Princeton is notable for a lot of reasons—its lack of a law school, its eating clubs (the bicker process in particular), the fact that it employs novelists like Toni Morrison and Jeffrey Eugenides who then produce ones like Jonathan Safran Foer and Jennifer Wiener, and on and on—but as this Prince story makes clear, the most notable thing about Princeton is the relationship alumni have with their alma mater.
At the yearly Reunions, graduates frock themselves in orange, sing Old Nassau, and get drunk—much, of course, like many other schools. But Princetonians do so with an intensity unmatched even by its Ivy League peers, so that the alumni who don’t partake in Reunions’ communal obliteration (and the entire culture of self-congratulation such gatherings encourage) can appear bitter, like frowny scolds who don’t appreciate everything that was given to them.
Over the past seven years, as her husband rose to national prominence, University officials made at least six direct overtures to [Michelle] Obama to return to Princeton or speak at Princeton-affiliated events. In all but one case, Obama has rebuffed the University’s advances, often citing a busy schedule.
Obama rebuffed the University’s attempt to establish a relationship in the years before she became first lady. Jones added that Obama did not seem to have an interest in reconnecting with Princeton and pointed out that many other alumni who were prominent in national politics at the time, such as former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld ’54 and former White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten ’76, remained connected with the University.
So, on one hand, Obama’s reticence remains mysterious. On the other hand: Donald Rumsfeld! George W. Bush’s chief of staff! Is it unfair to say that Princeton tends to produce more conservative politicians than liberal ones? And that this reflects its culture? If not, then it’s easy to imagine why Michelle Obama would decline, repeatedly, to associate herself with Princeton.