Roone Packed with Presidents, Everyone on Best Behavior

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Seemingly the only Columbia heroes missing from Roone Arledge Auditorium today were Jeffrey Sachs and John Jay — though both were certainly at the Havel/Clinton/PrezBo prestige-aganza in spirit. In an event that vindicated CUArts’ alumni donation siphoning existence, the two former world leaders touched on both fighting TB and the Federalist Papers during their conversation, loosely based on the theme “Challenges of New Democracies.”

Prezes Václav and Bill were certainly in top form, but it was PrezBo‘s thoroughly germane sprezzatura that stole the show. “One more lecture [at CU] and he’d be up for tenure,” he sparkled, welcoming “Professor” Clinton onto the stage. Meanwhile, one student overheard in the audience clearly favored the Czech: “They should make Havel the new dean of SIPA,” he said, “keep him around”.

A few points into the discussion between the world (and “world university”) leaders, Clinton took some time out to give a “pro-mo… for Hav-el,” placing him in the ranks of Gandhi and Mandela. “No one should underestimate what he did in a peaceful way,” he said. Responding in a playful tone, PrezBo asked, “President Havel, do you have anything nice to say about President Clinton?” Applause and diplomatic laughter erupted politely from the packed house (Clinton, however, couldn’t contain himself, turning a vivid scarlet).

The ever self-conscious leaders went on to talk about something a bit more down to earth: the awkwardness of being ex-presidents. “People don’t know how to address me: President Havel? Former President Havel? Mr. Havel?” said Havel via translator, going on to say that he’s waiting for the day someone calls him “Mr. Former Havel”. Bollinger seized the opportunity, turning to Bill: “and, Former Clinton?” he asked. Clinton ate it up, recounting a young girl’s comment after he lost a congressional race: “didn’t you used to be Bill Clinton?”

The talk concluded with PrezBo’s elegant elision of the question cards into a couple broad, sweeping questions, one concerned with whether every country should be a democracy, and one referring vaguely to foreign policy in Iraq. We leave it to you to decide whether Clinton’s responses are somehow linked: “The benefits of dominance are ambiguous at best,” he said to the first, and, to the second, “whatever she [Hillary] says, I’m for”. It was then only a matter of time before PrezBo began his long rhetorical drumroll to the terminal photo-op, and when CU Arts would again pipe in the punctiliously chosen clip of a Czech jazz ensemble- led by Clinton on the sax.

-Sara Vogel and Chris Szabla

Anyone who missed the spectacle can catch the video recording– digitally remastered!- on the ridiculously overextensive Havel residency website.

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  1. oh, prezbo

    PrezBo used that Clinton line -- "one more lecture and he'd be up for tenure" -- at the public health world leader's event over the summer. Guess PrezBo lied.

  2. beh

    oh no! they brought back the anti-protests fence at roone! damn socialists...

  3. here's the thing!

    he offered him tenure this time! that was the joke!

    prezbo never lies

  4. + feedback monster  

    great bwog post

  5. just to clarify

    sprezzatura is pretty much germane by definition.

    otherwise, it's a failed attempt at sprezzatura.

    • castiglione  

      i don't think they're quite the same. one means the appearance of a lack of effort, the other means appropriateness for a social situation. one could say that the ends of each are generally similar- to achieve social success. but they do not go hand in hand as terms.

      Count Ludovico in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier: "[Sprezzatura] is an art which does not seem to be an art. One must avoid affectation and practice in all things a certain sprezzatura, disdain or carelessness, so as to conceal art, and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it ... obvious effort is the antithesis of grace."

      ger-mane  /dʒərˈmeɪn/
      –adjective 1. closely or significantly related; relevant; pertinent: Please keep your statements germane to the issue.
      2. Obsolete. closely related.

  6. re: castiglione  

    I haven't read Castiglione in years, so I may be off-base, but my sense is that if your comments don't seem to be germane, your rhetorical performance won't come across successfully; that is, that your remarks won't express sprezzatura....

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