Judge, Stand by Your Alma Mater
The last thing I ever thought I would do in my life, deeply imbued as I am with Lux et Veritas and "Bulldog, Bulldog, Bow, Wow Wow," would be to come to the defense of Princeton University, Old Nassau, that den of swells festooned in tacky pumpkin-colored sweaters. When I trod the gridiron for Mother Yale, circa 1970, the toothless Tigers were still enamoured of the single wing, a football formation that the rest of civilization had abandoned in the 1940s.
My self-inflicted task won’t be easy, and I may have to skip my 35th reunion, but here goes. As you may have heard, our nation’s fourth oldest university — right behind, as always, my alma mater — has come under a cloud during the Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito, Princeton class of 1972. Yes, sad to report, this venerable institution has been formally and thoroughly “dissed” by one of its own.
This may be all you need to know about Princeton and Saundra Day O’Connor’s replacement, but I digress. Is Judge Alito being fair, as so many have asked in so many other contexts? He alleges that his fellow orange-attired undergraduates were infantile, irresponsible and interested primarily in frivolous extra curricular activities such as extreme drinking.
Tsk, tsk. I submit it could have been worse. He might have wound up at Yale, with young Blue George W. Bush in the top bunk. After all, rumors have swirled for years that our president may well have been the inspiration for John “Bluto” Blutarsky,” the party-hardy character played by John Belushi in “Animal House.”
To his credit, the young and ambitious Mr. Alito did upgrade his educational experience by attending the Yale Law School after four apparently traumatic years in New Jersey. This Blue epiphany may explain the antipathy toward his Orange period. Let the record show that the judge has never railed disparagingly about his sojourn in New Haven.
The question remains whether Judge Alito has made a solid case against Princeton, the educational icon that has given our nation James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, Bruce Wayne and Doogie Howser, M.D. (By the by, Mr. Houser was 10 years old when he matriculated and fit right in socially with his peers)?
Methinks not. One can’t help but wonder if Judge Alito hasn’t simply jumped on the Ivy League-bashing bandwagon for the sake of advancing his career, much as President Bush has done by distancing himself from his elite alma mater – particularly the Lux et Veritas part.
And what, you may ask, is Princeton’s official obscure Latin motto? Why verily, it is enough to make a conservative’s heart soar like a bald eagle: Dei Sub Numine Vignet or roughly “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” Golly, it makes the Eli chestnut seem so pithy and suspiciously secular by comparison.
Let’s move on to the Tigers’ “informal motto,” according to the university’s web site. If truth be told, this boilerplate should have been written in Latin and never translated: “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of all Nations.” Perhaps this is what set young Alito off during his bright orange college years. Which exactly, in order of preference, are all those nations that Princeton is serving besides the good old U.S. of A.? Suspicious minds like mine would like to know.
Perhaps we can settle this internecine Ivy tiff by trotting out another dreary Latin motto: Stare Decisis or “Stand by that which has been decided.” Judge, you decided to go to Princeton, upheld that precedent for four consecutive years and undoubtedly leaned at least a little, both in and outside the classroom. As concerned alumnus of Yale, I urge you to get over it, embrace your orange roots — and pony up your class dues.