A letter from an alumna
about Remembering John B. Oakes '34
was deeply saddened to learn of the death of John B. Oakes '34.
Though we only met once in 1973, his stature and courage at the
forefront of the liberal establishment had made a big impression
on me, and the world has lost an impassioned and compassionate intellect
We met at a reception
at Princeton, where, as a sophomore, I had just finished nervously
delivering a short presentation on undergraduate life to a group
of very senior -- and quite intimidating -- alumni. Afterward, one
of the older alumni came up to me and congratulated me on my speech
"fine job," he said, "and so, young lady, what do
you think about all this talk about a possible Nixon impeachment?"
"Well," I opined
with new-found confidence to this new-found fan, whose name tag
fell just below where my peripheral vision could see while looking
respectfully at his face in response, "I think today's undergraduates
may be somewhat more insightful about the situation than the editors
of the editorial page of the New York Times who are constantly calling
for his impeachment. After all, does the country have enough confidence
in Gerald Ford to repair the damage done?"
In true measure of John
B. Oakes's grace, class, and style, this fan removed his glasses,
rubbed the bridge of his distinguished nose, grinned an ever-so-slight
grin, replaced his glasses and said gently, "Young lady, do
you know who I am?"
Despite the good sense
that Fred Fox '39 had to yank me away from the encounter with a
firm tug at the elbow ("You need a drink, let me get you one!"
he cried.), Mr. Oakes - the editor of the editorial page of the
New York Times! - followed us and pursued a line of questioning
that only served to heighten my sense of respect for his intellectual
curiosity. In a further demonstration of his compassion and humanity,
I received a hand-written note from him two days later, expressing
his gratitude for a healthy exchange of views -- and good luck in
Eva Lerner-Lam '76
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