Were he still alive, your esteemed alumnus, my father, former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, would have noted the decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from the Princeton School for Public and International Affairs with a combination of recognition of the importance of the gesture, and concern that symbolic gestures by whites are never enough to fulfill the democratic standard to which he held himself, and all whites, in the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice for all.
He believed it was the civic responsibility of whites to use our white privilege to redress the long sin of 400 years of slavery, and make Black Lives Matter. Democracy demanded nothing less from us. A practical realist, he also believed that the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act would only work long term if whites tirelessly enforced them. Recent horrific events have proved his pragmatic realism tragically correct.
The son of an educator, he would have hoped that those same horrific events would inspire Princeton to take the curriculum changes and commitment to authentic racial (and gender) equity in faculty and students, already underway, deeper and further, till the work of healing this nation, and earning the right to call ourselves a democracy, is, finally, done.