STERN: Hillary for president

A Stern Perspective

I was an unlikely supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election. She was neither the voice of change nor the inspirational candidate. Instead, she was the manifestation of the establishment. I was way further to the political left than Hillary, and there was a slightly more liberal alternative in the race.

Why didn’t I initially support then-Senator Barack Obama? Because I thought Hillary would get things done. It was not hard to foresee protracted partisan challenges and political gridlock ahead, and I believed the prediction that Obama would be unable or unwilling to handle the blood-sport of modern politics.

Now I’m four years older and four years wiser. I’m proud to say that I’m still supporting Hillary for president. Only this time, it’s not President of the United States; I want Hillary to be the next president of Yale.

First of all, there is a long and rich history of politicians leading universities. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president of Columbia University for five years; Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels just accepted the presidency of Purdue University. And who could forget that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was the president of the University of Louisiana system at age 28 (doesn’t that make you feel inadequate?).

Whether Obama wins re-election or not, Hillary has indicated that she will not remain Secretary of State after January 2013. When the 2016 election arrives, Hillary will be nearly 70 years old — perhaps a little too old to run for president in our shallow YouTube political climate. In other words, she’s not going to have anything else to do. So why not come run Yale?

Hillary is a legitimate candidate, not just an amusing fantasy. She was mentioned by former University of Connecticut and George Washington University President George Trachtenberg in the New Haven Register as a “world class candidate … of the caliber and the standing of the kinds of candidates Yale will seek to attract.” She has also been mentioned as a candidate repeatedly on the Huffington Post and many political blogs.

More importantly, Hillary is the best candidate for the job. She’s a Yalie — it was here at the law school where she met Bill. It is often forgotten that Hillary was an influential figure in her own right even before becoming First Lady. She wrote widely cited articles and was twice named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America before Bill became a player on the national stage.

As First Lady, Hillary undertook an unprecedented political role, advocating vociferously (and unsuccessfully) for healthcare reform, and fighting for children’s rights. Later, she was elected to the United States Senate, where she became known as a bridge-builder and problem-solver. After mounting her trailblazing campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2008, she now serves as a surprisingly popular and down-to-earth secretary of state. Her vision and organizational skills are legendary.

Yale should snag her before anyone else does. A brilliant mind with Yale connections and the savvy to run a complex institution, Hillary could make an outstanding president. She would bring a unique perspective to help tackle many of the issues Yale is bound to face in the near future: the costs of undergraduate education, the availability of online courses, the status of Yale-NUS, the standing of athletics and Greek life on campus, the role of government in higher education.

Perhaps just as significant, Hillary would represent Yale’s willingness to move forward into a changing world. Unlike peer institutions Harvard and Princeton, Yale has never had a president who lacked a Y-chromosome (some may point to Hanna Gray, who served for just over a year in the late 1970s, but she was only acting president). After a federal investigation into the handling of claims of sexual harassment filed by Yale students, and the deservedly well-publicized incidents of sexist comments by DKE, Yale needs to show the world how willing it is to fight sexism, as well as its insidious cousin — stereotypical gender roles. Hillary might be just the president to lead that battle.

The search for Yale’s next president should not be a politicized decision (unlike so many other aspects of Hillary’s life). It should be a choice that inspires us. Yale should choose a bold leader, a new voice for change: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Scott Stern is a sophomore in Branford College. Contact him at scott.stern@yale.edu.

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