The Week That Was
Looking back on what was, by all accounts, a historic week, a few moments stand out:
On the morning of the third presidential election day I was spending as an academic, I already knew something was afoot, when I found the quad at Columbia busy with activity – at 8 o’clock in the morning. Confirmation came as I crossed the quad to my office, overhearing not one, not two, but three cell phone conversations in which students were asking about, or reporting on, the length of the lines at their voting locations.
That evening, at the home of a Columbia Law colleague, those in attendance kept excusing themselves to the back room, to take congratulatory calls from friends and family overseas. One reported a brief voicemail they received from Europe: “Thank you!”
At the very end of the night, as I hailed a cab, I debated whether to try to catch a train back to Princeton, or spend the night in the city, given how late it was. I asked the young driver how long it would take to get to Penn Station, to see whether I would make the next train. “Everyone’s out in the street, so it may take a while. Where are you going?” Princeton, I told him. “I’ll take you!” No, no need to go all that way. “No, it’s Obama night! I want to take you!” I protested, but he insisted. “As long as you don’t mind that I yell “Obama!!!” out the window once in a while, let’s go.”
The next day, finally, I had lunch – as is the custom at the Institute for Advanced Study – with faculty members Joan Scott and Danielle Allen, emeritus professor Michael Walzer, and Sarah Hirschman, the wife of emeritus professor Albert O. Hirschman. Each wore a yellow smiley face sticker, distributed by the cafeteria’s sous chef. Perhaps more notably, one-by-one, each offered a report on their canvassing and phone banking work of the day before, for the Obama campaign.
Quite a historic week.