I am deeply saddened and dismayed by the choice of Sen. Hillary Clinton as Class Day speaker. To speak at any Yale commencement is, of course, an honor; but there is something symbolic about 2001 for Yale, for it represents three centuries of achievement and tradition, which is more than most American institutions can boast, including the United States of America itself.
I have given some thought over the past four years to the qualities any Class Day speaker should embody, but especially one who would speak at so momentous an occasion. The speaker’s job is not to bloviate about national politics, make the audience laugh uncontrollably or even talk about his or her own experiences per se. The chief duty of a speaker is to impart wisdom to hundreds of eager and ambitious soon-to-be graduates.
By her words and deeds, the speaker should inspire us to use what we have learned these four years for the benefit of our families, our communities and our nation. Wisdom encompasses the personal and the political, the public and the private. The wise person who has commerce with the world (as opposed to the hermit) personifies the personal virtues of compassion and sincerity, as well as the public virtues of integrity and fairness.
It is not a coincidence that wisdom is so often associated with age, for it is a quality that emerges over time, the result of many years of experience, and even more crucially, profound and honest reflection upon those experiences.
In choosing my ideal Class Day speaker, I surveyed the contemporary American political landscape, going through lists of Republicans and Democrats I respected and who best embodied this quality. I also turned my gaze to the world and came up with two people who, in my estimation, had the requisite leadership qualities accompanied by wisdom and diversity of experience: Nelson Mandela, who was my first choice, and Margaret Thatcher.
And so it was that, when I picked up the Yale Daily News yesterday, I received quite a shock. My Class Day speaker — who has the great honor of speaking at Yale’s tercentennial exercises — is a rapacious and power-hungry figure, whose shady money deals both in Arkansas and in her own senate campaign have cast a long shadow of corruption over Washington, D.C.
Clinton, whose intelligence and savvy I would never question, is a disgrace to women, for she has allowed herself to be repeatedly humiliated and wounded by a man who, despite his better qualities, has treated her with less respect than his dog Buddy. No self-respecting woman, especially one with her heightened sensibilities to gender, could stand by so callous and cruel a man as our former president merely for the sake of aggrandizing her own power and influence.
My criticism has nothing to do with Clinton’s association with democratic or liberal causes, although I am certain that most people will choose to ignore this fact in their responses to my comments here. I would be very pleased to have Daniel Patrick Moynihan or Jimmy Carter — two people with impressive records of public service and the personal qualities of which I wrote above — speak at Class Day.
What I seek in this year’s speaker is a leader who exhibits a respect, not a thirst, for power; who embodies magnanimity and not pettiness; and whose humility tempers her ideological zeal to bring the millions of Americans whom she considers “benighted” out of their ignorance.
Sarah A. Maserati is a senior in Berkeley College.