Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ivy League of Leaders

Barack Obama joins a respectable list of American leaders who have been products of the Ivy League. In recent years we have seen George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush all of whom attended Yale. For those who didn’t know, George W. Bush also attended Harvard Business School. Now there are those of you who may be quick to smirk or retort that some products of these schools – you can guess who - could hardly be considered worthy recommendation. Indeed this scathing article touches on some of the arguments often employed but even in science there is sometimes the need for certain assumptions to be re-defined.

Nevertheless if one were to examine the alumni of the eight (8) Ivy League schools it would be difficult to dispute the fact that the Ivy League consortium has produced an extraordinary group of persons who have gone on to rule not just America but the world.

Apart from the above mentioned, let us take a quick look at some notable graduate leaders:

Brown: No presidents or vice presidents although Charles Evans Hughes former Governor of New York, US Secy. of State and Chief Justice lost as Republican candidate in 1916 election to Woodrow Wilson.
Columbia: Theodore Roosevelt (US Pres. 1901-09), Dwight Eisenhower (US Pres. 1953-61), Barack Obama (US President Elect 2008)
Cornell: Mario Garcia Menocal (Pres of Cuba 1913-21), Jamshid Amuzegar (PM of Iran 1977-78), Lee Teng-hui (Pres of Republic of China (Taiwan) 1988-2000)
Dartmouth: Nelson Rockefeller (US. VP 1974 –77)
Harvard: John Adams (US. Pres 1797-1801), John Quicy Adams (US. Pres 1825-29), Felipe de Jesus Calderon (Pres. of Mexico 2006-present), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45), Edward Seaga (PM of Jamaica 1980-1989), JFKennedy (US Pres. 1960-63)
Princeton: Aaron Burr (US VP 1801-5) James Madison (US. Pres. 1809-17), Syngman Rhee (Pres. Rep. of Korea), Woodrow Wilson (US. Pres. 1913-21)
University of Pennsylvania: William H. Harrison (US Pres. 1841), Cesar Virata (PM of the Phillippines 1981-86), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Pres. of Nigeria 1963-66) Ernesto P. Balladares (1994-99), Kwame Nkrumah (Pres of Ghana 1957-60)
Yale: William Howard Taft (US. Pres. 1909-13), Gerald Ford (US. Pres. 1974-77), Karl Carstens (Pres. Of Germany (1979-84), Ernest Zedillo (Pres. of Mexico 1994-2000) and Dick Cheney (US. VP 2000-2008)

When one observes this distinguished output it may be justifiable to speculate whether the purpose behind the formation of this group of colleges was to create a slew of chiefs whose main objective was to take the reigns of leadership in whichever organization they found themselves. Let me remind you however that the Ivy League came out of an athletic conference. It was an association of schools which came together with a common objective to “[reaffirm] their intention of continuing intercollegiate football in such a way as to maintain the values of the game”, not to rule the world. Yet the high level of intellectual vigor, social conscience and passion for scholarship required to gain entry to these schools coupled with the reported strength and vitality of their academic programs leave little room for questioning why they’ve generated and will no doubt continue to generate graduates who aspire towards positions of leadership.

Some people think that leaders are born not made. Who knows? Perhaps there are methods, programs or models employed as part of the official or unofficial curriculum or perhaps it is ingrained in the philosophy that permeates the traditions followed over the years, or still perhaps the students who make it in are already so disposed to focusing on getting high results that it is a natural progression.

Whatever the reasons and despite the scorn that is sometimes cast on the role played by legacy, affirmative action and athletic scholarships in paving the path for entry to these schools the fact that Obama like many of the word’s leaders has attended these schools is nothing to scoff at and gives support to the view that the Ivy League grooms leaders. This will likely further drive the number of applications to and rejections from these schools.

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