Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 12, 2003
POLITICS: Good Enough For the People of Massachusetts, But . . .

You know, sometimes I think I could make a living on this site just keeping an eye on the doings at my alma maters, Holy Cross and Harvard. This controversy, in which students at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard are protesting the selection of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as commencement speaker, is just rich with idiocy:

[A]bout 100 of the school's 500 graduating students, and another 20 who are not graduating in June, signed a petition criticizing the choice because, they say, the governor is more businessman than public servant, lacks international stature, and has displayed a ''profound lack of courage'' in office.

So Romney "lacks international stature." Since when is running the freaking Olympics not "international"? Maybe they should've invited the US ambassador to Canada (Paul Cellucci)? That's an international job.

The students' letter to the dean recommended several other speakers, Republicans among them, who they said ''exemplify personal sacrifice and service to the public,'' including Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator and former New Jersey governor; Senator John McCain, Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The sense of entitlement here is staggering. I mean, I know the K-School is a big deal, but isn't it possible that some of these people were, you know, busy? My college graduation, we had an obscure bureaucrat from the National Institute of Health. My Harvard Law School graduation, the university speaker was a different obscure bureaucrat from the National Institute of Health. At the Law School's separate graduation ceremony we had Ted Turner, who was drunk, off his meds or both (he started rambling about how "we should never have split the atom. Those are dangerous little buggers.") The Governor's coming to speak at your school. That's not bad.

[A]t a school where a growing number of graduates go into public service, they said, the speaker should have a clear commitment to the public sector.
''The school is trying to train a certain kind of leader ... and I feel this is someone who doesn't represent the values they're trying to instill,'' said Stephen Rabin, a first-year student from Marblehead who helped organize the petition. ''I felt he was chosen for one reason only - his title - and that's disappointing,'' he said.

* * *

''It might be more reasonable in a few years, when [Romney] has a record in office, but it's not the right time now,'' said Rabin.

The Kennedy School, founded to train students for careers in government service, has struggled in the past decade to balance the lure of the private sector with its public mission, as a significant number of graduates have used their Kennedy degrees to land high-paying jobs in business. School officials have sought to reverse the trend, and earlier this year, Harvard became the first university in the nation to establish a schoolwide fund to encourage more graduates to take lower-paying jobs in public service.

Ric Arthur, a third-year student from California who plans to go to work for a nonprofit film production company after graduation, said the selection of Romney feels out of step with the priorities of the school.

''With most students heading toward a life in public service, people question whether a career businessman and new politician has the experience to speak to our concerns,'' he said.

Now, the crux of the matter: Romney was a career businessman! The Shame! These people obviously aren't old enough to remember Romney's Senate campaign. But what scares me is the idea that it is positively bad to be a businessman. I mean, government service is a noble calling, but it really frightens me to hand governmental power to people who think that people who work in the private sector are to be looked down on, which is the attitude that comes through here. (Of course, it might occur to more thoughtful observers that Romney went into private business precisely to make some accomplishments of his own before running for office, since his dad had been Governor of Michigan and at one point was seen as the front-runner in a presidential primary campaign.)

The Kennedy school should be training people who understand that the private sector is ultimately the iceberg in our society, and government is the tip. Sounds like some people aren't getting the message.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:48 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

You take what you can get in the commencement speaker department.

In college, our graduating class was subjected to the less-than-electrifying French Ambassador to the U.S., Francois Bujon De L'Estang. The previous year's class had Bill Cosby and the next year's class got former president George H.W. Bush. So I too have limited sympathy for these people...

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at May 12, 2003 12:32 PM

The amusing thing, to me, is that Romney would make a great speaker, and would be more than qualified, even if he wasn't governor. He turned around Bain Consulting, founded Bain Capital, an incredibly successful private equity firm, and ran the Olympics, which was a success (in more ways than one, in this post-9/11 world). The failure of the students to recognize the value of these insights shows contempt for the private sector.

Although I suspect most of the students are not MA voters, I'm wondering if they voted for Shannon O'Brien, the state politician from Chicopee, MA, in the recent election.

Posted by: Kiner's Korner at May 12, 2003 5:30 PM

Nice blog, just wanted to say I found you through Google

Posted by: Jonathan at November 4, 2004 10:34 PM
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