Students a minority at Clinton’s lecture

Many considered themselves lucky to get into the event Saturday night.

I was one of the lucky few students who managed to get a ticket to Saturday’s “An Evening with Bill Clinton,” part of the Carlson Distinguished Lecture Series. Doors were to open at 4 p.m. and the lecture was to start at 5 p.m. – by the time I got to Northrop Auditorium at 3:30 p.m., the main stairway was jam-packed with already-ticketed people, standing in the rain, waiting for their chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak.

As exciting as it all was, it took very little in the area of observation skills to notice that somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent of the crowd was made up of students. For a lecture presented by the University’s own Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the best seats were saved as “preferred seating” for the family, friends and employees of the Carlson family. Behind the media bank, on the left, right, back and balcony, students sat mixed with other adults – presumably alumni or parents or mere Clinton fans who happened upon tickets. I even saw two girls in the audience who couldn’t have been older than 12 – did they even understand why they were there or what was going on?

After Clinton’s remarkable speech, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Carlson Companies, presented the president with a commemorative plaque and spoke about the founding of the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series, now in its 25th year. Nelson glorified what a magnificent opportunity it was for students to be able to hear lecturers such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Corretta Scott King, Elie Wiesel, Tom Brokaw and of course, Clinton. Did she not realize that students were the minority of the audience? Was she not aware that tickets were gone five minutes after they were released for this event? Among my very politically minded group of friends, I was considered lucky and privileged to get into the event – and that was only after a friend won the tickets in a lottery held by his employer, the Humphrey Institute.

I understand the popular desire to hear someone like Clinton speak. I understand the need to have it in a relatively small a venue like Northrop Auditorium. What I don’t understand is why a lecture, supposedly intended for students of the University, saw so few of its target audience in attendance.

Lacy Schumacher is an undergraduate student. Please send comments to [email protected]