In his annual winter letter published in the Emory University magazine, the school’s president James Wagner, attempted discuss the importance of compromise in politics, instead, he stuck his foot in his mouth.
Wagner, Emory’s 19th president, is an award-winning teacher and scientist. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1975 from the University of Delaware, a master’s degree in clinical engineering in 1978,and his Ph.D. degree in materials science and engineering from Johns Hopkins.
But all of the aforementioned degrees and merit could not save him from the collective unconscious of a European-dominated United States of American from a cultural and liberal arts perspective. In his letter, Wagner described the three-fifths compromise this way: “Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator — for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared — the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.” He also cited the three-fifths compromise as one of the ‘pragmatic half-victories’ that led to the solidifying of the United States.” He continues by trying to compare the aforementioned to the tenor of present day Washington, D.C., asserting that “the polarization of our day and the lessons of our forebears point to a truth closer to our university.”
He added, “In retrospect we can fairly ask ourselves, would we have voted for the Constitution — for a new nation, for ‘a more perfect union’ — if it meant including the three-fifths compromise? Or would we have voted no — that is, voted not to undertake what I hope we see as a noble experiment, however flawed and imperfect it has been. Would the alternative have been a fractured continent, a portion of which might have continued far longer as an economy built on the enslavement of human beings? We don’t know; nor could our founders know.”
Since the uproar, Dr. Wagner has apologized, but one has to believe if it were not for the outcry on social media and mainstream news agencies picking up on the story, he likely would not have apologized.