Thirteen Harvard/Princeton Products Whose Stories May Help Place Ted Cruz in Context

So Ted Cruz went to Harvard. So did Ted Kaczynski.
So Ted Cruz went to Harvard. So did Ted Kaczynski.
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What does it mean to be a product of Harvard and/or Princeton? Does it imply a mandatory elevation, a certain stature beneath which a person cannot sink?

Now that Ted Cruz has declared his candidacy for president of the United States, I have been forced finally to come to grips with my own cognitive dissonance.

How can someone who wants to slash corporate taxes, abolish Obamacare, deport millions of immigrants, is willing to bring the federal government to its knees in the process and calls John Kerry a traitor be a graduate of Princeton and of Harvard Law School?

Late last night as I lay awake thinking about it, I came to a great awakening: My cognitive dissonance problems are not so much about Ted Cruz as they are about Harvard and Princeton. All I have to do, I realized, is find other examples -- other people who are Harvard and Princeton products -- whose personal narratives may help reduce my cognizance. Or maybe it's my dissonance. Whatever.

I realized I just needed people whose stories would help me comprehend how a Cruz could happen. So today I have come up with a brief list: Thirteen people who went to Harvard or Princeton or both, whose stories may help alleviate certain Cruz cognitive dissonance problems.

These are not people whose stories or accomplishments make them in any way commensurate or equivalent to Cruz. Nor do I offer these examples as any kind of reflection on the value of a degree from Harvard or Princeton. I just find the stories helpful as context.

1) Oded (Ed) Aboodi, financial adviser to Time Warner chairman Gerald M. Levin, agreed in 1994 to pay the government $931,077 to settle charges of insider trading in Time Warner stock in 1991. Harvard BA, MBA New York University.

2) Jeffrey K. Skilling, architect of one of American history's greatest corporate frauds, the Enron scandal. He attended SMU as an undergraduate and later Harvard business school. His sentence was reduced two years ago to 14 years from 23.

3) Ted Kaczynski, Unabomber and Harvard graduate, whose 18-year career of murder and mayhem earned him a life sentence in 1998. Also attended my own alma mater, the University of Michigan.

4) Eugene Plotkin, product of Harvard, professional ballroom dancer and filmmaker, sentenced to five years in prison in 2008 for insider trading.

5) Andrei Shleifer, Harvard economics professor, one of a group in 2005 who agreed to pay $31 million to settle a lawsuit for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government in connection with a Harvard-led advisory program in Russia. Still in good standing on Harvard faculty.

6) Britany Smith sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for her role in killing a drug dealer in her Harvard dorm room.

7) Alexander Pring-Wilson, Harvard man, sentenced in 2008 to two years in prison for stabbing to death a teenager who had mocked him from a car. According to court testimony, Pring-Wilson pulled his victim from the car and stabbed him five times in the chest and abdomen in 70 seconds.

8) Jose Razo, Harvard class of 1989. His undergraduate career was interrupted when he was sentenced to prison in 1987 for multiple armed robberies.

9) Sinedu Tanesse, stabbed her Harvard dorm roommate to death in 1995, injured a visitor, then took her own life by hanging.

10) Jeffrey McDonald, Princeton graduate, killed his wife and two daughters in 1970.

11) Lyle Menendez, attended Princeton but got kicked out for plagiarism. In 1989 he and his brother Erik blew away their parents in a volley of shotgun fire. Both received life sentences.

12) Reaching way back to 1938, the blue-blooded Richard Whitney, once called "The White Knight of Wall Street," also dubbed "The Perfect Snob" for his efforts to keep Jews out of high positions on Wall Street, was convicted and sent to prison for stealing large sums of money from the New York Yacht Club and from Harvard.

13) And bringing it all up to today, the young Tommy Gilbert, a Princeton graduate arrested and charged with the murder of his father, Thomas Gilbert, a Harvard graduate. The younger Gilbert pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this month and awaits trial

So what's the point in this list? Not much, only that people who went to Harvard and/or Princeton have feet of clay like the rest of us. Well, and also that they can be idiots. Or crazy. And dangerous as hell. And especially if you see them walking down the street looking stupid, do not .. repeat NOT ... lean out of your car window and mock them. That's all. Otherwise, forget it.


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