Well, young man, have a seat, please. May I call you Sayed?
Yes, you’re right. It is offputting to sit across a desk from someone. Let me move it out of the way. Better yet, I’ll light the fireplace. I’ll bet you’re used to sitting by a campfire. Yes, they are artificial – you’re a pretty sharp observer, aren’t you - it’s a gas fire, but I hope it will feel just like home.
Sure it’s explosive, but we’ve never had a problem with it.
Now. Tell me what made you choose Yale.
Yes, but the other Ivies - that’s what we call our best colleges - would also have welcomed you with open arms. It isn’t every day an applicant comes along with your kind of experience. Being a spokesman for a major revolutionary movement really says something about you, for heaven’s sake. No, that’s just an expression. We’re not going to talk about Paradise. That’s not how we do things here at Yale, except in the Divinity School, and even there…
No, we won’t be talking about Allah, either.
You must understand - it wouldn’t come naturally to me to invoke him. I hope you won’t take offense. You see, in our country we do use the name of God quite a lot, same with Jesus Christ, but it doesn’t have any significance. We really aren’t praying. It’s more like an exclamation.
Now, as I was saying – it isn’t often that Yale is honored to interview a prospective student with such an interesting background. How did you hear of our university, anyway? Of course, of course, a list of our institutions…I guess it was a silly question. I’m – well, this is going to sound funny and it really is a totally unexpected and unfamiliar feeling for me – I’m, heh, heh, a little nervous interviewing you. I feel almost as if you’re interviewing me. Well, as Shakespeare said, turnaround is fair play. It’s good for someone in my position to change places with a prospective student now and then.
Oh, he’s our most famous English-language playwright. Never? Don’t feel bad – nowadays many people don’t know who he is.
Just out of curiosity – did you also apply to Harvard and Princeton? You mean we’re the only important university without a Taliban presence? Amazing. And here I thought you were unique. Oh, I see – you’re the only one who put it in his application. Didn’t it occur to you that it might not, oh, how can I put this tactfully, might not exactly be a plus? Yes, true enough. I guess you know us better than we know ourselves.
Now you must tell me about your previous education because I can’t easily figure out from your application what you’ve studied or where. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know enough about your culture to relate this to anything I already know, so I’m going to have to rely on you to help me out. I am so looking forward to learning from you.
It says here you trained at Camp Allah Akbar. Is that anything like Scarsdale High?
I see. Emphasis on the practical. Like McGyver, I guess. Oh, it’s an old TV series. Yes, our education does tend to be a bit theoretical. We do have some classes like Applied Biology, where people actually use what they’ve learned, but your approach seems much more practical - skip the talk, get right to the nitty gritty. That means getting down to brass tacks, um, the heart of the matter. You’re right – it would be much more exciting if students could see right away how their chemical and electrical studies would be put to use. You certainly do make some penetrating observations.
Now this is interesting – what a lot of physical education! That’s unusual here. We tend not to stress anything that’s overly strenuous. Our football team is pretty disgraceful. Most of our students become lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, actors…nobody expects an Eli – no, that’s just what Yalies call themselves. No, not the prophet, the founder of the school.
It really isn’t odd if you think about it. Many of your people are named for your prophet and we also name people for ours. A lot of Latin-American kids are named Jesus, too. No, we don’t have many of them here, but if you should meet one…of course you should use his name. It’s only polite. I suppose you could call him by his last name, but if you became friends…No, actually, I don’t suppose one does go to college to make friends with one’s enemies. But Sayed, here at Yale we’d prefer it if you could get beyond thinking that if someone isn’t your friend he’s your enemy.
Actually, there are some people – not at this school - who might be inclined to think of you as an enemy, but you’ll probably never meet them. Most of them live in fly-over country – that’s what we call the land between New York and LA.
To change the subject for a minute, there is one thing I’ve been wondering about. Let me see, how can I put this so it doesn’t come out wrong, I guess I’d better just say it – I think we understand each other pretty well by now, don’t we? - your English seems rather, well, limited. Are you going to be able to follow the lectures and keep up with all the reading?
This is an American school. Oh, I guess that did sound exclusionary, let me rephrase it – in this school most of the students speak, read and write English most of the time. We’d really love to see more of them proficient in other languages, but this sort of change doesn’t happen overnight. There are lots of Spanish channels on cable, though. Anyway, right now most of the readings are in English. I hope it won’t pose any difficulty for you. Naturally your teachers will make allowances. I imagine most of them will be very eager to get to know you. And of course your proficiency will increase as you fulfill your speaking engagements.
Well, it’s certainly been a pleasure meeting you, Sayed. I think it’s safe to say you’ll be accepted. Nobody takes a lack of course work or SAT’s very seriously for a student of your unique qualifications.
Welcome to Yale.
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