Current Issue

Sept.23, 2009

Vol. 110, No. 1

Reflecting on pride and gratitude

In response to: Alumni pride

Bob Bender ’71’s letter of July 15 leaves me puzzled. The heading above it proclaims “Alumni pride.” If it has taken two and a half centuries of accumulating greatness to finally inspire pride in an alumnus, perhaps a little reflection — or what the Communists used to call “self-criticism” — is in order.

When a cursory reading of PAW produces the information that more than 89 percent of the Class of ’44 rallied to the colors, the bronze stars affixed to the window ledge of my dormitory room at the Graduate College take on a more poignant significance than before. Why Michelle Obama ’85’s attendance at Princeton should kick-start Mr. Barber’s own pride eludes me. Her statement about her first impulse of pride in America still provokes me and prompts me to wonder how her cumulative education could have failed her so signally.

As a boy, I remember wandering about Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza and coming upon a life-size statue of a general with only the word “Warren” on the pedestal. I asked my uncle why there was so little information for someone to go on. He smiled and gently gave me to understand why every child in Brooklyn in the 1880s needed nothing more to recognize the man who saved the Union line at Gettysburg and perhaps the Union itself. If people like Mrs. Obama and Mr. Barber have such a hard time feeling pride, perhaps they could just simply feel gratitude. If Gouverneur Kemble Warren hadn’t saved the day and Little Round Top, President and Mrs. Obama might never have known either pride or gratitude.

Argyris Vassiliou *91
Stamford, Conn.

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