Readers React: Speaking of grad speakers
I have never forgotten who gave the commencement address at my graduation; I wonder if, 50 years from now, the kids who ran their prospective speakers out of town on a rail will be able to recall who replaced them? (“College grads: With speakers as in life, at times you take what you can get,” Opinion, May 21)
The notion of student protests had yet to arrive on college campuses in 1961, and it was probably a good thing nobody thought my class was mature enough to consult. Otherwise, many of us might have missed the only chance we ever had to see President Kennedy in person.
As a member of the UCLA class of 2014, I take exception to Meghan Daum’s reactionary column on commencement speakers.
Older and more experienced than Daum, I find her tone of “you could do a whole lot worse” and “take what you can get” paternalistic. From an inappropriate use of scare quotes around adjectives that correctly describe the International Monetary Fund, to providing political cover for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Daum’s “be a gracious host” to your oppressors thesis is wrongheaded at best.
Let’s embrace students who are no longer willing to accept perpetrators of oppression and injustice as speakers. Daum wants us to sit and listen. I say speak truth to power and continue resisting what the celebrated professor Bell Hooks calls “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”
Daum should consider that, rather than settling for “you can do worse,” true agency starts with “we can do better.”
Robert D. Skeels
Daum’s well-written piece is a reminder that our democracy is in danger of sliding into a “soft” type of totalitarianism in which our institutions of higher learning are representing the extreme political correctness of a few.
One wonders what is left of the sense of cultural relativism that liberal education has been imparting for decades — to instill understanding and tolerance of other people’s cosmovision.
Even in this society that continually questions identities and institutions, the behavior of those campus “nincompoops” should not be rewarded with our compliance. When debate becomes a reckless exercise devoid of mutual respect, the result is the triumph of the paranoia of those who jeopardize the healthy exchange of ideas.
It’s fine if you, as a student, want to protest something, but affecting others’ freedom of choice or demanding agreement with your point if view is wrong in a free, diverse society.
I think Rice was part of a corrupt administration that engaged in illegal wars and unconstitutional activities, but I’d like to hear what she has to say and would never insist she agree with me.
Those who don’t want to hear what Rice or other commencement speakers have to say retain the option of saying home.
Marina del Rey
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