The 35th reunion of the Class of 1970 reignited some old political divisions as some alumni circulated a petition opposing the nomination of their classmate John Bolton ’70 LAW ’74 to the position of United States’ ambassador to the United Nations.
The letter, which was signed by 76 reunion participants, criticized Bolton’s reported efforts to tamper with intelligence and to block US participation in international agreements on arms control. Bolton, who did not attend the reunion, was nominated to the post by President George W. Bush ’68 in March but awaits approval by the Senate.
“As his classmates, we do not believe that Mr. Bolton has exhibited the values of civility, ‘light and truth,’ which our shared institution represents,” the letter read. “We strongly urge the Senate’s rejection of this nomination.”
Michael Kane ’70 proposed the petition at a panel discussion on activism and the 1960s, where he said many of his classmates were receptive to his idea. Kane wrote and edited the letter after offering a draft to several classmates to evaluate.
“If [Bolton] had been there, I would have certainly confronted him directly,” Kane said. “I don’t think he shares the civilized values of our university or our country, for that matter.”
Jay Dunham ’70 said a reunion was not an appropriate forum in which to circulate a political petition.
“A reunion is a time to celebrate the common bonds that we as Yalies had,” Dunham said. “That was pretty divisive.”
Dunham, who described himself as a conservative Republican, said he would not have signed the petition in any case because he supports the Bolton nomination. But Dunham said he was in the minority of a fairly liberal class.
“The country as a whole might be split pretty evenly, but I don’t think that’s true of the Yale classes,” he said.
Although the petition was not circulated by organizers of a the reunion, an announcement was made at a dinner Saturday night informing alumni that it was available for signing. Dunham said Bolton’s nomination and the petition were topics of discussion at several of the workshops during the reunion weekend.
Charlie Pillsbury ’70 DIV ’90, who helped collect signatures Saturday night, said Bolton’s nomination was a reflection of larger problems with the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
“I think that the notion that you’d appoint a man who wants to dismantle the UN to be ambassador of the United States to this most revered of international institutions is simply appalling,” Pillsbury said. “To me it speaks of an agenda to actually undermine and destroy international cooperation so the United States can do whatever it wants in the world.”
During the reunion, Kane said he did not talk to any alumnus who said he was opposed to the petition because he supported Bolton’s nomination, although the spouse of one of Bolton’s college roommates approached him in a “hostile manner” to protest the petition. But Kane said some classmates said they would not sign the petition because they were afraid of retaliation by the Bush administration, which was reflected in the text of the petition.
“Even some of our classmates are reluctant to sign this letter because of fear of retaliation by the Administration,” the letter read. “That considerations of this kind are in the air on a matter of such import makes us tremble for our democracy.”
Kane said he hoped the petition would draw the attention of moderates in the Senate, which will probably vote on Bolton’s nomination in coming weeks. Members of the class of 1970 represent Bolton’s “peer group,” Kane said, and have had years to observe his political career.
“I was struck by the number of people who came up to me in the course of the reunion who had encountered Bolton professionally,” Kane said.