During an Oct. 10 speech at The New Yorker Festival, journalist and commentator Malcolm Gladwell discussed recent protests by Princeton University students demanding that the Ivy League university distance itself from former President Woodrow Wilson.
Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs is named after the 28th president. Princeton students have come out against school officials because of Wilson’s racist connection to the Ku Klux Klan and promotion of D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.”
In the short clip, Gladwell says that Black students should protest Wilson because he was an incompetent leader who made poor decisions on the world stage. Although he supports the protesters, he believes they should have a better reason for protesting. Claiming Wilson’s name “makes them feel bad” hurts their cause, Gladwell says.
“Woodrow Wilson was this unrepentant racist,” he starts. “Which he was. Wilson was a seriously unpleasant man. I think they are 100 percent correct in saying there is no earthly reason why one of the premier graduate schools in the world should be named after a guy who was unspeakable. Not only that … he was a bumbling idiot. That is another reason not to call your school of international affairs after someone who was terrible at international affairs.”