The last time we were invited to address a commencement ceremony was way back in ’77, when we were the only members of the graduating class of Wichita Heights High School who could confidently deliver a speech. A dearth of invitations since then was starting to make us feel snubbed, but we feel better to know that we are in good company among those who won’t be imparting any advice to this year’s graduates.
According to an intriguing article in The Wall Street Journal, the roster of those not invited to speak at any upcoming graduations includes International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, among other luminaries. Over the past five years there have been 39 similarly esteemed speakers who were disinvited from commencement ceremonies because of protests by offended students and faculty, so it makes us feel better that we weren’t even invited in the first place.
Considering some of the people who will be at the podium in front of all those caps and gowns, it’s an even greater honor not to be asked. Past speakers at Smith commencements included famously smug cable television commentator Rachel Maddow, aging feminist icon and Bill Clinton apologist Gloria Steinem, and irritating internet publisher Arianna Huffington, so Lagarde can take some comfort in knowing that she’s not up to Smith snuff. The elegant French economist was disinvited to speak at Smith College for reasons that are not quite clear to us, although we’re sure it had nothing to do with conservatives’ objections to the sovereignty-sapping ineptitude of international governmental agencies and something to do with the left’s complaint that the IMF isn’t appropriating enough of the west’s wealth and redistributing it to the wretched the earth, so Smith’s opprobrium is actually quite a compliment.
Rice was disinvited by Rutgers University because a noisy enough portion of the graduates and their faculty were offended by her support of the Iraq War while serving as a National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Subsequent Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry will probably not face such protests in coming years, despite the votes both cast as Senators in favor of the war, because academia is far more forgiving of those who initially support a war effort but are quick to undermine it. She, too, should be honored by the dis-invitation.
Ali lost both an invitation and an honorary degree at Brandeis University, which doubly bolsters her already impressive resume. The Somalian refugee and Dutch politician has bravely spoken out against the crimes against women that are perpetrated daily in the Muslim world, and such honesty is too unsettling to leftist sensibilities even at a traditionally Jewish institution such as Brandeis. That such cowardice and anti-intellectualism is characteristic of modern academia should cause everyone who did get an invitation to do some soul-searching.
The Wall Street Journal came up with a few instances of speakers on the left being dis-invited to commencements. One of them was the University of Nebraska reconsidering a speech by unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers back in ’08, so one can only wonder how he got the nod at what was then a Big 12 school in the first place, and another was First Lady Michelle Obama recently being asked to cancel a planned graduation at a high school up the road in Topeka, but that was because of concerns that it would overshadow the youngster’s day and she’ll be giving the same speech at a related “Seniors’ Day” event. Speakers from the right are far more commonly disinvited, however, and for far more frivolous reasons. It’s enough to make a conservative feel unwanted at graduation time.
Which is just as well, we suppose. The best advice we’d have to offer those eager young men and women as they head off into the real would be to forget everything they’ve learned over the past four years that can’t be objectively proved in a laboratory experiment or mathematical equation. We’d also advise them not to get suckered into any more debt than they’ve already racked up on their useless inter-cultural communications studies degrees and to get used to jobs where no one cares about their self-esteem. Even with a few snappy one-liners interspersed it probably wouldn’t go over well, so we’ll leave to the more academically respectable speakers to try and imbue some hope and change.
— Bud Norman