Thank you's abound in me. Thank you for allowing me to help staff and greet fellows for your Havens Center for a brief spell as Jane and I arrived in Madison. (When Allen Hunter took leave to explore NYU in '97 just after our Simon Rosenblum-Larson was born.) Thank you for tolerating my shitty liberal mission that year--serving as a negotiator in an impossible task, the Clinton White House Apparel Industry Task Force. I couldn't avoid briefing you that day in the summer of '97 when we ended up on the same United flight to Madison from Washington. I tried before takeoff to explain how the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union's continuing support for this union-human rights-corporate partnership was more substantively significant than UNITE's politically-driven exit from monitoring sweatshop factories. I hoped to impress you that I argued face to face with Clinton's chief of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling that companies must be pulled out of China when, upon implementation of "corporate codes of conduct," freedom of association proved "impossible." I still expected you to blast it all as utterly contradictory to everything you stood for in a critique of received class structure--"codes of conduct" --in tandem with corporations!!??--as a vehicle toward "human rights"? Perhaps your critique WAS coming. But it was ruled unnecessary by poetic justice: the mini-jet's Rolls Royce engines drowned me out. Don't think I didn't think about that, and feel schooled. You nodded like an advisor who knew that the first year had escaped being called on. (But Gay got a book out of it, so there was that.)
Thank you for the generosity of mind and inquiry with which I saw you treat students. Believing that lawyers could still be thinkers, I sat in on many a lunch hour presentation by your graduate students. Your role in those meetings was confirmation that Stegner's "Crossing to Safety" or even a bit of "Zen and the Art" could rise up to the eighth floor from the muddy Lake Mendota walking paths bringing breaths of humanity into the humanities. I came to understand that it could be necessary for the formation of a #1 sociologist to sometimes leave stunned and bloodied from these sessions, but it seemed never your doing. (Joel? Some day someone will appropriately poeticize a "Joel's Razor" as a tool of incisiveness and constructive terror.) You exercised gentle but terrific torque on students. Not to mention on your visitors. (I am surprised that ILO hand Guy was left standing after your generous critique of his "precariate.")
If no one has mentioned it here, I must be sure to underline the wholistic education to be had under you. Dialogue, to be sure. Edification in the academy. But students and colleagues might have missed something essential if they didn't get to see you fiddling in a Radfest square dance under the stars with no less than Si Kahn. I know, because I was there dancing late, around a fire, observing that you can't be part of a revolution if you don't--not just dance-- help foment the do-si-do. Your life is as a blessing, Erik.
Jonathan D. Rosenblum
ps photo of Simon's new life as a minor league pitcher attached, on leave from Harvard.