Service of Speaking Your Mind
June 2nd, 2014
Categories: Speaking, Speaking Up, University
Saying what’s on your mind rarely makes you the most popular person. I admire those who do, especially when they chose a venue where their words will be heard and an audience that’s the target of their criticism.
When former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg received an honorary degree from the Harvard Law School on May 29, part of his address covered the topic of freedom of expression. The New York Post shared an excerpt on PostOpinion: “Killing the Campuses–The Intolerance Menace.”
The heart of this part of Bloomberg’s message: “The role of universities is not to promote an ideology. It is to provide scholars and students with a neutral forum for researching and debating issues–without tipping the scales in one direction or repressing unpopular views.”
He continued by listing the college commencement speakers who either pulled out or whose invitations were withdrawn because of student protests joined by senior faculty and administrators. The pressure by the latter groups shocked him more as they “should know better.” The colleges he listed: Brandeis, Haverford, Rutgers, Smith this year and last year, Swarthmore and Johns Hopkins. He also referenced an incident last fall that was unrelated to commencement time when his police commissioner was shut down by students at another Ivy League institution. [It was Ray Kelly at Brown.]
Bloomberg said: “In each case, liberals silenced a voice–and denied an honorary degree–to individuals they deemed politically objectionable. That is an outrage and we must not let it continue.” He said that when this happens “censorship and conformity, the mortal enemies of freedom win out.”
In “Two Cheers for Bloomberg A liberal politician denounces leftist ‘McCarthyism’”
James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal applauded a different part of Bloomberg’s address where he said: “There is an idea floating around college campuses–including here at Harvard–that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. There’s a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism.”
Even though his words won’t affect his livelihood, his future or that of his family, [unless he's again running for office, this time on a conservative ticket], Bloomberg didn’t have to do this. Do you agree with his positions?