It is unfortunate that members of our class seek to politicize Class Day, putting a negative spin on what would otherwise be a purely festive and celebratory occasion (“Stand on Class Day — for peace” 5/24).
The Senior Class Officers, in conjunction with the Yale President’s Office and the Yale College Dean’s Office, did not invite Former Prime Minister Tony Blair because we agree with or condone every decision he has ever made. Instead, we believe that as one of the world’s most prominent statesmen and a superb orator, Mr. Blair could offer words of advice and wisdom that Yalies, en route to making hard decisions themselves, could take to heart.
Again, though our choice of speaker does not imply support of the Iraq War, we admire many of Mr. Blair’s achievements. Mr. Blair played a central role resolving bitter conflict in Northern Ireland in 1999. He is regarded as the most impassioned of the leaders who advocated NATO intervention in Kosovo. Without his efforts in both cases, untold lives might have been lost.
As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Blair introduced a minimum wage for the first time in the country’s history and worked to raise the status of labor unions. Today, as the envoy of the Quartet (the UN, EU, Russia and United States) to the Middle East, Mr. Blair spends much of his time trying to improve the economic situation in the West Bank.
Regardless of whether we in the Yale class of 2008 support these policies, Mr. Blair has much to offer us. Even as we may admire or condemn specific decisions, we can learn from his experience. As we graduate, we might do well to consider Mr. Blair’s closing words in his 2007 Foreign Affairs article: “None of this eliminates the setbacks, shortfalls, inconsistencies, and hypocrisies that come with practical decision-making in a harsh world. But it does mean that the best of the human spirit, which has pushed the progress of humanity along, is also the best hope for the world’s future.”
Yonah Freemark and Lea Krivchenia write that Class Day “is our chance to directly voice our disapproval of his involvement in the war and to hold him accountable for his actions.” While we strongly approve of their desire to express their political views and hold leaders accountable, we do not believe that this is an appropriate forum to do so.
Class Day is a time to reflect on our Yale experience and draw inspiration from the guest speaker. We hope that the members of the class of 2008 who seek change in global politics will do so after Class Day—in a venue where they will have an effect.
Sabrina Howell is the Senior Class Treasurer.