To the Editor:
We are the coordinators of Yale’s fall 2007 September 11th memorial service.
We selected Professor Donald Kagan as a former dean of Yale College, someone who was trusted for three years to be the voice of the undergraduate population. To be entirely frank and without disrespect to Professor Kagan, we first invited the most logical speakers: President Levin, Dean Salovey, and Vice President Linda Lorimer. All of them had scheduling conflicts. All expressed their gratitude and support for planning the event.
Late this summer, we invited both the Yale College Democrats and the Yale College Republicans to cosponsor this event, contingent upon mutual cosponsorship. Both groups were aware of our keynote speaker from the outset. The Yale College Democrats later felt uncomfortable and decided against sponsoring. Due to the nature of the occasion, for only one of the two groups to cosponsor would upset the strictly neutral spirit of the event. Consequently, we politely informed the Yale College Republicans that we felt it was improper to continue to seek their sponsorship.
Like all university speakers, Donald Kagan speaks for Donald Kagan. We do not know other than in general terms what he will say. We hope that he will speak to the value of remembrance, and we know he will speak with respect for those who lost their lives and their families.
We have worked closely with the Chaplain’s Office and the Office of the President to respectfully honor those who died on September 11, 2001. In his absence, President Levin personally expressed the following: “You have put together a fine program, and I am pleased that Professor Kagan and Sharon Kugler will participate.” Similarly, Dean Salovey said, “I know this will be a fine event, and I thank you for organizing it.”
Our fear at this point is two-fold: first, that people will choose politics over remembrance and not attend the event based on the misconception that it is political. Second, we are concerned that those who do attend the event will not feel comfortable reflecting in what could become a political environment.
We are disappointed in the Yale College Republicans and the Yale College Democrats for politicizing this memorial service and we hope that the membership and leadership of these groups realize that there is a place for politics; memorial services, funerals, and similar events are no such places.
Luke Palder ’09 and Laura Marcus ’10
The writers are the coordinators of Yale’s September 11th memorial service.