Scripps College (the women’s campus of the Claremont Colleges) has invited Madeleine Albright to be their commencement speaker, and some students and faculty don’t like it. These students and faculty accuse Albright of being a “war criminal.” I think that’s a ridiculously overblown charge. My guess is that she’s a proxy receptacle for leftist resentment of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, but the accusation that anyone who complains about a choice of commencement speaker is somehow against free speech or are not “letting her speak” is equally hysterical. So let’s rehearse:
- Students who write op-eds for campus newspapers (or any newspapers) aren’t “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their right to free speech.
- Faculty who sign letters of protest and/or promise to boycott graduation because they dislike the speaker are not “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their liberty of speech and association.
Repeat until no longer outraged!
Why is this so difficult for newspaper writers and editorial boards to understand? Unless and until Scripps College students and faculty organize a massive protest to shut down commencement exercises and/or by force of arms wrest Madeleine Albright from the stage and gag her to prevent her from delivering her prepared remarks, there’s no abridgment of her right to address the young graduates and their families. And any speaker who’s been a U.S. secretary of state, or head of the International Monetary Fund, for example, who doesn’t go somewhere just because a few students and faculty have written op-eds or signed a letter of protest, well: now who’s being “too sensitive” and who should really play the grown-up and “listen. . . to those with whom you disagree?”
I can’t help but notice that an unusual number–considering the actually atrociously small numbers of women CEOs, heads of state, and in the diplomatic corps–of these protested campus speakers are women: Christine Lagarde at Smith, Condoleeza Rice at Rutgers, and now Albright at Scripps. Some students and faculty seem to have expectations that women in public service–as opposed to men in public service–to be more morally pure than their male peers and pass some impossible leftist purity test too.
I wonder where they get that idea, much less why they think they’re the superior feminists for protesting women in leadership positions? It’s as though they’re criticizing these women from the nineteenth century assumption that women must be protected from the corruptions of the public sphere. I guess they prefer that women be utterly pure beautiful losers. (But how on earth is that remotely feminist or progressive in this century? Haven’t we had 7,000 years of that already?)
Are you really surprised that colleges and universities choose commencement speakers who took leadership roles and achieved something, as opposed to the legions of morally pure beautiful losers? DUH! Maybe they should look to the nineteenth century to find commencement speakers of sufficient virtue and without any involvement in politics or world affairs? I hear that no one has invited Catharine Beecher to speak this year, but that’s only because she’s been dead since 1878.