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Old 05-21-2003, 10:57 AM   #1
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Forum for free speech (re:Rockford College Commencement)

I had heard about this story yesterday and am absolutely appalled by what Rockford College did, and moreover what New York Times' Chris Hedges did. Basically the college had Hedges give this year's commencement speech and what he did was stand there and give an anti-war talk in front of a student body who protested him. Many of the students protested by turning their back on the speaker, but you can hear many of them passionately pleading for him to stop speaking and get off the stage (amongst all the boos.) Before I go on here is the link to the audio file of the speech:

http://www.rrstar.com/localnews/your.../rcaudio.shtml

I believe a commencement speech has its appropriate place in the ceremony of graduation, however I also believe some of these colleges have skewed why the speech is given, and therefore who they select each year to give the speech. I believe the speech should be a positive, uplifting speech celebrating the students of the institution as they (in most cases) just spent the past four years of their lives busting their asses to earn a college degree (something many many people do not have the opportunity to receive.) The speech should emphasize how the students are about to enter the 'real world' and what kind of difference they can make once they are out there. The speech should talk of achievement, goals, and how to better the earth. Basically, I believe it should make the students feel good about what they have just accomplished, and get them excited for what lies ahead of them.

However, there is a trend these days for schools to basically hire speakers that are controversial for the sake of controversy. I am a huge proponent of the first amendment, and I believe everyone should have the right of free speech, but I do not believe a college graduation ceremony is the appropriate forum. The students (in most cases) just paid thousands and thousands of dollars to attend a university to attain a degree. Who do these universities think they are to hire someone to speak and anger the students who should be proud to be graduating from their university?

The graduation podium should not be a place for someone to stand and give a totally unrelated tirade about his opinions on war and say nothing, nothing to or about the students graduating from the institution that hired him to speak inthe first place. It is a disgrace. It would be a disgrace no matter how you feel about the war - whether you are for or against it, neither opinion matters. This is not the opportunity for you to stand and give your opinion about anything. It is, however, your job to give an inspiring speech and one that is positive in nature.

In my own life I have experienced this. At my graduation, a woman was hired to speak who was a female Asian writer who had written some books about Vietnam and was reknowned in some small literary circles. She did have some inspiring thoughts on how to live your life and be a good person in this world of evil, but a lot of her speech had to do with her life in Vietnam and war and peace. This is all well and good except I graduated during peacetime when there were no major conflicts in the world. It was also well and good except for the fact that I was an engineering student and most of her speech was about literature and the liberal arts (things I did not and do not much have a great interest in.) So the question is how appropriate a speaker was she for me, or many of my commrades in the engineering school. Not much. I joked that I would have rather had Bill Cosby speak (he spoke that year at another school) as he made a very inspirational speech, more a plea to the students to make this a better world. That to me is a good speech, he had no motive, and was not trying to put his interest ahead of the students whom should be celebrated.

I do not know why this has made me so mad, but after hearing that speech today the Rockford College administration should put forth a formal apology to its student body and it should truly be ashamed of itself. Had I been graduating from that school this year a lot would have had to be done to stop me from jumping on that stage and physically removing the speaker in the interest of the student body. They did manage to cut off his mike twice, but the administration allowed him to go on. It truly is a sad story as it has made many of the graduating class mad or upset, and their graduation day should be the last day to bring about these feelings. They should feel proud for what they accomplished, excited for waht is ahead, but rather their college decided to bring them down.

Shame.
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Old 05-21-2003, 11:35 AM   #2
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I've been to two really horrible commecement speeches. Both were in the 98-99 time slot. One was Al Gore at the Naval Academy he had everyone in a deep sleep, and the other was George W. at Texas A&M. Now George's was entertaining just to hear what words he'd fumble or make up and see him stumble through his speech. But both were filled with campaign agenda. None left the students ready to change the world or motivated. Niether one of these jokers got my vote in that election, partly due to their lack of respect to those two audiences.
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Old 05-21-2003, 01:44 PM   #3
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At Ouizy's request I am moving this to regular FYM.

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Old 05-21-2003, 02:58 PM   #4
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Chris, the 60s are over.
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Old 05-21-2003, 11:29 PM   #5
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I think that quite often the faculty, administration, and elite students who select these cool cats as speakers do so in one final attempt to impose their controversial agendae on the greduating students before the escape the ideological control of the institution and jump into the real world.

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Old 05-23-2003, 11:24 PM   #6
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I for one would hope that the students would have enough maturity to allow for differing views of opinion and free speech rather than mob rule. Apparently their college education did not prepare them for the fact that in the real world they may have to listen to people with ideas that may contradict their own. What a shame.
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Old 05-23-2003, 11:39 PM   #7
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Ouizy, I think you are right in saying it was an inappropriate theme/ speech for that moment. But I also think it is ridiculous to turn your back on a speaker or boo around at such a speech, especially for graduated college students. They should have learned how to display a little more style.
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Old 05-24-2003, 12:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by sulawesigirl4
I for one would hope that the students would have enough maturity to allow for differing views of opinion and free speech rather than mob rule. Apparently their college education did not prepare them for the fact that in the real world they may have to listen to people with ideas that may contradict their own. What a shame.
Shame on the speaker for not having the class to deliver a graduation speech (it was a graduation ceremony after all), but instead talked about a divisive issue that he had to know would create this kind of reaction.
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Old 05-24-2003, 12:48 AM   #9
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isn't this guy a war corespondent, a reporter? do you think his bias displayed in his speech impacted his reporting in afghanistan, or Iraq?
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Old 05-24-2003, 01:57 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by 80sU2isBest

that he had to know would create this kind of reaction.
How could he know that the graduates would act like 10 year olds?
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Old 05-24-2003, 04:25 AM   #11
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whenhiphopdrovethebigcars,


"How could he know that the graduates would act like 10 year olds?"

Lets see, this is the STUDENTS graduation ceremony, not his or the faculty. This is a celebration of the hard work accomplishments that students have been in engaged in over the past several years. Many people were rightfully offended by the topic and tone of the speaker. Why should students and their families at THEIR graduation ceremony be forced to indure such a divisive speach, a speach that was extremely offensive to most of the students and their families. This was not a campus event where the speaker had come in to talk about the war, this was a graduation ceremony.

It probably would have been more appropriate to simply walk out. But I wonder how many Anti-War protesters at any Anti-War rally would have sat without saying a word, if Donald Rumsfeld got up to speak his views at their rally.
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Old 05-24-2003, 06:39 AM   #12
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Thatīs exactly what I am talking about, STING2.

There is a huge difference: between a rally, whether it is pro war, anti war, or any other kind of demo, where anyone is free to turn in whatever direction or to boo around - and a students graduation ceremony, which is a ceremony.

In my eyes, this is a formal ceremony, and it is totally without style and very childish to boo around at a formal ceremony. In my opinion, the graduates of a college have to be intelligent enough to react in a different way.

In fact, it would have been more appropriate to walk out without a word, or to simply listen to what this man has to say, also if it doesnīt fit in the ceremony, and at the following party (if there is any in such occasions) to talk about the taste or opinion of the speaker in small circles with glasses of champagne.

The students simply have shown that they havenīt learned good manners. Or any manners at all. Any hooligan at a soccer game can boo around. I can tell you that if something like this happens at a formal ceremony in Europe, nobody will think that those students are academically educated.

So, shame on them.
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Old 05-24-2003, 10:04 PM   #13
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What if a college had a conservative figure speak at a commencement, and he/she went off on some tangent in favor of the death penalty or increased military spending, or opposed to foreign aid or abortion or multiculturalism? Would you want the liberal students who have a conscience to behave?

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Old 05-24-2003, 10:54 PM   #14
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I would expect them to utilise their conscience and respect the speakers right to his or her opinion and behave like an adult.
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Old 05-24-2003, 11:45 PM   #15
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this is that liberal crap that makes me so irritated. if the speaker had the right do do and say as he pleased, so do the students. it's always one-sided. "we have the right do do and say as we please, but you don't have the right to disagree." whether the students had "style" or not is not the issue. the issue is that it was wrong of the speaker to use an inappropriate forum to air his personal views.
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