Honor cheapened


We have heard from former presidents of Costa Rica and South Africa. We have heard from award-winning directors and screenwriters. We have heard from congressmen.

Today, we get to hear from one of the most influential men in the world.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is coming to DePauw for the Ubben Lecture Series as the first American head of state to visit campus. Today is a monumental day for the university.

Clinton is currently on tour for his book "Back to Work," which was released on Nov. 8. While here, he will speak for about 35 minutes on common humanity, then answer questions for approximately 20 minutes.

As excited as we are about his visit, the details show the name is bigger than the event.

He will only answer pre-screened questions. And, he will depart from Greencastle immediately following his speech. Today, Clinton will swoop in and out of Greencastle, escorted by an entourage of U.S. Secret Service.

An opportunity for students and community to engange with a U.S. president is lost.

Think back to Yo-Yo Ma's visit: He surprised us in the Hub, performed for an audience of 20 at Asbury Towers retirement community, conducted multiple masterclasses and informal speeches and gave us a moving concert. The chance to directly learn from his expertise and hear him play commanded our attention by beautiful force.

Unfortunately with Clinton, that engagement in the university is completely absent. The lack of true interaction in no way reflects negatively on the Ubbens efforts and those of other generous DePauw alumni — their contributions are beyond appreciated.

We understand time is a concern and inappropriate questions could be asked, but the lack of interaction almost seems cheap.

What if a student thinks of a question during the lecture, perhaps spawning from Clinton's speech or in response to another question? There we are, face to face with a former President unable to do anything but listen.

Perhaps Vernon Jordan '57, a personal friend of Clinton who is introducing him, could have screened questions in real time, allowing students to ask questions in real time.It seems as though this screening process deterred a usually politcally-engaged student body. As of 1 a.m. Thursday morning only 34 were submitted.

With all this aside, the fact that DePauw is lucky enough to host a former U.S. President is a great feat. It may not be the learning opportunity it could have been and we may not get all the answers we want, but it is what it is — a once in a lifetime event.