Righting Some of Wilson’s Wrongs
by David C. Wilson, University of Delaware
It might come as no surprise that although my surname is Wilson, I actually have no genealogical lineage to Woodrow Wilson (yes, I have checked); and, of course, I never met him in person (he died well before my parents were born). A southern Democrat who actively supported racial segregation, discrimination, and racist ideologies, Wilson is ostensibly “the enemy.” However, I can say with a great deal of certainty that I would not be a political scientist, much less the academic I am today, without his inspirational lineage served through the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Thus, the controversy over Woodrow Wilson’s name brings a great deal of reflection and emotion, and it is perhaps true that, indeed, “enemies make strange bedfellows.” Today, that might be called “bipartisanship,” but I digress.
I have the distinction of having been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (WWF ’93) in Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA), participating in a summer institute at the University of Michigan (UM). In terms of academics, the PPIA program was my first introduction to specialized graduate-level training in economics, math and statistics, and advanced policy analysis. WWFs in my cohort had the opportunity to learn from UM heavyweights like Carl Simon, Sheldon Danzinger, Mary Corcoran, Robin Barlow, and Alan Deardorff; and we were exposed to a more rigorous understanding of issues like unemployment, poverty, equal opportunity policy, and international trade. Yet the most consequential element of the program was that all of the Fellows in my class were from African American, Asian, Latino, Native American, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander descent. Our 1993 UM cohort was completely comprised of nonwhite undergraduate students interested in graduate education. We were a tightly knit group and supported one another in ways that inspired excellence and achievement. Today, there are many PPIA WWFs among the political science faculty ranks, including Saladin Ambar, Pearl Ford-Dowe, and Alvin Tillery.
Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14, Issue 3 / September 2016, p. 776