It’s not that there weren’t important people roaming around the University of Minnesota, but I had a 5-day stretch here full of brushes with celebrity.
Sure, during my undergrad I took a course with former VP Mondale, where people like former Deputy Attorney General Comey, or various New Yorker journalists came to lecture. And I saw Hilary Clinton speak at a rally for Al Franken once. And I could have seen the Queen of Jordan or the first female president in Africa, the president of Liberia speak had I shifted my schedule.
However, the crop of folks Harvard has drawn in over the last week is certainly hard to top. [aside: Columbia’s World Leaders Forum took place over the last week, timed with the UN General Assembly, and they had lots of interesting world leaders chill with their students, so yes, they win]
My brushes with glory started on Friday, when walking out of my Center for Government and International Studies building (CGIS, built for $170 million and pictured in the recent Vanity Fair article about Harvard) I noticed an incredible increase in security, with several state patrol squad cars and police motorcycles as well as officers on foot. There were also security personnel using mirrors to check under cars. Brimming with curiosity, I asked an officer if he could tell me who was coming, and he casually replied, “the president of Colombia.” My colleagues and I quickly decided to move on, lest his excellency’s presence promote any shenanigans. Still, it was very cool to think he would be just a floor below our center in the building.
Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of my second celeb encounter until the following day, but there is photographic proof that I was cheering against Hermione Granger herself (aka Emma Watson) at the Harvard-Brown football game on Friday. She is currently attending Brown, which I guess is like Gryffindor… so we were the Ravenclaw of this Potterified sporting event? Regardless, we won!
Next, on Sunday, while walking with my dear friend Annelise around Harvard Square, a massive motorcade came barreling through. There were no flags to distinguish the dignitary, but I know the president of Indonesia was speaking at the Kennedy School of Government early this week, so that may have been it.
Finally, today I attended a seminar/symposium/what-have-you led by Russian investigative journalist Yevgenia Albats. I actually didn’t know much about her before the talk (sadly, I know more about killed Russian journalists than living ones) but it was fascinating, and I learned that she’s a pretty big deal in the investigative reporting, editing and broadcasting world for independent media. Perhaps not a stellar celeb run-in for most, but it was academic journalism/Russian heaven for me.