Where do you find “the best people of your generation?”
I ask this because Bill Clinton revealed a bit of his thinking from earlier in his life, commenting that by the time he and Hillary were departing Yale Law School, he had already met all the “best people of his generation.”
He said he had encouraged her then to pursue a career in New York or Chicago and is still amazed she followed him back to Arkansas, where he was eager to run for office.
“I now have met all the best people in our generation, and you are the best,” he recalled telling her then. “And I feel more strongly about that today than I did when I said it 35 years ago. That’s why she should be president … You’ll never find anybody who will do a better job of it than she will.”
Now – by then, Bill Clinton had attended Georgetown and Oxford, as well as Yale. There is no doubt that he encountered many fine and smart young people during those times. But I think it’s more than a little presumptuous to conclude after spending time at those three institutions of higher learning, he had met all of the best people in his generation. And I think it’s a bit revealing that Bill believes that those are the places where the best are found.
(Of course, it’s also revealing that he feels that his wife is the best person in their generation, but I’ll just chalk it up to the sort of thing any loving husband would say. Or the sort of thing any husband trying to get out of trouble would say.)
I’ve met some really wonderful people who have next to no formal education, and I’ve met people from Harvard that I wouldn’t allow to cross the street unattended. I’ve also met smart Harvard folk and dumb people with little formal education. There have been geniuses, good guys and gals, and jerks and incompetents at just about every place I’ve journeyed on this earth. No offense to the people at Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale, but the best of every generation is scattered around the earth, from Kentucky to Kalamazoo, from Kabul to Kirkuk, from Harvard to the local community college.
I think it’s the signature of elitism to declare, I’ve met all the best of my generation, because they’ve trod the same path I have.