As far as leading universities go, American institutions set an example for the world. Personally I feel particularly drawn to Princeton University, with its research on the Middle East and incredibly well-stocked library. In my numerous trips to the United States, I have never missed an opportunity to visit Princeton. Its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and and International Affairs, named after a president, was considered an exceptional center for education.
At that same university, there was a time when students from the South owned Black slaves who occupied the dormitories’ top floor. To this day, students live in those former slave quarters. No one, however, is enslaved anymore.
Wilson Was Apparently Racist
I read about Princeton’s decision to change the name of its school of Public and International Affairs in the morning paper. As the United States struggles in the wake of Black riots, it was apparently determined that Wilson, a former president, had espoused racist views. As you know, it does not stop there. Another president, Theodore Roosevelt, was subjected to scrutiny due to a statue of him flanked by African Americans and Native Americans. The monument will be preserved by moving it to a museum.
The Thrill of Change
Isn’t it a common inclination to be unhappy with one’s past and try to change it? Look at Leningrad, which after so many years became St. Petersburg. In our country, wasn’t the Yildiz Palace complex of Abdulhamit II, our last sultan, dismantled and made into a casino, all in an effort to obliterate the sultan’s heritage? Don’t today’s Ataturk Boulevard and the Halaskargazi (saviors) Street hide former names? In Argentina, many streets beginning with the word “libertador” (savior) used to bear other names. The world has moved beyond these practices, yet they are brand new in the United States. Let’s see to what extent Americans can deny their own history.