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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/28/2012

Bill Clinton named “Wonk of the Year” by American University

Thousands of American University students gathered in the basketball arena Friday night to present Bill Clinton with their inaugural “Wonk of the Year” award. While some might be offended by such a label, the 42nd president seemed amused.

“I love being wonky,” Clinton said. “Thank you very much.”

Since 2010, American has aggressively branded itself as a hotbed of wonks. The term “wonk” gained popularity during the Clinton administration and is now generally used to describe a well-versed insider who takes his or her passion for policy to an extremely nerdy level.
(Photo courtesy of American’s University Communications - Bill Clinton accepts his “Wonk of the Year” award from American President Cornelius M. Kerwin (left) and Alex Kreger (right), director of the student-run Kennedy Political Union. )

The campaign inspired student members of the Kennedy Political Union, which brings political speakers to campus, to create the award. Clinton was their first and only contestant, said Alex Kreger, director of the group.

”He is the first person who comes to mind when you say wonk,” said Kreger, 20, a sophomore history and political science major from Fort Collins, Colo. “He was the one that we wanted to go for.”

Not everyone is a fan of the wonk campaign. One student stood outside American’s Bender Arena on Friday night with signs that read: ”Occupy Wonk Street” and “Take back our branding!”

Clinton told the students that he’s not offended by the label and shared a conversation he once had with political consultant James Carville during a run for the presidency.

“He said, ‘You can’t be a wonk and a redneck. You’ve got to be a wonk or a redneck,’ ” Clinton said, as the crowd laughed. “I love, deeply, when people make fun of me for being wonky, because I figured people wanted a president who actually knew something.”

After accepting the award, Clinton spoke for more than an hour about the work of his foundation, the inter-connectedness of the world, advances in science and “embracing our common humanity.” He also answered a handful of questions from students about the economy, the upcoming elections and his accomplishments since leaving office.

Meanwhile, dozens of students and others (including a Post intern) tweeted what they found to be the most interesting snippets of the night:

Hahahaha! "The great thing about not being president is you can say anything you want." - Bill Clinton, #ClintonAtAUSat Jan 28 00:37:26 via TweetCaster for iOS

Clinton talking about mapping the human genome. Every newborn will soon come home with recommendations for their future health #ClintonAtAUSat Jan 28 00:39:28 via TweetDeck

"Because it makes me happy." Bill Clinton, on why he is still committed to helping people. #clintonatauSat Jan 28 01:22:11 via Twitter for Android

"we have one last bigotry: we don't like people who don't agree with us" #ClintonatAUSat Jan 28 01:18:54 via Twitter for iPhone

"I grew up learning that everyone has their own fears. Everyone is inherently interesting." #ClintonAtAUSat Jan 28 01:42:21 via Twitter for iPhone

President Clinton touches on the role of information technology and increased global interconnectedness #ClintonatAU #kelleypdSat Jan 28 02:31:09 via Twitter for iPhone

"Empathy is nothing more than imagining how the world is perceived by someone who is not you." Clinton #kpuClinton #ClintonAtAUSat Jan 28 02:04:16 via Twitter for iPhone

Bill Clinton actually makes me proud to be a wonk @AmericanU #KPU #ClintonatAUSat Jan 28 02:03:01 via web

For more information on this subject, check out these articles:

Bill Clinton receives American University award for wonkiness (featuring live tweets from the event by the Post’s @SylviaCarignan )

Wonk? What’s a wonk?

American University, now home to the “American Wonk”

And for more higher education news, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 01/28/2012

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