Wednesday, April 1, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Civility and commencement speeches

thommason column sig

By
May 20, 2014 |

A year ago, attending my oldest granddaughter’s graduation from a major Virginia university, I was somewhat curious about the lack of a commencement speaker. There was instead a short, perhaps six- or seven-minute statement by the dean of her particular college, the largest in the school, praising the newly minted graduates and wishing them luck.

I was told that because of the size of the class and ancillary requirements like the awarding of faculty and student academic honors, it was decided to forgo the usual celebrity pep talk. I accepted this as sensible and plausible but suspected that another reason was the difficulty these days of enlisting men and women of stature to make the traditional speech and receive an honorary – both designed to increase the prestige of the school as well as to honor the person chosen.

The furor now swirling around campuses this year is ample proof that tradition may be coming to an end with more and more colleges and universities deciding it may not be worth the potential embarrassment to the institution to engage a speaker who some view as too controversial.

According to the Washington Post and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, since 1987 there have been at least 145 instances in which speakers have withdrawn their names, had their invitations rescinded or been the subject of protests. The list seems to have grown exponentially in the last five years with 100 such examples. In 2010 for instance Butler University found John G. Roberts Jr., the chief justice of the United Sates and an Indiana native, too controversial to address its graduates. Earlier in 2008, former everything including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the same honor heaped on her by the College of St. Catherine.

This year former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled her Rutgers University graduation appearance because of student and faculty protests and other major figures like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as well prominent academics from places like the University of California Berkley and Harvard have faced the same situation for past decisions or current policies.

I tried to recall my own college commencement speaker and wasn’t able to do so and I was too lazy to try to find out. Besides, I remember nothing of the speech as I daresay neither do 99.9 percent of graduates 10 minutes after they shift their tassels. Their only thoughts naturally center on what comes next.

But that seems beside the point. There are larger issues here not the least of which is the belief that college is a place for the exchange of all ideas, no matter how outlandish, to be accepted or rejected as one sees fit. That isn’t, at least I was taught, limited to the classroom where the audience is captive but extends also to those outside the academic circle who have a record of achievement.

In other words, the fact that a handful of student protesters or timid administrators or activist faculty members can deny access to the likes of the chief justice of the United States or the nation’s chief foreign policy experts, no matter whose presidential administration they served, is an assault on academic freedom second to none. Is there any greater hypocrisy? Furthermore it is an insult to the students who are deprived of making their own judgment. Whatever happened to the mantra “I disagree with what you say but I will defend . . . ”?

We’re not talking about peddlers of hate here or those who would advocated the return of slavery or preach sedition. It goes without saying that to give them a platform would be wrong. But these are people of solid prominence and expertise in their fields, who just might have a suggestion that would benefit a student audience.

My mother and father taught me that open mindedness was crucial to success in any endeavor. “Listen and sort,” my mother used to say. “If you don’t like what you hear, reject it. If it makes sense, accept it as long as it isn’t a threat to civil order or the rights of others.” I always found that good advice.

I didn’t miss having to sit through a long address at my granddaughter’s commencement, but I would have done so politely.

Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: [email protected]

Dan K. Thomasson

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 9 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Teach5thMay 20, 2014 - 6:36 am

    Colleges and universities should be places where diversity of thought is deemed essential to a student's education. But, just like the 60's (so I hear), radical professors and students want to tamp down any expression of thought that is contrary to what they believe is correct. No exchange of ideas is allowed because that might actually expose the students to a different way of thinking about an issue, and we certainly can't have that.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMay 20, 2014 - 7:14 am

    Teach5th, as usual you're making ill-informed statements. The 60's were a time of exchanging ideas and professors working with students to expand their horizons and grow. They actually stood side by side seeking common goals to achieve academic success. That all went away in the 70's when the standards were lowered so those individuals not capable of working at the same levels everyone else was required to do could not. If you didn't "live the 60's experience" you have no idea.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPdp2MH19dYMay 20, 2014 - 7:22 am

    LORD LOVE A DUCK [1966 TRAILER]..... The 60's were a time of massive roll out of mind control of the masses aimed toward encouraging moral decay, and the electronic, TV, Movies, Radio culture... of destroying and molding us rapidly to a materialists, me first society that has been controlled and manipulated into more wars for the Illuminati.... Supposedly Tuesday Weld was a mind controlled Illuminati/Luciferian Priestess who took over for Jane Mansfield after her untimely death... Priestess for the focus and entry of dark entities....

