If you talked to me today (or read my Facebook status) you would quickly realize that while I was proud to participate in the democratic process, I was none to pleased with waiting 2.5 hours to cast my ballot (nearly 2 hours of which were spent waiting outside in the rain). Then this morning, when I gave my information session, it occurred to me that there was no more appropriate place to be today than the College of William & Mary.
Last night I was penning a presidential triva quiz for my tour guide social. I was saddened to learn that our only American collegiate ancestor, Harvard, boasts the most presidential graduates at six total (although I’m not sure one really counts as G.W. Bush attended Harvard only for graduate school). It was further heartbreaking to learn that the college founded nearly a decade after us, Yale, comes in a close second boasting five presidential graduates. Where W&M ranks I do not know although we have three alumni who went on to become president (Jefferson, Monroe, and Tyler) and one who received a surveyor’s license from the College (George Washington). Hey, if Harvard can count a graduate student, W&M can count a surveying student (especially since Washington actually never attended college so W&M was as close as it got).
What I realized however is that the roots of American democracy were born in Williamsburg and at the College. It was down the street from the College that the House of Burgesses met. It was there that Patrick Henry proclaimed “Give me liberty or give me death”. It was in our Wren building that Jefferson studied law and philosophy which later inspired his writing of the Declaration of Independence. It was here that Monroe learned about the importance of diplomacy which influenced Monroe Doctrine. It was here, on our grounds, in our halls, in our teachings.
And today, W&M students are continuing the tradition of democratic and civic participation. Thanks to the tireless efforts of W&M students, the city of Williamsburg lifted its ban prohibiting College students from registering to vote in Williamsburg. As a result, nearly 3000 students have registered to vote in Williamsburg and they rocked that vote today!
So William & Mary may not boast the most presidents among its alumni but it can be proud of its place as the alma mater of the nation.