Tags: Free | Speech | Blocked | Right | and | Left

Free Speech Blocked by Right and Left

Wednesday, 27 April 2005 12:00 AM

Meanwhile, the Cardinal Newman Society, a group that exists to protest speakers and performances at Catholic colleges, has announced that it is protesting the decision by Marymount Manhattan College to invite Sen. Hillary Clinton to be its commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree.

It should go without saying, of course, that college students should not behave like preschoolers. Generally, colleges bring speakers like Ann to campus to expose students to different points of view, and it is extremely rare that a professor would ever require his or her students to attend such a lecture, and only then for a specific purpose. If you don't like Ann, don't go. You can vote with your feet.

Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, would no doubt resent being grouped with the badly behaving pranksters. Yet all are in the business of blocking speech they might disagree with, and while the pie-throwers pose only a momentary interruption, if Reilly is successful, none of the students and parents and friends will be able to hear from the woman who may well be the first woman president of the United States.

I spoke at the Wellesley commencement in 1989. The next year, Barbara Bush was invited to speak. Some students protested. I was mortified. The college stood by the choice. Barbara Bush was greeted with an extraordinary showing of warmth, more so, I think, than I received as an alum coming back, or Hillary received when she came back to speak, because it was the right thing to do.

Commencements, which are for everybody, are for that reason no place for politics, a lesson I have learned in the last 15 years of giving commencement speeches. They should be about the students, their world, what you can say that might matter to them.

I always talk to the students who aren't on top of the world, who don't have Ozzie and Harriet as parents, sitting together, who weren't dealt a hand with four aces.

At my high school graduation, I was the valedictorian who had been rejected from Harvard, the place I always dreamed I would go. Thirty-six hours before my college graduation, a man put an ice pick to my throat and raped me; they shot me up with antibiotics so I couldn't sit down; my father didn't come, because my parents were divorced and I didn't have a ticket for his wife.

I didn't even go to my law school graduation. By then, my father was dead, and I couldn't face it, or afford the ticket back from D.C., where I had already started work. So I talk about rolling with the punches. Adaptation to life. Finding your own definition of success, and being able to handle failure.

The Cardinal Newman Society is protesting the choice of Hillary Clinton because of her support for contraception as basic health care and embryonic stem cell research, as well as her stance on the issue of abortion. Referring to a speech Clinton gave last January where she was widely credited with reaching out to anti-abortion advocates in an effort to find common ground, Reilly pointed out, correctly, that she began that speech by reaffirming her own support for Roe v. Wade.

I would be willing to bet that Hillary Clinton will not mention Roe v. Wade in her speech. But that would, I am certain, not be enough for Reilly, who invokes a policy adopted last year by the U.S. Conference of Bishops titled "Catholics in Political Life":

"The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

Far be it from me to interpret Catholic law. But I never considered an invitation to speak at a college as a show of "support." Respect, maybe. That's all you can hope for when you speak at a college these days. If you're lucky, you'll get out without a pie in your face.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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Meanwhile, the Cardinal Newman Society, a group that exists to protest speakers and performances at Catholic colleges, has announced that it is protesting the decision by Marymount Manhattan College to invite Sen. Hillary Clinton to be its commencement speaker and receive...
Free,Speech,Blocked,Right,and,Left
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2005-00-27
Wednesday, 27 April 2005 12:00 AM
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