The Chatterbox campaign to install Al Gore as Harvard’s next president (assuming he’s lost that other election) is gathering momentum! Tom Brokaw apparently filled a few moments of dead air during NBC’s Election Night coverage by discussing the possibility. Now the Harvard Crimson has weighed in. Granted, reporter Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan found “longtime search and University officials” describing Gore’s chances as “slim, if existent.” Joan M. Hutchins, a former member of Harvard’s board of overseers, said “[I]t would be completely out of the realm of possibility.” Columbia historian Alan Brinkley said, “I suspect Harvard will not want someone whose presence would alienate some potential donors.” Slate “History Lesson” columnist David Greenberg said, “He wouldn’t be my ideal of what a school like Harvard should be looking for.” (Et tu, David?) And humor writer Andy Borowitz dismissed the idea with a quip: “[E]ven if the Corporation chooses him, Bush will still get the job.” Only the tiniest glimmer of encouragement emanated from an e-mail Chatterbox received from John Bethell, who many years ago was Chatterbox’s editor at Harvard Magazine and who more recently authored Harvard Observed: An Illustrated History of the University in the Twentieth Century:
Talked at lunch with a professor who met last week with Bob Stone, Senior Fellow of the Corporation and head of the presidential search. He’s quite sure Harvard will seek a scholar, or at least someone who chucked scholarship for administration, like [current Harvard president Neil] Rudenstine.
My friend said Stone talked a good deal about pulling the diverse parts of Harvard together, making the institution operate more efficiently. I’d say that Gore, having run the program that reorganized and downsized the federal bureaucracy, might be pretty good at that.
Okay, it’s not going to be easy. But Chatterbox’s boy Gore isn’t afraid of an uphill fight! Two days after the election, he’s still going after the big enchilada, isn’t he? Bethell says that when Gore was a Harvard overseer, he was “respected for doing his homework and having a good attendance record.” Hear that, Bob Stone? Bethell also reminds Chatterbox that there is a precedent, though a distant one, for letting a politician run Harvard in Josiah Quincy. Quincy was mayor of Boston, speaker of the Massachusetts House, a judge, and a member of Congress before before he served as Harvard president from 1829 to 1845. Harvard liked him so much that in 1959 they named a residential house after him!