At Yale during the sixties, DKE was known as a fraternity for jocks and "party hearty" guys. George W. fit right in from the beginning, became the center of activity, the creator of fun. He seemed to know and remember everybody. Perhaps he studied people with a natural politician's talent even then. One friend said he marveled even then at Bush's "photogenic memory." He was eventually elected president of the Yale chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, as his father, George H. W. Bush had been before him. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Kappa_Epsilon)
CLAY JOHNSON, a fellow Texan who went to Andover and Yale with Bush, also pledged DKE. Here's what he remembers (from a "Frontline" interview in 2000).
"I remember the first time they gathered all the new pledges together. There were 50 of us, and they sat us down in this one big hall and they were telling us that we were the sorriest bunch of pledges that they had ever heard of, that normally most pledge classes are very tight and very supportive of one another, and we were 50 individuals and were not interested in each other and there was no unity in our class. And they said it was really quite deplorable.
To make this point to us, they started calling on people to get up and name their fellow pledge members. And they called the first person, and he named four or five. And then he didn't know anybody else's name, and they told him what a sorry human being he was and how little he cared about his pledges. Then they called on somebody else and he named eight or ten but didn't know anybody else.
Anyway, the third or fourth person they called on was George. He got up and named all 50. There was this hush that fell over the room. It was really remarkable and it wasn't that he had studied the 50 names beforehand. He probably knew 35 or 40 of the people before rush ever began and met the other 10 or 15 the previous week as they were all going through rush. His relationships had spread out over his class to where he just knew all the people. And again, it wasn't a study deal. It's just that he had that much interest in knowing everybody, and everybody knew him and it was really incredible." (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/choice2000/bush/johnson.html)
Further information about Bush at fraternity on pp. 91-93 of "First Son" by Bill Minutaglio.
Cartoonist Gary Trudeau, Yale '70, has different memories of George W. --
Cartoonon Bush recalls Yale frat hazing
BYKIMBERLY CHOWS AND JACK MIRKINSONS
Contributing Reporters, Yale Daily News
December 1, 2005
Cartoonist Garry Trudeau '70 said he thinks a little-known fact about President George W. Bush '68's past -- that his first mention in The New York Times occurred in 1967 when, as former president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter at Yale, Bush defended the fraternity's practice of branding its pledges with a red-hot coat hanger -- deserves more national attention.
On Sunday, Trudeau's cartoon "Doonesbury" featured fictional character Mark Slackmeyer explaining the President's position against current anti-torture legislation by revisiting a series of 1967 Yale Daily News articles that exposed DKE's rush activities, which at the time included brandings and alleged beatings. Soon after these stories were published, the University's Inter-Fraternity Council fined the fraternity for performing "physically and mentally degrading acts," and the Times published an article in which Bush defended the brandings, comparing them to cigarette burns.
"At the time, it caused quite a stir on campus, even generating some national attention," Trudeau said.
The News article, published Nov. 3, 1967, featured a photograph of a half-inch high "D" burned into a pledge's naked backside. Trudeau drew his first cartoon for the News for the story -- a picture of smiling pledges, naked and bent over at the waist, with a figure holding a DKE branding iron standing over them.
In a News story the next day, Bush is quoted calling the branding "insignificant." He said he did not understand how the News "can assume Yale has to be so haughty not to allow this type of pledging to go on."
Trudeau's recent cartoon comes on the heels of the controversy over Sen. John McCain's Anti-Torture Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill. The amendment, which would outlaw torture and "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody," passed in the Senate 90-9 on Oct. 5, but Bush has threatened to use his first-ever veto on the bill if McCain's provision is included in the final passage.
Trudeau said he drew parallels between Bush's connection to fraternity hazing and his national policy today because he feels that it reveals a lot about the President's philosophy.
"While you can't draw a direct line between a 19-year-old's fraternity activities and national policy … this is part of a larger picture of this administration's belief that the ends justify the means," Trudeau said. "I don't think [Bush] gives much thought to what it means to torture people or how it makes us look in the eyes of the world."
The 1967 Yale Daily News article provided a look into the covert hazing practices of fraternities in general, but focused on the DKE branding. Some pledges at the time told the News their branding was preceded by a physical beating.
"By that time, my body was so numb [from the beatings] that the iron felt good, like a match was being held close to my body," an anonymous DKE pledge told the News in 1967.
While the article provoked outrage in the Greek community, most of those who complained expressed anger that fraternities' reputations were being called into question, though few charged that the story was fabricated.
"Once the article came out, nobody denied its truth," Trudeau said. "It became simply a question of characterization."