Last month, commencement-day speakers around the country used the podium to deliver the same sort of political broadsides that students can expect to hear if they tune in to this year’s Democratic convention. Some local campuses here in our nation’s capital provided a snapshot of this trend.
“If anyone has a mortarboard, you can move your tassels from right to left, right to left, which is what I hope happened to your politics in the last four years,” George Washington University President Stephen Trachtenberg told the graduating class there. Dr. Trachtenberg’s philosophy of education is startlingly similar to the reeducation ideals of Fidel Castro.
For its part, Georgetown University went through the 1990s with a string of commencement speakers for its various schools drawn from the Clinton Administration. With the Clintonistas out of office for the past half decade, Georgetown is greeting the millennium with speakers from the same pool of orators.
Most notably, Dr. David Satcher, former President Clinton’s surgeon general, addressed graduates this year. It says something about Georgetown’s Catholic identity when a partial-birth abortion advocate such as Dr. Satcher evokes no protests while a Prince of the Church repeating its beliefs—namely last year’s graduation-day speaker, Cardinal Francis Arinze—does.
As Carmen Pate of Concerned Women for America pointed out when Dr. Satcher was confirmed by the U. S. Senate, “Dr. Satcher has publicly stated that he supports President Clinton’s views on partial-birth abortion, and would only support a ban of the procedure if a woman’s ‘health’ were taken into consideration. But the Supreme Court case Doe v. Bolton defined ‘health’ so vaguely, that a woman could use almost any ‘health’ reason (including depression) to justify an abortion. In short, a ‘health’ exception is really a clever way to get around any abortion restrictions, and so, partial-birth abortions would continue unabated.”
In contrast, when Cardinal Arinze spoke in 2003, a theology professor left the stage the Cardinal was speaking on and 70 members of the faculty protested the speech in a letter to the dean of the university’s school of arts and sciences.
What did the Cardinal say to provoke the uprising? “In many parts of the world, the family is under siege,” Cardinal Arinze told students and faculty.
“It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.”
Rounding out the Clinton Administration reunion at Georgetown were Dr. Rita Rossi Colwell, who served the 42nd president as director of the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, who chaired the last chief executive’s Council of Economic Advisors.
Three schools in the Washington, D. C. metropolitan area actually featured Republican speakers. When students at the University of Maryland at College Park complained that they had never heard of last year’s graduation-day speaker, according to USA Today, the administration at the school invited collegiates there to pick their own commencement speaker. The students chose Tom Ridge, the Bush Administration’s director of Homeland Security.
Edwin Meese, President Reagan’s attorney general, addressed the graduating class at George Mason University. Perhaps the biggest commencement-day surprise was the lineup at the podium at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC).
Although hardly a bastion of conservatism, UDC showcased Wilbert Bryant, who not only is an appointee of the sitting president but who also worked for the last two Republican governors in the state of Virginia. Bryant shared the podium with Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N. Y., a consistent and persistent critic of just about anyone associated with the Republican Party. The juxtaposition of Bryant, an assistant secretary of Education, and Rangel, gives UDC a higher grade for diversity, at least on graduation day, than most other American colleges and universities.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.