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Yale 62

Two Timely Questions

(Ed. Note. On Thursday, January 21, we sent the following email to a group of Y62s: “You’re one of 50 randomly selected Y62 classmates to whom we’re posing two questions about current national happenings. These questions are purposely designed to encourage a variety of different answers and opinions. Please reply to one or both, and write up to 100 words on each. We will post results at next Monday, in the order in which they’ve been received. The only requirement is that everyone be civil. There will be no editing, but please do not go longer than the requested 100 words per question or thereabouts.

1. What was your opinion of the long Inauguration Day?

2. What do you believe the chances are of the Biden Administration, in the first 100 days, starting to reverse the sharp polarization in the US, and beginning to restore the damaged reputation of the US around the world?

What follows below are the responses we received. If you wish to comment on any of these, or would like to add your own response, we’ve included a comments area at the bottom of this page. If you are replying to a comment which has been added by another classmate, please use the Reply link as shown in the graphic just below these lines, so your reference to another’s statement(s) is clear. If you are not referencing the comment of another classmate who has already commented at the bottom of this page, use the large ‘Comment’ rectangle to post your own remarks. Thanks.

1. I think the Democrats pulled off a good inauguration, especially under the prevailing circumstances. It was interesting and there was a friendly atmosphere. There were a lot of nice words. I wonder if some of the friendliness was contrived, though, due to the underlying hostility which may quickly return.

2. Yale goes with the prevailing winds. I was a member of the Navy ROTC at Yale and served as a Naval officer during the Vietnam War. Yale later did away with the NROTC program and then, when attitudes in the country later changed, Yale reinstated it. Now the winds are to the left but if they change, probably Yale will, too. In other words, Yale reflects the current prevailing attitudes among intellectuals.

I don’t think the polarization will stop any time soon, if ever.

In answer to the second part of this two part question, I live in Thailand, and America is generally still respected here. I think to say that America’s reputation is damaged may be true to a degree, but perhaps not as much as the person composing the question seems to think.

Don Kirkland

1. Inauguration Day felt almost too good to be true. Let’s hope it’s not. Joe Biden spoke humbly and very well in his own voice. Not good-old-Joe from Scranton, but a man who seems to know that he’s been a central figure in a now zombie establishment with a pretty awful 40-year record in justice at home and restraint abroad. Amanda Gorman stole the show and my heart: here was a sudden shocking revelation of what we love about our culture and our country: our kids and grandkids! Beautiful, eloquent, hopeful, accomplished, ambitious — our cue to get off stage as soon as possible.

2. My sense of where our misbegotten empire has been heading is pretty well contained in this broadcast / podcast with public philosopher Cornel West and Susannah Heschel, who extends the prophetic voice of her father, the late
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Our conversation goes up on the Web this evening and over the weekend from WBUR in Boston and public radio stations in the US… and it’s all here for a listeners all over the planet. Please do listen and feed back here:

Warm greetings all around the circle of rapt innocent classmates who heard President Kennedy on the Old Campus — seems like yesterday.

Chris Lydon

This question was designed to provoke a certain response, a leading question.

I have held elective and appointive office for 50 years, working for both parties. Biden, despite outward expressions of unity, has signaled his intention to exacerbate the current political divide. The political anomaly is that Biden’s election lacked coattails. Biden’s actions, not his speech, on Inaugural day inflamed Republicans. In my second term, I voted against leadership for a Democratic tax increase. I was never punished. Ever since 2006, working together is no longer possible. Independent thinking is discouraged. Lex pedia explains today’s climate. Shakespeare said:

“With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

Charles Valier

1. My reaction to the inauguration was more a list of feelings than any one opinion:

  • dread of violence and insurrection
  • sorrow over the harm that’s been done to us all from important people lying, getting away with lying, and avoiding accountability
  • respect for the people who showed up and stood up for our country
  • delight at the swearing-in of a well-qualified Vice President: an African-American, Asian-American, woman!
  • relief that Joe Biden, also well-qualified, is President
  • admiration for his optimistic, solid, eloquent, speech
  • alarm, hope, gratitude, for our democracy
  • pleasure at a celebration done right
  • thrills from fireworks

2. Biden underlined and underlined his determination to put polarization back in its cage, and called us to rally around four domestic emergencies — race, covid, climate, and recovery. I think these are the emergencies we face, and by naming them, I think he has given himself, and us, a chance. He will still have to hold accountable polarizers OK with violence. Some will resent that. Others will amplify and exploit that resentment for power and profit. He thinks internationalism is good for the country. He has a monumental job. Success will heavily depend on us — 100% of “enough of us.”

Sam Waterston

1. What was your opinion of the long Inauguration Day?

From Latin inaugurāre – “to take omens from the flight of birds, to consecrate or install after taking such omens.” Lady Gaga’s life-sized dove of peace, and her effortless performance of the Star-Spangled banner stand out for me. Funny how often birds turn up in our ideas of new beginnings. Maybe we should be paying more attention to the flight of birds. I liked seeing Eugene Goodman looking elegant in his camel-hair overcoat. So, I thought inauguration day was auspicious, and maybe things will get better – or maybe just quieter – or at least they won’t get any worse.

2. What do you believe the chances are of the Biden Administration, in the first 100 days, starting to reverse the sharp polarization in the US, and beginning to restore the damaged reputation of the US around the world?

Representative democracy is supposed to find ways to harmonize diverse interests by people deliberating about what is best to do, all things considered. Given that Americans can’t reach an understanding about the objective reality of a pandemic that’s killing a lot of people, I’m not optimistic about this happening any time in the foreseeable future, never mind in the next 100 days. I think there is a better chance of restoring international goodwill – Biden’s team has made a promising start in the first 100 hours – but even that is going to be a steep hill to climb.

Michael D. Bristol

1. Great day for the country. Amanda Gorman deserves all the praise she gets. The salutes to various groups in the evening hopefully helped us all focus on the work done by so many “behind the scenes.” I had not realized how much stress I had been under until Wednesday was concluded and I finally had a good night’s sleep. Overall a good start for the new administration.

2. There will always be 30% who will believe that the past president speaks for them and their perceived needs/wants. Given that, I believe that we are on the way to moving our messy Democracy ahead in terms of the ideals set forth by the founding fathers. Discussion, debate, transparency, all done by people who have in mind what they believe is in the best interest of all people, at home and abroad, will, to use words I used to hate, make America great again.

Pandemic, economy, justice, climate change, immigration, education, and all the things that fall under those headings, require hard work, and thoughtful informed decisions. If we can overcome the narrowness of “politics,” I believe the future is bright. We have never had total unity, even with the founders, but consensus can be had. Biden is off to a good start.

Thanks for letting me comment. Part of my perspective is formed by spending the last 12 winters in a foreign country, Guatemala.

Stay safe

Fair Winds,
Wyllys Terry

We welcome your comments below.

3 comments to Two Timely Questions

  • I believe we are on the road back from the Trump nightmare and that the new Administration will be good for the entire nation.


    With regard to Chris Lydon’s final comment: Many of us will recall that Kennedy, after receiving his honorary degree, had the graciousness and humor to say that now he had the best of both worlds — a Harvard education and a Yale degree. What has happened to graciousness and humor — not to mention style — in our presidency since?

    • Larry Price

      President Kennedy had a marvelous light touch which unfortunately has not been duplicated by the eleven presidents since. (Yeah, guys. Eleven. We are getting old.) There no longer appears to be a market for gracious wit. It is the nation’s loss.