Last Tuesday, Choate was given the honor of hosting Mr. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times as a special program speaker. In typical fashion, the speech lasted from 7:30 until 9, with an opportunity afterwards for the audience to express gratitude for Kristof’s visit and, more importantly, to ask him questions. Immediately following the audience’s standing ovation at the conclusion of Kristof’s speech, students flocked to the microphones at the sides of the PMAC Auditorium in droves. Only an estimated twenty students remained in their seats, all of whom were freshmen sleeping in the back row.
Reporters spoke to students who asked Kristof questions about his work with napkins. Omar Desmonde ’18 said, “I stopped listening around the two-minute mark once I figured out what the program was about. I spent the next hour and a half formulating a really great question that would impress everyone in the room. In fact, I even got up and left the auditorium for a few minutes, not to go the bathroom, but to quickly meet with my English teacher so she could help me structure my question.”
Another student, Keira Aiko ’19, told reporters, “I had my general question thought out for pretty much the whole program, and when I went up to the microphone, I brought my thesaurus with me and looked up the longest synonym for every single word in my question. It really showed my intellect, I think.” Students in an AP Statistics course collected the following data from the night: an average question length of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, a question-to-thank-you ratio of 2:3, and an average percentage composition of each question of words with fewer than 8 letters of 11%. However, the class noted one significant outlier excluded by the data: Geoff Hertlein ’18. He walked up to the microphone and asked a reasonable, two-sentence- long question using formal yet concise language.
Eyewitnesses not formulating their own questions reported feeling “as if they were in the presence of a miracle.” As Tyler Reading ’17 commented, “I was unsure what to do at first. No one moved or said anything; we were waiting for the rest of Geoff’s question. When it didn’t come, we didn’t really know how to react. One person eventually started clapping, and that became its own standing ovation. We were overjoyed. For once, we managed to preserve five minutes of our lives from the meaningless pseudointellectual babble that follows every school meeting. Even Mr. Kristof started clapping. I don’t believe Geoff’s question ever got answered, but really, it doesn’t matter. History was made that night.”
Another student, Nathan Courtemanche ’17, remarked, “It didn’t just feel like a historic moment—it was one. In 20 years, when people think of Choate, they will not think of John F. Kennedy [‘35], nor of Ivanka Trump [’00]; they will think of Geoff Hertlein, and the birthplace of a modern-day rhetorical miracle.”
At press time, after his college counselor sent a recording of his question to accompany his supplements, Hertlein has received early college admission offers from all eight Ivy League colleges.