About a month ago, I was walking from lunch on Nassau Street to my homey abode in Wilson College, taking a convoluted route familiar only to new freshmen too proud to ask for directions. I was awoken from my complacent daydreaming stroll by a line snaking around Alexander Hall. As I soon found out, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was speaking. I was a little shocked that there was not an air of campus-wide excitement, as one of the most important men in America was minutes away from addressing 250 of my peers.
The lecture was informative and ended as quickly as it had started, but readers, this is where the story takes a turn for the interesting. I filed out of Alexander Hall with the rest of the audience. Bernanke passed the two identical black SUVs that had escorted him to Princeton and started walking down Elm Drive. He made his way to the Whitman College reception area, at which point most of the crowd had dissipated — all, in fact, except for me and three other a-little-too-excited freshmen. He left his security detail and started to mingle in the cocktail party held to celebrate his visit.
Right as I was about to call it a successful day, economics professors Uwe Reinhardt and Burton Malkiel GS ’64 popped out of the party to come say hello to the four of us. We were greeted with an “Ah, students! We can never refuse the students.” We got to talking with the professors about life, economics and our duties as the leaders of the next generation, when Reinhardt excitedly excused himself. Two minutes later, Reinhardt returned, but not alone; he came accompanied by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine! We were all properly introduced to one another and started conversing with the famous politician. Amid our new and reinvigorated conversation, Reinhardt’s eyes again lit up as he excused himself a second time. He returned moments later; on his arm was Bernanke. Again we were properly introduced, and as if it were the most natural thing in the world, four newly inducted freshmen were circled up with Corzine, Bernanke, Reinhardt and Malkiel discussing the ways of the world.
Sept. 29, 2010, will always be a memorable day for me, but the experience has taught me something important: I am ridiculously lucky to be here at Princeton. Every moment here is pregnant with opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of or stumbled into. The cynicism and work-related angst I have witnessed here is irreconcilable and incongruous with what I have observed. The workload-related pressures from inside the classroom are, in my opinion, dwarfed by the opportunities available outside the classroom. I understand that I am new here, and perhaps my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed outlook on this place will be melted away by jaded realism. It is difficult, however, for me to have qualms with the institution that within a month of my four-year tenure allowed me to hear lectures by Cornel West GS ’80, philosopher Slavoj Zizek and Rep. Rush Holt. I plan to attend lectures by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison and philosopher Judith Butler in the near future. I am sure that my story is but one of countless others that reflect the unbridled human resources at our disposal.
I implore you to consider — before letting the papers, readings and midterms affect your outlook on Princeton — the abundance of unique intellectual greatness that surrounds us at all times. I learned more from a single day of getting lost in Princeton than I had from weeks of classroom study back home. That is not a testament to a poor high school education, for mine was spectacular, but rather a wake-up call to always make sure to stand in a Princeton line.
I cannot help but believe that at one point or another every student at Princeton felt some of the same sentiments that I have expressed. I do not mean to be overly critical of the attitudes of upperclassmen, all of whom are more knowledgeable about the reality of our Orange Bubble. I would just like to express that I am fortunate to be a Tiger, and so are you.
Aaron Applbaum is a freshman from Oakland, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2010/10/27/26718/