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Presidents and Prime Ministers at Yale

Tony Blair and Ernesto Zedillo gave a talk on campus yesterday, and I had the privilege of attending. This is one of the best things about studying at Yale: frequent lectures and seminars with world leaders.

We've had a few world leaders on campus this semester:

  • Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 1997-2007
  • Ernesto Zedillo, President of Mexico, 1994-2000
  • Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia, 2002-2010
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner
  • Ban Ki Moon, current Secretary General of the UN
  • James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, 1995-2005

That’s just this semester. In my prior semesters here, I've been lucky to see speakers like Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Shimon Peres, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Tom Friedman, Clarence Thomas, and Stanley McChrystal.

I’ve learned not to expect breath-taking policy insights at these talks. So I no longer go with that hope. Rather, I go for three reasons:

  1. I go to observe the speakers’ presence, mannerisms, humor, and rhetoric. This is nearly always more interesting than what they say.
  2. I go to say I went. I'm not sure this is different from why people visit Gettysburg, or why people in non-swing states make the effort to vote. It's not beautiful, and our participating doesn't make a difference on the world. Yet we like feeling as if we've grazed history.
  3. I go because I can. When else in life will I have the opportunity to walk out of my corporate finance class, flash my student ID, and sit down to hear two former heads of state hobnob about current affairs?

--Daniel Weisfield, J.D./M.B.A. '14