31 May 2010

Princeton University

13 Nov 2009. You know how every campus has that one 'centerpiece' building? The building designed by a famous architect, or resembles a Gothic cathedral, or is cut from expensive rock? The picture postcard, bulk mail brochure, website banner building?
Every building on Princeton's campus is like that.

Technically, Rider was added to the collection an hour or so before Princeton, but it fits the story to have Princeton go first. Sorry, Rider. You're second banana here too.

Theodore Roosevelt's face reddened. His voice boomed throughout his Long Island estate, Sagamore Hill.

"That bird-beaked, four-eyed bookworm!"

He slammed a fist down on his fully stocked bookcase. The force shook the pince-nez from his nose.

"We are in a crisis! And in a crisis, the worst thing to do is
A small, alert man sat in the corner, scribbling furiously. The man was Jacob Riis, Roosevelt's longtime mouthpiece to the press. The two had met while Roosevelt was Police Commissioner of New York City. Riis' crusade for justice through writing and photography instantly caught Roosevelt's attention. Now, after years of political climbing, ex-President Roosevelt trusted Riis to instinctively know what tirades were for his ears only.

This was not one of those tirades.

The war in Europe was escalating. It was the top issue in the presidential campaign of 1916. The incumbent, Woodrow "He Kept Us Out Of War" Wilson, was leaning on his isolationist platform. The poll numbers showed this to be a wise strategy. But the constant public attacks by Roosevelt, always popular with the American people, were threatening Wilson's reelection bid.

In the White House, Wilson looked out over the south lawn. With hands clasped behind his back, he watched horse-drawn carriages and state-of-the-art Pierce-Arrows jockey for the road. Wilson finally turned to his wife, Edith, and posed a rhetorical question: "What to do about Roosevelt?"

Edith, never one to leave any question unanswered, replied, "Idle hands are the devil's playthings, Woody. Give him something else to do. What, to Roosevelt, would take priority over his vicious ramblings?"
"He craves action. But he is advancing in age. Though it would appeal to his ego, I cannot allow him to take to the battlefields in Europe."
"Well then, maybe not physical action, but..."
Edith didn't have to finish. She adjusted the velvet drape ties while Wilson's brain silently worked its magic.


"Egad! Wilson! The Almighty save us from your lily-livered policies! 'He Kept Us Out Of War'? Codswallop! Codswallop I say! You led an entire University at Princeton, so you know our citizenry is capable of rational thought. Yet you assume them to be invalid flea-bitten mules with such an ignorant statement. The writing is on the wall, Mr. President. We cannot allow Germany to advance unabated. Allow me to lead a regiment if you are ill-inclined to do so. The time to act is now. ...Are you getting all of this, Mr. Riis?"

"Yes, Colonel. Though what is the spelling of 'codswallop'?"

"Hmm. Let's simplify it to k-o-d-s-w-o-l-o-p, shall we?"

"'Kodswolop'?? Is that right? Maybe I should double check..." Riis pulled from his pocket a copy of the
Princeton Collegiate Dictionary. He had barely flipped to the C's when Roosevelt grabbed the book and hurled it across the room.
"Nothing from Princeton will be allotted any repute here, Mr. Riis. Least of all Wilson himself. Is that understood?"

"Why don't I just replace codswallop with poppycock then."

"Take care with the blue language, Mr. Riis. Now consider this a gift from me to you."

Roosevelt hefted a volume from the bookcase underneath and dropped it onto his desk, scattering the dust from the pages of the
New Harvard English Dictionary.
"This is a wonderful resource. Unfortunately the editor did not take to my suggestion to affix Wilson's photograph beside the entry for 'spineless'."


Meanwhile, Wilson was busy pulling strings that only an ex-Governor of New Jersey could.

Behind these aged, storied doors lie the traditional Ivy League institutions of Quiznos and Pizza Hut.

No comments: