2nd Law

a blog by collegiates from around the purple nation (though mostly living in NYC) in the midst of transitioning to the real world

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

John McCain Does Not Speak For Us

This June, Senator John McCain will speak for Columbia College's Class Day.

Every year students of the American University system are given a chance to select their graduation speaker. The outcome is difficult to predict. In some instances, it can be satirical, like when Ali G (aka Sasha Baron Cohen) spoke at Harvard. In others, it can be glamorous, as is the case this year with Jodie Foster and UPenn. Other times, it can be painfully boring: UChicago - unsurprisingly - only chooses a speaker within the faculty. There are highs (George W. Bush came to Yale one year) and there are lows (George Stephanopoulos came to Columbia in another). And always, there are politics.

Understandably. Graduation is perhaps the only day (other than those awkward early years of recruitment) that a university will admit to being completely devoted to you. Emotionally, monetarily, temporally, physically. It is the only day from which most of us will enjoy an entire week of partying (thrown in our name and with no shame in a hangover). The only day our families will be forced to mingle and discuss our accomplishments. The only day we are compelled to wear a $44 (and up) article of clothing that is more poorly assembled than my grandmother's sofa-covers. It is special, and most of us - even if we say we don't care - want it to be perfect.

So, what did we expect when Senator John McCain was chosen as the speaker for Columbia College's Class of 2006? In 2000, this might have been acceptable. Back then, he was espoused by the left as a rare Republican who voted with intelligence. In the words of The New Republic: "In addition to shepherding campaign finance reform through Congress - against the administration's efforts to kill it quietly - he co-sponsored a patients' bill of rights with John Edwards and Ted Kennedy; co-sponsored with Charles Schumer a measure to allow the importation of generic prescription drugs; co-sponsored with John Kerry legislation to raise auto emissions standards; and co-sponsored legislation with Joe Lieberman to close the "gun-show loophole" and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with the Kyoto accords." He was socially aware too - supporting stem cell research and the precedent in Roe v. Wade.

After his brutal loss of the 2000 primary in South Carolina to the foul play of mastermind Karl Rove, a new McCain began to emerge from the folds of the Republican party. This Senator voted for tax-cuts, supported teaching "intelligent design", and endorsed the new anti-abortion legislation that recently passed in South Dakota. And despite originally voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment (which allows marriage to be defined as only between a man and a woman), McCain now supports an initiative to ban same-sex marriage in his home state, and opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would make it illegal for employers to dismiss employees based on sexual orientation.

To add insult to injury, McCain will also be speaking at the graduation ceremony of Liberty University (One need look no further than the recent NYTime's Magazine story on Liberty University's debate team. Shame on you, Liberty U, publicly lording your debate victories over Columbia's prestigious debate team). The school - located in Lynchburg, Virginia - was founded in 1971 by the spirited conservative Christian Jerry Falwell. For those of you unfamiliar with Falwell's fiery polemics, I shall not hesitate to include one of my favorite of his quotations: "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers ... AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." Falwell is the very same man who McCain once (and reasonably so) denounced as an agent of "intolerance."

In response, Columbia students have circulated a petition online titled "John McCain Does Not Speak For Us." Most of the signers respect McCain's right to speak, but are taking the opportunity to show their objection to his political views. As my classmate Wayne Ting wrote, "I believe Senator McCain has the right to speak at Class Day. I don't expect that this petition will stop him from speaking, but I do believe it will send a message that homophobia will not be tolerated."

Indeed, Class Day is a special moment for us all. It is a moment of supreme recognition: our names will be called, we will walk on-stage, and we will be acknowledged and congratulated by the University as graduates. In turn, however, we should use this recognition to call attention to politics and beliefs we find hateful and inconsistent. I encourage everyone to sign the petition here.

5 Comments:

Blogger Maggie Hennefeld said...

mccain's a nice controversial speaker. my brother and their friends organized a walkout when greenspan spoke at their harvard graduation. my brother's friend's mom told my bro: 'you ruined my son's graduation!' scary... some ppl want to wear 'silence of the jodie' tshirts over their gowns at penn. that seems a little unnecessary. but i see your point about mccain speaking at the crazy jerry fallwell university. yikes!

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

While I appreciate the views of protesters to Sen. McCain's planned speech, they (the protesters) seem to forget the fact that McCain was mostly hated by the conservatives, for his lighter take on abortion and other issues. Regvisit his speeches from the '04 and '00 Campaigns. Granted, he is appeasing the conservatives right now, but McCain has a) a good head on his shoulders and b) a proven military record as well as a well thought out plan on ending the Iraq War for Profit. Furthermore, while Republicans are the powers that be, McCain is the only one who even comes close to possessing common sense. I am registered as neither democrat nor republican, as I am a free thinking American who will vote for the best candidate. Seriously, if it were McCain v. H. Clinton, would you folks put Hillary into office?

10:59 AM  
Blogger Thessaly said...

I don't really know if you're adding that much to the debate... I agree that McCain does a good job as representing himself as someone that straddles the left and the right, but I don't think that makes him an exeptional politician, especially as a Senator. I also think it's really ridiculous to suggest revisting his '04 and '00 campaign speeches, especially when his current actions are so contradictory. I don't think reading old speeches will convince me of much. You make appeasement sound innocous. When it comes to politics, I think that is a big mistake.

Also - I don't really understand why you are making a distinction between McCain and Hilary Clinton. Hilary is no better in my opinion, and if she came to speak for Class Day, I would probably sign a similar petition due to her recent actions of aligning herself with the pro-life movement and changing her rhetoric on women's rights. And also for accepting sketchy campaign donations. I wasn't necessarily making the point that McCain was some terrible, awful Republican and that all Democrats are wonderful.

The point is, politicians are politicians... and I resent that my graduation is being used as a campaign platform for a man who endorses intolerance.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roger says, that John McCain should not be permitted to speak at any college commencement address. He has some fairly radical ideas and most college students are too easily influenced by outside sources. I don't know if their fragile minds can handle any opposition. We need to keep college campuses free of anyone that might be too politically controversial. Let's keep facism firmly where it belongs and where it's always festered on our college campuses. It's best to tell the masses what they want to hear. Don't rock the boat, don't upset the children!!!

4:41 AM  
Blogger Thessaly said...

Dear anonymous -

It's ironic really, because if you had actually read what either I had written, or what the petition actually had to say, you might realize that all of us here who signed the petition are open to the idea of McCain speaking and listening to him. We like free speech: it's important for a society like ours to exist. If it weren't for free speech, we wouldn't be able to say that we don't think McCain represents us. Us, the graduates of 2006. I am allowed to say that, right?

That said, our actions don't represent facism. I do not eschew controversy. If anything, WE are rocking the boat. We are highlighting the problems with Senator McCain - to our peers, our community, and hopefully, to McCain himself. If McCain is the politician he claims to be, hopefully he will listen to what we have to say and take our protestations into consideration.

Why don't you actually try to read something next time. For now, you're the one sounding like a facist.

12:49 PM  

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