As part of the continuing celebration of 30 years of coeducation at Princeton, the University nominated three alumnae for the honor of Baccalaureate speaker: Meg Whitman '77, President and CEO of the auction Website eBay; Wendy Kopp '80, founder of Teach for America; and Lisa Halaby '73, better known as Queen Noor of Jordan. After collecting input from the class of 2000, alumni and faculty, the University selected Lisa Halaby.
Clearly, we are lucky to have Halaby speak. Since her marriage to King Hussein in 1978 she has dedicated herself to humanitarian causes such as fighting world hunger, improving access to education and curtailing population growth. For the past 20 years, Halaby has moved in rarified circles, hobnobbed with the world's most important leaders and has witnessed more history firsthand than almost any other alumnus or alumna.
However, do we really want Halaby to represent 30 years of coeducation? In reality, she is not the self-made, professional woman the University would like to promote. Halaby's achievements are made possible only by one salient fact: she gave up a promising career in the aviation industry to marry the King of Jordan and become a glorified housewife.
All the humanitarian work, fame and wealth stems from her position as housewife, not her independence as a self-made professional. Furthermore, it is important to note that Lisa Halaby did not simply marry well, but she married the King of Jordan.
Here are some fast facts about Jordan. First, Jordan is a monarchy – a form of government more appropriate for the year 200 than 2000. Second, the dominant culture and religion in Jordan degrades women as second-class citizens – at least from a Western perspective. Third, Halaby's husband, King Hussein, passed away last year and her children were not placed on the throne, thereby making Halaby irrelevant.
The bottom line is that Halaby is not leading the charge for Princeton women in the new century. Instead, she is a vestige of history – a now insignificant royal whose greatest achievement was marrying into the cream of a backward country. Is she really representative of our alumnae?
The best candidate for the job this year was Whitman, the CEO of eBay. Granted, she is not a constant feature in People Magazine like Halaby, but Whitman is everything Halaby is not. After graduating from Princeton, Whitman earned her MBA from Harvard. Following a series of senior management positions at Hasbro and Florists Transworld Delivery, Whitman joined eBay in its infancy. Since then, Whitman has presided over the company's meteoric growth.
But Whitman is more than an accomplished, self-made Princeton alumna. She is one of a handful of individuals engineering a cultural revolution. The Internet is changing the nature of human society, and Whitman is one of the elite group of Internet czars pulling the levers behind the scenes. Whereas Halaby is the past, Whitman is the future. Perhaps this is why she was the runner-up to Jeff Bezos '86 for Time Magazine's Person of the Year award. Ultimately, Whitman is the best person to represent 30 years of coeducation, not Halaby. Alex D'Amico, a columnist from Washington D.C., is a senior in the Wilson School. He can be reached at email@example.com.