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Monday, September 17, 2012

Opening Exercises 



I used to get a chuckle out of letters from disgruntled older alumni published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly several decades ago, whether it was over the advent of co-education, lack of mandatory chapel, or some other change in a university tradition.  Now that I am approaching my mid-50s, I find that I have at least a nit to pick with President Tilghman, and part of her speech during Opening Exercises on September 9.

As summarized in the News at Princeton from the Tiger E-News that hit my inbox today, under the headline "At Opening Exercises, Tilghman asks new students to 'occupy' Princeton," President Shirley Tilghman cited the Occupy movement in an effort to get students to think beyond themselves:  
Finally, Tilghman turned to the Occupy movement that began last September in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in New York City. Just as the protesters drew attention to the gap between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent in income, Tilghman suggested that there is a similar gap in opportunity. She asked the new students to recognize that now, in joining the Princeton community, they are becoming part of the 1 percent in terms of future opportunity, irrespective of their backgrounds. In acknowledging that such a privilege carries broad responsibilities, Tilghman urged them to conduct themselves with the protesters' spirit and to embrace the University's informal motto of "Princeton in the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations."
Let's set aside that a number of Wall Street people currently serve as Trustees at Princeton, and that obviously Princeton fund raising targets the 1% who can provide the large gifts necessary for success of programs such as Aspire over the last five years, so there is a degree of intellectual inconsistency in President Tilghman casting Occupy in any positive light.  I am greatly in favor of including a "with great power/privilege comes great responsibility" section in a speech to students, and I understand that such a lesson should go beyond the concept of noblesse oblige that might have been taught several generations ago.  I would simply expect President Tilghman to draw on an inspiration other than the Occupy movement, given all of the negative activities associated with the Occupiers (yes, the link goes to the righty National Review, but the links within that compendium are largely non-partisan news stories).

If I was giving a speech at West Point, and wanted to stress the importance of discipline and order within the military, I would not say, "I urge you to draw on the spirit of the SS and prepare yourself to follow orders which you may not fully understand."  That is, I would not be like the character John Gill in the Star Trek TV episode "Patterns of Force" and draw any positive lessons from any part of Nazi Germany (his dying words, "It was the most efficient system of government ever devised").

I don't think that the vast majority of Occupiers should be compared with Nazis or other criminals -- most Occupiers are probably nice, non-violent people who are deeply troubled by income inequality occurring in a constitutional republic, or the inequality of outcomes in general.  I just think that using either Luke 12:48 (in an ecumenical sense) or the first Spider-Man movie would be a cleaner way of delivering the same message that President Tilghman was trying to send.  Let's leave the Occupy movement out of it.



9 Comments:

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Sep 17, 09:39:00 PM:

Agreed. Occupy hit my home town with the first riots in anyone's memory. As riots go, it wasn't earth shattering, but there are still stores with plywood covered windows.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Mon Sep 17, 10:06:00 PM:

So, she should perhaps call out Michelle Obama by name, then, as a 1%-er Princeton grad  

By Blogger MTF, at Tue Sep 18, 11:53:00 AM:

Her words were entirely within the long Princeton tradition of the "politics of meaning".

 

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Sep 18, 12:18:00 PM:

"The market knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing." Hillary Rodham Clinton 1993

I’ve always been amused at how so many wannabe Robin Hoods wind up sucking up to elements within the 1% of the 1%.

Those in the revolutionary vanguard rarely come from the working class. It's a cultivated mindset.
 

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 18, 03:56:00 PM:

Ben Bernanke. Paul Krugman. I can think of few institutions which have done more damage to the Republic than the Princeton Department of Economics, and by extension Princeton University, save perhaps the law schools at Harvard and Yale.

Godspeed and gasoline, occupiers.  

By Blogger Paul Zrimsek, at Thu Sep 20, 08:06:00 AM:

"As a member of the 1%, I pledge to conduct myself in the protestors' spirit-- by agreeing that the nation is divided into two classes and standing up for the interests of my own class, preferably at the expense of the other."  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Thu Sep 20, 10:31:00 PM:

It's nice to see you back here, Escort 81.

TH should return more often, too. He should pick up the banner of freedom once again and carry it forward in the latest fight to preserve freedom of expression.

Best,

DEC  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Fri Sep 21, 02:59:00 AM:

Imagine a Republican running for re-election with the worst unemployment since the Great Depression but the stock market near an all-time high.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Sep 21, 05:12:00 PM:

“Imagine a Republican running for re-election …” Let us pray.

A year ago I expected that today your average Joe Voter would be more pissed off about the economy than he is. He is pissed off, but it’s not at the same level as it was in 1980 when Reagan was challenging Carter. The economy was bad in 1980 in ways that gave immediate pain, especially the effects of high interest rates.

Today, Bernanke has put us on a steady morphine drip of low rates. The political class has kicked the Great Reckoning into 2013, at least. Too many voters think our New Sucky Normal can go on. But it can’t. Certainly not for another four years.

We say we want change, but collectively we don’t want too much too fast. Manana, manana.

This is a real challenge for Romney, and why he’s focused on trying to move a few percent of the independents to his side by avoiding seeming scary.

It’s hard to tell how Romney will manage in office, if elected.

If Romney doesn’t get elected then Obamacare doesn’t get repealed.

Let’s play Dead Pool: the two Reagan SCOTUS appointees are both 77, Bill Clinton’s are 80 and 75.

If re-elected, how does Obama negotiate with a Republican Congress to deal with the impending financial train wreck?  

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