“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” This is a quote from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty which was incorporated into an amazing speech by former Mayor Bloomberg in his address to Harvard graduates yesterday.
Prior to this speech, some at the Harvard Crimson expressed their unhappiness with former Mayor Bloomberg being selected as commencement speaker. Muslim students protested the decision. Their objection was over Bloomberg’s highly effective “stop and frisk” policy and his surveillance of Mosques.
Ironically, yesterday, it was Big Gulp, No Salt, No Guns Michael Bloomberg who gave the speech on tolerance that we all need to hear.
“Tolerance for other people’s ideas and the freedom to express your own are . . . perpetually vulnerable to the tyrannical tendencies of monarchs, mobs, and majorities, and lately we’ve seen those tendencies manifest themselves too often, both on college campuses and in our society,” the 72-year-old said.
“On every issue you must follow the evidence where it leads and listen to people where they are,” he told the roughly 6,000 graduate and undergraduate students receiving their degrees.
Here is a stirring excerpt from the speech:
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.
In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left-wing ideas. Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species.
Perhaps nowhere is that more true than here in the Ivy League. In the 2012 presidential race, 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. That statistic, drawn from Federal Election Commission data, should give us pause — and I say that as someone who endorsed President Obama. When 96 percent of faculty donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a university should offer. Diversity of gender, ethnicity and orientation is important. But a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.
Today, if tenure is going to continue to exist, it must also protect conservatives whose ideas run up against liberal norms. Otherwise, university research will lose credibility. A liberal arts education must not be an education in the art of liberalism.
This spring, it has been disturbing to see a number of college commencement speakers withdraw, or have their invitations rescinded, after protests from students and — to me, shockingly — from senior faculty and administrators who should know better.
It happened at Brandeis, Haverford, Rutgers and Smith. Last year, it happened at Swarthmore and Johns Hopkins. In each case, liberals silenced a voice and denied an honorary degree to individuals they deemed politically objectionable.
As a former chairman of Johns Hopkins, I believe that a university’s obligation is not to teach students what to think, but to teach students how to think. And that requires listening to the other side, weighing arguments without prejudging them, and determining whether the other side might actually make some fair points.
Go to 06:21 for his comments on free speech, you won’t regret listening:
This is a great speech despite some flaws we might pick out. He stuck up for freedom of thought and for the right of dissent.
When we are at a point that a statist like Michael Bloomberg must stand up for conservatives, you know things are bad.
Actually it’s not surprising to hear Michael Bloomberg fight for the First Amendment. He has always been a strong supporter of free thought and free speech. It’s the Second Amendment he doesn’t like. He also wants to tell you what you’re allowed to eat and drink. None of that changes the fact that this was a great speech.
The list of conservative people being banned from colleges is long and growing longer. Universities are almost solely left-wing and they allow no dissent despite the fact that universities are supposed to be the bastions of free thought.
Last fall, College Republicans at Saint Louis University invited former U.S. Senator Scott Brown to speak. Azhar Majeed of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a minor special interest group, said that it would endanger the university’s tax-exempt status to allow Brown to speak. Majeed said it would look like an endorsement even though other political figures have been on campus without real controversy. It was an excuse to suppress the voice of someone with whom he disagreed.
It’s generally a minority of students who successfully suppress dissent on college campuses with the help of their Marxist professors. Condoleezza Rice was banned because of protests by a small number of students – about 50 out of 10,000. They were largely occupier-types, Muslim activists and Marxists.
An anonymous online petition was enough for Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, to withdraw as the commencement speaker at Smith college. She’s too capitalist to be allowed to speak.
Brown University students and non-students shouted down Commissioner Ray Kelly last year. The reason they did it was they didn’t agree with his stop and frisk policy. They didn’t want a debate. They chose to shut him down.
Free speech is being eliminated on college campuses under the banner of “offensive language.”
Indiana University Southeast and Colorado College in Colorado Springs, prohibit “any act of ridicule…or embarrassment,” and Northeastern University, in Boston, prohibits the use of university computer resources to “transmit or make accessible material, which in the sole judgment of the University is offensive.”
“This gives the university carte blanche to censor any electronic communication of which it disapproves,” Robert Shibley, Senior Vice President of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) noted. “You’re teaching [college students] that they’re not equipped to live in a free society.”
The power of these extremists comes from the philosophy of shared governance where a minority is given an equal or more important voice than the majority. It gives the squeaky wheel the grease so as not to offend anyone.
Allowing the soft tyranny of emotional special interest groups, is PC gone wild.
The most limiting term in our language today is “stakeholders.” It promotes the idea that sacrificing majority opinions in favor of caving to every minor, whiney group is not only appropriate, it’s the norm.
We need to change the environment on college campuses by insisting that they hire conservative professors. Until we do, we will turn out generation after generation of intolerant, boring students.