Former Bush administration official Robert Zoellick was to speak at Swarthmore… (Esteban Felix / Associated…)
Re "Conservatives need not apply," Opinion, May 19
Economist Kevin Hassett laments the scarcity of conservatives giving graduation speeches. He even claims that "a primary objective of today's academic institutions … is not to educate students but rather to educate reliable Democratic votes."
He doesn't give our college students credit for intelligence. As an adjunct professor of biology at Moorpark College, I praise my students (nearly half of whom have "undecided or undeclared" listed for their majors) for their openness to explore.
What Hassett fails to consider is that, given the record of conservative leadership over the last generation, young people today know who has their best interests at heart — and who doesn't.
It's an ironic turnaround. When I was in college, students demonstrated for free speech on campus. Now students from liberal arts schools such as Swarthmore, where Hassett is an alumnus, protest against speakers with conservative views. An example closer to home was when students disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. at UC Irvine in 2010.
Do college students today lack the ability to listen to and debate opinions contrary to their own? Are their opinions so lacking in depth that even moderate conservative speakers can't be given a chance at free speech?
I wonder if colleges are really educating thinking citizens.
Does Hassett actually believe that it is the mission of American universities to "educate reliable Democratic votes"? If so, his Op-Ed piece goes a long way toward explaining why the GOP is becoming a largely regional party.
What would Republican speakers convey to a graduating class? Would they support the attack on women's rights, the return to health insurance exclusions based on preexisting conditions, or a life of work with decreasing Social Security and Medicare benefits to allow for lower taxes on the wealthy?
Hassett has put the cart before the horse. Perhaps Republicans are not invited to give many commencement speeches because they have nothing constructive to say to graduates who have learned to think critically.
I think Hassett misses the larger picture. There is only one question anyone in the audience wants to ask as speaker after speaker grinds through a torturous commencement ceremony: How long is this speech going to take?
It's a scientific fact that hot air is neither conservative nor liberal — but it is plentiful on college campuses in mid-May.
If Hassett hoped to produce crocodile tears from me, his Op-Ed article had the felicitous effect of giving me hope for the future of our country. Perhaps the next generation of political leaders will come from this group of very liberal and knowledgeable students he and others like him so eagerly try to discredit. Hassett's article made my 86-year-old liberal heart beat faster with hope.
Frances E. Murphy
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