letter to the editor 2

Town and Gown, Elitism and Humanity

Now that inclusivity is trending around the world, French President Macron has announced that he is replacing the prestigious School of Administration in Paris — widely considered by many as “too” elitist,” with a more accessible image.

Macron’s intention has teeth beyond a superficial inflection of image. He plans to enforce lower tuition to the school to make it more equitable and available to all applicants, not just the wealthy.

This extraordinary news struck a chord for me. Perhaps now is also the time for the Very Important People at Princeton — the administrators and the board of trustees — to review the university’s image, one also widely considered by many as “elitist,” despite its fair numbers of available scholarships.

A very sharp and delightful female editor here once told me that being excluded in Princeton is not about wealth or appearance; “it is about fame.”

Needless to say, I was stunned. My friend had added a new requirement to “elitism” in Princeton! Sadly, elitism is not about any of those requirements, nor does it include a “better than thou” attitude, too often associated with the university and occasionally with faculty and Princeton residents as well.

Elitism may reflect a high quality of education but has nothing to do with character or kindness, a human behavior Albert Einstein regarded as a critical element guiding his path through life.

Unfortunately, for too many Princetonians it is wealth, university status, and residence, perhaps fame as well, which supports their self-assigned privilege while spreading a toxic elitism emanating from the university and beyond.

When Albert Einstein lived here he reportedly deplored the elitism he found too often in Princeton and made a habit of befriending the people who labored in the town, running gas stations, clearing the streets of leaves in the fall and snow in the winter.

He was beloved during his time as a Princeton resident. Not for his elitism but his humanity.

Libby Zinman Schwartz

Elm Road, Princeton

Bringing Back Government ‘By the People, for the People’

Has Government of the people, by the people, for the people perished from the United States?

It is certainly possible to make a strong case that it has.

Fully 30 percent of eligible voters are not even registered to vote and even in the “high turnout” elections of 2020, 39 percent of eligible voters (roughly 91 million) did not vote.

A Princeton University study from 2014 went further. Its analysis of 1,779 policy issues led to the conclusion that the US is an oligarchy as it showed that the 78 percent of the preferences of the wealthiest 10 percent are represented in Congress’s decisions; in sharp contrast, ordinary citizens get only 5 percent of their preferences represented and score over the wealthiest 10 percent a shockingly low 0.3 percent of the time.

So, what can we do to restore democracy? There is a bill in the Senate right now that can go a long way to doing just that. It is called the For the People Act and its three main divisions are A. Voting (so more eligible Americans can vote in safer and more secure elections) B. Campaign Finance (to reduce the influence of money in politics) and C. Ethics (to reduce the influence of lobbyists).

158 years ago, on a battlefield of the Civil War, our first Republican President asked us to dedicate our lives to preserving our democracy. Senators Booker and Menendez, make the For the People Act your top priority. There can be no more important task.

Venkat Venkatanarayan

West Windsor