Ivy Rivalry Big in Presidential Bid
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ It’s been 88 years since a Yalie and a Harvard man squared off for the ultimate Ivy League bragging right _ president of the United States.
That embarrassing outcome is unlikely this year as the schools dust off their pennants for the contest between Yale grad George W. Bush and Harvard alum Al Gore.
The rivalry between the prestigious universities has always been intense. Sometimes silly, too. Witness this Harvard newspaper headline about a football game in 1968: ``Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.″
On receiving an honorary degree from Yale, President Kennedy (a Harvard graduate) remarked he had the best of both worlds: a Harvard education and a Yale diploma.
The scorecard at these elite schools is kept in many ways: Who has the most distinguished faculty, the most Nobel Prizes, the most accomplished graduates?
Into this mix go Vice President Gore and Texas Gov. Bush.
Bush is on the alumni mailing list for both universities, having also graduated from Harvard Business School. But Yale claims the pedigree since Bush got his undergraduate degree there in 1968. His father and grandfather also were Yale men.
Gore graduated from Harvard in 1969 with a degree in government.
The last time the two schools faced off in a presidential election was 1912, when Harvard grad Theodore Roosevelt and Yale alum William Howard Taft were both candidates.
They were beaten by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson.
The 2000 presidential contenders’ undergraduate lives were similar in some ways.
Both were bench warmers on college teams: Gore played basketball, Bush played baseball.
They came from political families but steered away from the radical politics of the day when they got to the Ivy League.
They both earned middling grades.
``Both got gentlemen’s C’s, which I found to be very reassuring _ that’s what I got, too,″ said Victor Ashe, mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., who graduated from Yale a year before Bush and ran against Gore for the Senate in 1984.
Ashe, who was the political editor of the Yale Daily News, counts the Bushes as old family friends _ their families had homes on the same Florida island.
Bush was not active in campus politics, or in the anti-Vietnam War activism of the day, Ashe recalled.
``He was active on campus, but more in sports and his fraternity,″ he said. Ashe and Bush were members of Skull and Bones, one of the ``secret societies″ for Yale seniors.
Gore did not belong to such groups at Harvard _ called ``final clubs″ there _ and his family did not have a Harvard legacy going back generations.
A roommate, Mike Kapetan of Ann Arbor, Mich., said Gore _ often portrayed as wooden and wonkish _ was a smart, original thinker.
``The person I read about in the newspaper simply does not exist,″ Kapetan said. ``He’s a real human being to me _ a lively personality and a stimulating conversationalist.″
Gore was more involved in politics, including student government as a freshman, but he shied away from the anti-Vietnam protests that captivated Harvard the year he graduated.
Unlike most of his college buddies, Gore enlisted in the war after graduation. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard.
Gore acknowledges he smoked marijuana in college. Bush won’t go into that, though he has said he has not used illegal drugs in the past 25 years.
On both campuses, political support is driven more by ideology than school spirit, students say.
Still, bragging rights help, said Marc Stad, president of the Harvard College Democrats.
The group has used the Gore-Harvard connection in e-mails and posters to sign up students to help the vice president’s campaign on campus: ``Support your fellow Harvardian in his pursuit for the White House.″
The Yale College Republicans _ greatly outnumbered by Democrats on campus _ also have used their candidate’s background to win election support. ``George W. Bush ’68″ and ``Yale is Bush Territory″ are favorite slogans, said Patrick Bumatay, a leader of the Texas governor’s campaign at Yale.
``Bush’s going to Yale provides a little more motivation to go out and campaign for him,″ Bumatay said.