Yale University

Class News

What Makes Yalies Run

The following letter by our classmate, Tom Barton, was one of many prompted by the cover story of the May/June YAM on the subject of "what makes Yalies run." And by the way, the unnamed overachiever mentioned in Tom's letter must have been David Boren, '63, of Oklahoma.

Letter to the Editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine
by Thomas Barton '64
Sept/Oct 2004

Yale's tradition of service existed long before the now-sanctified Kingman Brewster, as his own comments and the comments of William Sloane Coffin quoted in Warren Goldstein's article ("For Country," July/August) indicate. I have never forgotten the address in 1960 to my freshman class of 1964 by President A. Whitney Griswold, which was essentially as follows: "Welcome to Yale. It is a privilege for you to be here. Over the next four years we will educate you. We will give you the best education in the world. We do not do this for your personal enjoyment or enrichment. We do it as a part of Yale's sacred mission to educate the future generations of the leaders of this nation and the world. After you graduate we expect you to assume the mantle of this responsibility from us in all areas of our nation's life: in politics, education, business, the professions, and the arts. You are the next thousand leaders of the new generation. Work hard and be worthy of the trust we have placed in you because the future of our nation and the world will be what you make it."

It was heady stuff and the subject of much late-night conversation as we celebrated our new freedom as freshmen in all-night bull sessions. A member of a class ahead of us came in to visit one of my roommates and heard us talking about it. In a matter-of-fact way, he said that of course that was why we were here. He had come to Yale expecting to become president of the United States. I was blown away that someone would have the courage to think something like that, let alone say it out loud. He later became a governor, U.S. senator, and president of a university.

With that history, I have had no question why there are so many Yalies in the forefront of our nation's affairs today, although the crush for the presidency this year is coincidental; I suppose there are other schools. But I believe that if the magazine broadened its research on the subject and just counted the number of Yalies in leadership roles other than the presidency, in all areas of state, local, and federal government, it would be astounding how deep the ethic of service runs.

Thomas L. Barton '64
Los Altos Hills, CA