MIT (7) Juliet

One of the greatest aspects of studying at MIT was being able to interact and study with the other students, who were all very smart. Juliet was a PhD student from Poland who was on a full scholarship and studied with Professor Alpha. She had the opportunity to study at the University of Chicago or MIT, and she chose the latter because she could also take classes at Harvard. Being a master’s student not on scholarship, I was impressed by this. Being from Poland, she was well-versed in the Soviet Union experience and so was an anti-communist; I remember that she was a supporter of Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement. I too was an anti-communist, but mostly from a systems engineering workability perspective, not personal experience. Juliet was so happy to be in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave after her early Polish communist experiences, and I was happy for her being in America.

Juliet was intense and wouldn’t let go of an argument. She was not alone in exhibiting this characteristic, but while intensity and tenacity were admired in your standard leftist, pro-socialist, those same characteristics were seen as problems for those who held anti-communist views. I met Juliet at a student get-together during the fall semester where she talked my ear off for a long while about some vague philosophical topic ¬†that seemed important at the time.

It was now at the beginning of my second semester at MIT, the spring semester, and we students were going through a process called, “shopping for classes,” in which we visited the first day of a bunch of classes, kept the ones we liked, and dropped the ones we didn’t. I was visiting a class of this well-regarded, supposedly a genius, but hyper pretentious professor who, if memory serves, was teaching a class on European trade unions, which of course attracted Juliet because she knew a lot about the topic. Before arriving at MIT, I had been watching reruns of Bill Moyers’ World of Ideas and was struck by how many people mentioned Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. So I offered a comment based on Tocqueville and pronounced it the American way, “Toke-vil”, so this pretentious professor took the opportunity to correct my pronunciation, “Toke-veeeel”. I had seen enough and there was no way I was going to take this class with this guy.

After class Juliet caught up to me and asked me if I was going to take the class, and I said no. She asked me if I was interested in Tocqueville, and I said yes, but why do you ask? Juliet said there was a professor at Harvard who was giving an entire class on just Tocqueville and was I interested? I figured after with my imbroglio with Professor Charlie, there was no way they would ever let me be a PhD student, so I might as well take one class at Harvard before getting thrown out, so I said “Sure!” and we made arrangements to take Tocqueville together at Harvard.

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