Why I flew a kite on graduation day

To the Editor:

I skipped commencement. In fact, I skipped getting my own doctorate.

But I took pride in hearing the graduating students present jeered President George W. Bush ’68. I had predicted as much in the Yale Daily News (“Alma mater should not congratulate Bush,” 2/5).

Frankly, an academic and political gulf separates Bush from his alma mater. We Yalies, as a bunch, are bright and capable — and, as such, unlikely to embrace rewarding a mediocre student and unabashed anti-intellectual. Politically, as Lewis Lapham so eloquently perceived, Yalies vote “with the party of things-as-they-might-become.” Thus, by definition, we reject an untested politician appointed president by a majority of one. Bush was perversely deluded if he supposed he would be warmly embraced at commencement.

What troubles me most are the apparent actions of Yale President Richard Levin. The News reported on Jan. 31 that Bush called Levin on his first day in office. Soon thereafter, Levin and his wife were guests at the White House.

In the Clinton era you had to buy your way into the Lincoln Bedroom. In the Bush eraÊ– which is to say the era of a small, unconfident president — the flow of corruption has apparently reversed. Now we have Bush wooing Levin in search of a degree he could never have earned. Levin’s eagerness to appease represents a shocking lapse of judgment and integrity.

I had naively fancied that the pseudo-aristocratic Yale of and for the wealthy fat cats was a distant memory, long since replaced by a meritocratic institution. The decision to award an alum who got to be a student at Yale because daddy was — who for that matter got to be president because daddy was — mocks all of us who made it to and through Yale by being academically exceptional.

On commencement day I flew a kite, which, I’m sure, was a more meaningful way to mark the occasion.

Christopher P. Swanson

ART ’01

August 31, 2001

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