In brief: PrezFest, Monticello High news, and more

Former President Bill Clinton closed out the Miller Center's PrezFest last week at UVA.
Courtesy Miller Center Former President Bill Clinton closed out the Miller Center’s PrezFest last week at UVA. Courtesy Miller Center

Presidential address

Following a brief introduction by UVA President Jim Ryan—where Ryan mentioned he’d gotten food poisoning from the White House the first time he met Bill Clinton—the former leader of the free world then took the lectern in Old Cabell Hall to close out the Miller Center of Public Affairs’ first-ever PrezFest, aka Presidential Ideas Festival.

A few lines caught our attention during Clinton’s lengthy address on the role of the presidency. Whether they’re shots at Donald Trump, or generally just good advice for any commander in chief, we’ll never know.

  • Says Clinton, “I think the best presidents have sought to define ‘We the people’ in a way that broadens both the idea and the reality of who counts in this country.”
  • On those who have already served: “So far, they’ve had enough humility to know that no one is right all the time and power must be exercised with some care.”
  • On reputations: “Look, we can all act pious…everybody that’s ever been in politics who wanted to make change has had to feed the beast.”
  • On President Thomas Jefferson: “When he thought of slavery, he trembled to think that God is just, but he didn’t tremble enough to go sign the paper freeing all the slaves.”
  • On the fear that if President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, they’d take everyone’s jobs: “Sound familiar?”
  • On immigration: “There shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic way to process people at the border.”
  • On being investigated: “I used to have fun with the people that were investigating me. I’d rag ’em and make fun of ’em and try to keep everybody in a pretty good mood.”
  • On significance: “[The recently photographed black hole] is so big, and it’s magnetic pull is so great, that if our entire solar system went by close enough, it would be sucked in and disintegrated immediately into a pile of dirt that could fit in a thimble. Now think of that. If that’s true, it’s not so important to be on Mount Rushmore, is it? But it does not make the life of any public servant less significant. It makes the trappings, the image, the b.s. less significant.”
  • On division: “We should not be despairing if we’re worried about America dividing. …There have never been permanent gains or permanent losses in human affairs, and we’ve got a lot of hay in the barn. We just need to saddle up.”
  • Bonus quote, on August 12, 2017, when then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe told white supremacists and neo-Nazis to get out of the state and not come back, while Trump called them very fine people: “The governor of Virginia, on that day, was my president.”

Quote of the week

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the next guy’s like: ‘You know, I still have a slave. He’s been in our family for years. Sorry.’”—Comedian Wanda Sykes, on Governor Ralph Northam’s apparent inability to remember if he was in the blackface photo in his medical school yearbook.

In brief

National champs

The UVA men’s lacrosse team took down defending champs Yale May 27 to secure its first NCAA championship since 2011. The No. 3-seed Cavs outscored the No. 5-seed Bulldogs 13-9 in Philadelphia, and will bring home Virginia lacrosse’s sixth national championship.

DMB death

When Jasen Smith went to find his wife’s misplaced souvenir T-shirt at a Dave Matthews Band concert in St. Louis, she says he never returned. She then found him unconscious, with blood dripping from his ear, after suffering a skull fracture from blunt force trauma to the back of his head. He died the next day, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The mysterious death is still under investigation.


Madeline Michel

Monticello High drama teacher Madeline Michel will receive a special Tony for excellence in theater education at the awards show June 9 in New York. The award includes a $10,000 gift for the school’s theater program.


Former Monticello High coach George “Trae” Payne III will serve 30 days of a five-year sentence for sending a 17-year-old female student three inappropriate photos on Snapchat in 2018. Payne entered an Alford plea and said the teen did not deserve to be in the middle of his depression, the Progress reports.

The Cooch is back

Former AG Ken Cuccinelli Zuma Press

Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, best known locally for demanding documents from UVA climate researcher Michael Mann in 2010, has been tapped by President Trump to head U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Washington Post reports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the nomination of the conservative firebrand.

Emmy winners

UVA student journalists Yahya Abou-Ghazala and Robby Keough won the school’s first Student Emmy Award for video they created as third years covering the March for Our LIves student walkout March 14, 2018, a month after 17 students were mowed down in Parkland, Florida.


After Governor Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal, Eastern Virginia Medical School launched an independent investigation to determine whether he appeared as the man in blackface, Ku Klux Klan robes, or not at all, in the now-infamous photo on his 1984 yearbook page. Its conclusion: They don’t know. Also on the list of things investigators couldn’t determine is how the picture was ever printed in the first place.

Killer’s cancer

The man serving four life sentences for abducting and murdering UVA student Hannah Graham and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington now has stage four colon cancer.

Monticello High grad Jesse Matthew was transferred from Red Onion State Prison, a supermax facility in Wise County, to Waverly’s Sussex I State Prison last week to receive treatment.

“This is justice and perhaps karma,” said Harrington’s mother, Gil Harrington, to a reporter from Richmond’s CBS 6.

Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci says under the terms of Matthew’s 2016 plea agreement, he is not eligible for release or parole.

In a rare, post-diagnosis interview with the same Richmond channel, a reporter asked the convicted killer whether he was sorry for the 2009 and 2014 murders.

Said Matthew, “I don’t think I can answer that question right now truthfully.”

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