like we have at least pleased the majority.”
Mindus argues in his petition that Clinton is more controversial than past years’ speakers, such as Bob Woodward ’65, David Gergen ’63 and Tom Brokaw.
“Everyone acknowledges that there is a substantial minority of Yale students very much opposed to Hillary Clinton,” Mindus said. “Given that, the University should have known that there would be some people who would not want to go.”
Mindus said he believes Clinton will divide the class, which would contradict the purpose of Class Day, a celebration that he says should unite graduating students.
But some students said last night that they are excited about hearing Clinton precisely because she is controversial.
“In many ways her experiences are more reflective of the world we are going to be going into,” Paulina Grossman ’01 said. “And whatever she is going to say is going to be more colorful because of her experiences.”
Grossman said some criticisms of Clinton have seemed like partisan complaints. As someone with Republican leanings, Grossman said she disagrees with many of Clinton’s beliefs, but she is still excited about hearing Clinton speak.
“I don’t think that you have to be a Democrat with Democratic views to enjoy her speech,” David Goldberg ’02 said. Goldberg, who called himself a moderate Democrat, said he may stay on campus for Clinton’s speech.
Mindus said while he has conservative leanings, he is not a registered Republican, and his petition is not partisan. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Republican, would be an equally bad selection because he, too, would be divisive, he said. Mindus said he is open to speakers of all parties so long as they do not divide the class or Class Day audience, which he pointed out includes parents that may not like Clinton.