In the annals of last-minute flip flops, this one may go down as Yale’s most brazenly populist. It began with an e-mail, issued from somewhere inside the chambers of Woodbridge Hall: William Jefferson Clinton, “the comeback kid,” the wayward president, the patron saint of Generation X, would entertain a crowd of 2,695. This despite the fact that more than 7,000 fists were banging on the door of Woolsey Hall for his Oct. 6 speech.
The tercentennial, it seemed, was hurtling toward another seating fiasco. A ticket lottery. Hordes of angry students. Days of loud griping.
Then came the best news in a month consisting of little but bad news: Linda Lorimer, vice president and secretary of the University, had called the former president’s staff. The staff had called the former Yale Law School wunderkind. The wunderkind, in a grave, populist voice, announced that, yes, he would speak outdoors on Cross Campus Saturday, security and the weather be damned. He would build a bridge to Yale’s fourth century, leaving no Yale student behind.
It was, of course, the right decision. Once a populist, always a populist.