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • http://gorightly.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/tuesday-weld-the-high-priestess-of-the-illuminati.pdfMay 20, 2014 - 7:32 am

    Analysis of the movie with Illuminati tie ins........ also Google Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon ... See more work on a major Helgelian Dialectic... Conservative against Liberal... setting up the Dialectic... and Do what you will is the whole of the law...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogMay 20, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    CD. That is what is known as liberalism/affirmative action.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMay 20, 2014 - 3:00 pm

    Salty Dog, Yes it was signed into law by Kennedy ('61)? My response to T5 was in support of education prior to those lowering of standards. No, I don't agree with everything my party has done or will do.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895May 20, 2014 - 4:06 pm

    I have a theory that the 60's still influences our politics more than any era except perhaps the much more recent Bush II years. Conservatives think "liberal" and they think hippies, drugs, free love, and unpatriotic anti-war protesters. I don't think liberals have the same problem because, well, they're liberal AND they "won" the arguments of the 60s. Meanwhile, the conservatives have never forgotten and are continuing to try to get back at the liberals for what happened two generations ago. T5 wasn't even there and is going by the same paradigm because that's the rumor among his/her apparent circle.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogMay 20, 2014 - 5:28 pm

    rlw: we all know that you liberals still blame bush for all the problems.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895May 20, 2014 - 6:49 pm

    Wow, a sentence in which you have to define "all" twice! To say nothing that it's beside the point entirely.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Records detail shooting victim’s court history

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A1, 38 Comments | Gallery

 
Vallejo youth wins county spelling bee

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
25th annual Rush Ranch Open House on April calendar

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A2

 
 
Saturday Club schedules Shower of Flowers event

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Symphony opportunity, scholarships available

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

 
Searchers find 84-year-old missing nearly a day

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Free Healthier Living workshops begin this week

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Music teachers receive program grants

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A5

 
Group plans Haiti missions fundraisers

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Travel presentation ready to roll in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

Vallejo woman hit, killed by vehicle

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A6

 
Workshops offer information on child support process

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A6

 
Helen Mirren film set for debut

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
Frazier to deliver keynote at Solano EDC event

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B10

WIB to host regional career fair

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: March 29, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A14

Fairfield police log: March 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A14, 2 Comments

 
Suisun City police log: March 29, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A14

Suisun City police log: March 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A14

 
Man struck by car, injured

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

.

US / World

 
Family: Man dead at Hollywood Hills home is Andrew Getty

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Tuskegee Airman Leslie A. Williams dies in California at 95

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
3D print technology provides ‘robohand’ to 7-year-old girl

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Endangered bighorn sheep moved to Yosemite, Sequoia parks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Defense rests in 1st phase of Boston Marathon bombing trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Woman charged with stabbing boyfriend after salsa argument

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Police: Prisoner who stole gun, fled hospital found in DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Dress-wearing man killed by NSA police had lengthy record

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Exercising critically ill patients may help speed recovery

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Nigerian troops prevent Boko Haram attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Iran nuke talks extend past deadline

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

Transportation strike shuts down Argentina

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Relief program paid millions for ‘flawed’ work

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Buhari defeats Goodluck Jonathan in Nigerian election

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: April 1, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in history: April 1, 2015

By Maureen Fissolo | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: April 1, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

 
Should we sent wedding invitations to relatives we know can’t come?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

Dressing up spring asparagus with an easy brown butter sauce

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

 
‘General Hospital’ leads Daytime Emmy nominations

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Olympic champ Gabby Douglas’ family to get reality show

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Randle sets record, leads Stanford past ODU in NIT semis

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Vanden’s Orme strikes out 16, tosses no-hitter

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Prep boys golf preview: All 4 city teams are young

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1

 
Short-handed Miami rallies to beat Temple 60-57 in NIT semis

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Patriots owner: Aaron Hernandez told me he was innocent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders release DT Antonio Smith

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tennessee hires former Texas coach Rick Barnes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Thunder star Kevin Durant has bone graft surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey showing off versatility

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NASCAR driver Kyle Larson released from hospital

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Barry Zito’s scoreless streak ends; A’s beat Angels 13-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cubs will track noise so Wrigley rehab doesn’t disturb fans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Lincecum pitches into 6th in Giants’ win over Rockies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP’s Run to the Roses: Mubtaahij No. 8; Dortmund still No. 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Michigan State title would be worth $1 million to Vegas man

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP study projects average MLB salary tops $4M

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
University of North Dakota begins campaign to find nickname

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Judge rules Ernie Banks will is valid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kentucky’s platoon system gives way to traditional rotation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Chris Mullin returns home to coach St. John’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Soccer player at center of search killed crossing LA freeway

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Frozen Four will be old home week for BU coach David Quinn

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rio Olympic tickets go on sale despite football uncertainty

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Tiger Woods plays practice round at Augusta

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
US gives up another late goal in 1-1 tie at Switzerland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NASCAR finds Ryan Newman’s race team for manipulated tires

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Online craft retailer Etsy preps for IPO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Many trucks being driven beyond designed top speed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Buffet expected to buy dealerships

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
San Bruno supports higher fine

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Google to release their cheapest laptop yet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10, 2 Comments

 
Several charged in Medicaid shoe fraud

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10, 2 Comments

Fast food organizers expand their campaign

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10, 1 Comment

 
.

Obituaries

Gordon Davis

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Carlos Penados

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7