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No Sympathy For Hedges

I’ve defended the academic freedom of a persecuted Marxist-feminist. And despite condemning Peter Kirstein for his outrageous attacks on our military, I spoke out against attempts to relieve him of his teaching duties. So I’m perfectly willing to defend the free speech rights of leftists. But I find it hard to summon up any sympathy for Chris Hedges. Shouting down speakers is wrong, of course. Under normal circumstances, it should be condemned unreservedly. But a graduation speech is not the place for controversial political advocacy. You’ve got a captive audience of students and parents. Graduation speeches ought to be about life, education, and issues that transcend ordinary political differences. The exception would be for a college that has a clear and well publicized political/religious/cultural mission that students and parents knew about when they selected the school. Some of the Hedges stories indicate that Rockford College may have been such a place. Certainly, given his anti-war book, simply inviting Hedges was asking for this kind of address. So either Rockford made a bad choice of speaker, or this story shows that even the most openly leftist of colleges has lost touch with its students (or both). In any case, except in rare cases, a graduation speech is not the place for strident advocacy on controversial issues like abortion, gun control, or war. If politics enters into a graduation speech, it should be with due consideration for the occasion. Should Hedges have been shouted down? I guess not. But the real problem was a speech that was inappropriate to the occasion.

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