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Letters from alumni about Class Day 2002 speaker James Baker ’52

May 10, 2002

I completely agree with Harold S. Bernard '68 in his criticism of the choice of James Baker ’52 for Class Day Speaker for 2002.

Among many others I was angered by his disregard for American voters and democracy in his campaign to get George Bush elected President in 2000.

However, I take issue with Mr. Bernard's claim that Baker's recent conduct has sullied his "long and distinguished career as a public servant."

While certainly long, and no doubt successful, Baker's career has never been distinguished except in his disregard for human rights. A good friend of the murderous dictator Mobutu Ssese Seko and jailed ex-president of Argentina Carlos Menem, Baker also supported Saddam Hussein's blood-stained regime until Hussein made the mistake of invading Kuwait, whereupon Baker and Bush bombed thousands of civilians before imposing sanctions that have resulted in the deaths of some 1/2 million Iraqi children. A list of countries with human-rights violations that the U.S. supported while Baker was secretary of state under George Bush is too long for this letter, but I should at least mention Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, and Israel.

Baker is also been a partner — along with Frank Carlucci '52 — of the Carlyle Group, an equity firm that owns the defense firm United Defense, whose stockholders included the Bin Laden family up until 9/11. The Carlyle Group also includes George Bush senior and ex-PM of the UK John Major among its senior staff, and has, unsurprisingly, benefitted financially from the current war against terrorism. Of course, Baker was also an adviser of a former energy-trading company named Enron.

All in all, hardly a person worthy of Princeton's motto "in the nation's service and the service of all nations."

Elliott Green '98
London, England

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March 28, 2002

I was very disappointed to see that the Class of 2002 chose James Baker '52 to be the keynote speaker at this year's Class Day ceremony.

There were many people on both sides of the disputed 2000 presidential election who did not acquit themselves well, but Mr. Baker's conduct was especially egregious.

While this was a political struggle. there were some who went beyond acceptable bounds, and Mr. Baker was foremost among them. A closely contested election in which there is a great deal at stake does not give one carte blanche to do anything and everything to see that his candidate prevails.

I believe it is well documented that Mr. Baker encouraged his operatives to place pressure on vote counters, who were bullied into stopping a court-ordered recount.

I believe Mr. Baker's actions during this painful period for our nation sullied his long and distinguished career as a public servant, and as such make him unworthy of an honor such as serving as a keynote speaker at Princeton's annual Class Day ceremony.

Harold S. Bernard '68
Westport, Conn.

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