To the chagrin of many seniors, graduation is just around the corner. After spring break, we’ll have five weeks left of classes, and then it’s all over. Our time at Yale will come to a close, culminating in the Class Day ceremonies.
Class Day is one of Yale’s most convivial traditions, with whimsical hats, awards and student presentations celebrating the best of the class. On Class Days past, Yale has delivered some big-ticket speakers. Last year, for example, Vice President Joseph Biden delivered an extremely emotional and moving address that attracted national attention. The bar has been set very high; Class Day Chairs Katayon Ghassemi ’16 and Ben Ackerman ’16 find themselves in an unenviable position. Nevertheless, they can rise to the occasion: They can give the 2016 Class Day speakership to former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush.
No issue has dominated the news this past year quite like the presidential election. Voter turnout has soared to new heights; social media activity has been rampant. Over the past week, many national commentators (and columnists at the News) have been preoccupied with the results of Super Tuesday and the next moves for both Democrats and Republicans. The 2016 presidential election has captured our nation’s attention in a unique way, and we would be remiss to have a Class Day speaker unrelated to the spectacle. It would be like going to Idaho and not eating a potato.
And among this election’s many personalities, Jeb! is clearly the right choice for Yale.
Our school has a long-standing and deep relationship with the Bush family. The iconic picture of President “Poppy” Bush ’48 as the Yale baseball captain presenting a gift to Babe Ruth will live forever. Other anecdotes serve as humorous episodes in Yale’s history, such as when a young George W. Bush ’68 rolled on the floor doing the “alligator” dance move at DKE or made his first appearance in The New York Times to address that fraternity’s controversial practice of branding pledges. Jeb, of course, did not go to Yale; he stayed close to home attending the University of Texas. But he nevertheless has a special connection to our school because of the family history.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush famously said that “we’ve had enough Bushes.” However, the prospect of Jeb! as a Class Day speaker should prompt all of us to respectfully disagree. I know the Donald Trumps of the world will say Jeb! is too low energy and that his speech would be boring and a snoozer. But I think Jeb would rise to the occasion and give a terrific speech. He has many experiences to reference, such as serving as the governor of a dynamic state and selling guacamole bowls on the Internet.
On this note, even Trump concedes Jeb! has been moving in the right direction. After months of berating the former governor for being “sad,” “pathetic” and a “failed candidate,” he has since let up, claiming that Jeb! had simply run for president at the wrong time. He even tweeted that the former governor got rid of his glasses in order to “look cool,” and I’d have to say he succeeded. Jeb! has been looking much cooler recently, and I think this coolness would manifest itself in his Class Day speech.
Jeb! has been known to give gifts during his appearances. A child in New Hampshire recounted how the Florida governor gave him a “little tortoise” during a campaign stop: “He walked over to me and … said ‘slow and steady wins the race,’” and then offered up a toy turtle. Last year’s class might have gotten a great speech, but they didn’t get any turtles!
Collectively, these factors constitute a strong case for Jeb! as the Class Day speaker. Just picture it: The prospect of Governor Bush up on the stage with a turtle shell on his head, asking our class to “Please clap” is irresistible.
On a more serious note, the former governor has carried himself with dignity in difficult circumstances. Even though he is no longer in the race, he was one of the few candidates who has consistently acted his age, refusing to bow to the uncouth tactics of some other campaigns. Yale rightly emphasizes success, but it is also important for us to learn how to fail with grace.
I hope those responsible for Class Day will consider inviting Jeb Bush.
Michael Herbert is a senior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .