In His Own Words: 'Leadership Comes in All Forms'
The Washington Post
We understand from some friends and family that you have mixed feelings about Yale today?
Well, I love my friends at Yale. But I was irritated at Yale because it took an act of Congress literally to get them to give my Dad an honorary degree. You bet. I just can't believe the university would not be bending over backwards to say to one of the most distinguished alumnas they've had, that they're going to forgo the political correctness in our mentality [and] we're going to give this man an honor and treat him with the utmost respect. Maybe that's not fair to the institution for me to feel that way, but I feel that way.
There was a lot of change during your years there, including anti-war protests.
I just don't remember much protest. The only protest I remember that had a big impact on the East Coast was the Columbia protest. That was in 1968. But maybe I just missed it. I wasn't looking for it. I wasn't much of a protester. I'll be frank with you, I don't remember any of my friends protesting.
You had a bad experience with Yale's anti-war chaplain, William Sloane Coffin, during your freshman year.
Well, he actually has written me a letter. He read about that and said, "Well, if I did this, I apologize." And I was most grateful. [Bush's father had just lost the 1964 Texas Senate race to Sen. Ralph Yarborough, a Democrat and an opponent of the war when Bush approached Coffin at Yale.] The way I remember it was, I introduced myself ... and he said, "I know who your dad is, nice man," or something, "but he lost to a better person."
You never thought he was kidding?
No, I knew he wasn't kidding. He might have been kidding I just didn't pick up on his sense of humor. I was probably naive to walk up and introduce myself in the first place. I don't hold a grudge against him now. I hope you put it in the story. I hope it makes him feel better. Obviously it hurt his feelings to have read that in the newspapers. He wrote me a very thoughtful letter.
It is said by others that you were turned off by the intellectual snobbery at Yale.
Well, I've been turned off by intellectual snobbery most of my life. Because once you go to those schools and can compete academically, you realize that these people who think just because they went to one of those schools and can lord their intelligence over others, really are quite shallow.
Just because you've got a big university by your name doesn't mean you're any smarter or any brighter than somebody else, necessarily. It matters how you apply your education. I don't remember spending a lot of my time, either, brooding or walking around with a dark cloud over my head thinking, "Oh there's another unbelievably shallow intellectual." But there's a pretentiousness. I think one of the things that people have found out about me, and maybe a lot has to do with how I was raised and who raised me, is that I am an unpretentious person.
Would you call yourself an intellectual?
If I did, everybody who knows me would roar with laughter. I think you know I've been around intellectuals before.
And you'd rather not be identified as one of them?
You know, leadership comes in all forms. And the Republican Party and
the rest of the country are going to have to determine whether or not they like my leadership style.
© 1999 The Washington Post Company