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This article by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the May 29, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Join in the P-Rade

Maybe you will see me in the P-Rade. If you happen to

stop by the Princeton University campus this Saturday, June 1, at

around 2 p.m., maybe you will see me and my two kids marching along

with the rest of the Class of 1969 in the annual procession of gaudy

— but somehow heartwarming — orange and black costumes.

As much or even more than the vaunted undergraduate senior thesis

requirement, Reunions have always been one of the unique characteristics

of the Princeton experience. Name another college where the graduating

classes return every year — not just every five years — to

renew the old college ties. And part of the charm for area residents

has been that, in exchange for putting up with crowded streets and

clogged parking lots, you could also walk around the campus, enjoy

the sights and sounds, sit in on some of the many panel discussions

featuring prominent Princeton alumni, and even catch up with an old

friend or acquaintance at the P-Rade.

I think it was in 1990, when I stood in the big crowd and watched

as the Class of 1965 walked by. When Senator Bill Bradley came into

view I gave a holler in my most raucous, sports fan voice: "Hey,

Bradley! You still playin’ for the Knicks?" Bradley looked back

over his shoulder: "No," he replied. "Too slow." After

the P-Rade I ran into Bradley, to whom I been introduced on several

occasions over the years. Bradley, reputed to have a photographic

memory for names and faces, spoke first: "Rich Rein," he exclaimed

in mock anger. "You’re the one who heckled me."

That’s Princeton Reunions. Over the years, though, things have changed

somewhat. New concerns and liabilities regarding alcohol consumption

have been largely responsible. The beer that used to flow freely along

the P-Rade route is highly discouraged. The parties under the tents

that high school kids used to crash with impunity now are much more

tightly guarded. Once inside, cordoned off lines to the beer kegs

are accessible only to those with institutional wristbands that are

checked like boarding passes at the international terminal.

So as U.S. 1 edited the story that appears on page 38 of this issue,

about the piano and vocal concert being presented by the Class of

1952 on Friday, May 31, at Alexander Hall, the question was raised:

Is this event open to the public? The university’s own website (www.princeton.edu)

said yes: "The event is open to all, and the public is warmly

invited to attend."

That policy seems to jibe with the practice. If you could get away

from work on a Thursday or Friday, you could stop in on some fascinating

presentations. This week, for example, Professor Burt ("Random

Walk") Malkiel leads a panel on "Investment Directions in

the 21st Century;" Hodding Carter III ’57, former State Department

spokesman in the Carter administration, participates in a discussion

of "New World Order? The Emerging Geo-Political Structure;"

former Secretary of State George P. Shultz ’42 joins a panel on the

Middle East; and Meg Whitman ’77, CEO of eBay, helps address the issue

of "The Internet: Transforming Commerce."

And James Baker ’52 will spend the weekend on campus, beginning with

a ceremony at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 31, when he officially donates

his papers associated with his service as U.S. Secretary of State

and other positions during the course of his long career in government.

It’s all heady stuff and in the old days it was all there for the

picking for the intellectually motivated folks who read the fine print

of U.S. 1’s events listings and who probe the depths of the university

website.

But this year, when asked point-blank if the Class of ’52 concert

was open to the public, the question got kicked around the halls and

came back: No, the public is not invited.

That response may be as much U.S. 1’s fault as the university’s: If

you have to ask the question (and our reporter had not seen the warm

welcome on the website) then the answer has to be no. If you don’t

ask and just show up and act as mature as any Princeton alumnus (which

gives you some leeway), then you would be welcome.

While all of us who live in town have our moments of frustration with

Princeton University, I still feel we should give the university generally

high marks as a neighbor. Especially in recent years the public has

been "warmly invited" to a host of lectures and performances

across the campus. As multi-million dollar conglomerates go, the place

is exceedingly accessible. After September 11, for example, when the

university set up a hotline to discuss concerns, our reporter phoned

to see what kinds of calls were coming in. The person on the other

end that Sunday afternoon was Shirley Tilghman, the university president.

So — weather and gimpy knee willing — I will be at the P-Rade

on Saturday. If you see me, give me a shout. If you feel like it,

jump on in and walk along for a few steps. It’s not a military procession

at West Point, after all, it’s just the P-Rade.


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