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Catholic College Students Protest Pro-Life Republican as Commencement Speaker

04/25/2013 Comments (24)

A number of students at St. John's University in New York are protesting the administration's invitation to Republican Peter King to speak at their commencement ceremony next month. King is pro-life and pro-marriage so the usual red flags are avoided. But a petition created by students which already has over 1,119 signatures alleges that King is unfit to speak at the commencement because he has made "discriminatory and offensive" remarks in the past.

The petition alleges that King's hearings on the dangers of Islamic radicalization amount to "trials against American-Muslims" which contradict the mission of the university to respect the rights and dignity of all. "It is clear that his views do not reflect this mission of respect, tolerance, and diversity," the petition states. "At a school with such a diverse student body, the views that Congressman King represent will be contradictory to our experience and who we are striving to become." I do believe that King will be contradictory to their experiences and who they are striving towards becoming. But maybe that's not a bad thing.

The petition calls for the administration of the university to cancel the invitation to King and find a replacement. The students in their petition pull two quotes from King that they seem to think prove that he's not fit to speak at a Catholic college. I want you to read these two quotes they've labeled as "discriminatory" and "offensive" and decide for yourself if anyone outside of a college campus could believe so.

On Bilingual Education:
“The English language has been the glue which binds us together as Americans...The federal government has imposed such misguided programs as bilingual education and bilingual voting ballots. These programs have been a disaster, dividing our country by language and leaving immigrants in linguistic ghettos.”
On Homeland Security:
“As Committee Chairman I have conducted a series of hearings on the extent of radicalization in the Muslim-American Community. We must move beyond political correctness and address the root causes of how and why certain individuals are being radicalized here in the United States and participating in terrorist attacks against Americans.”

Whether you agree with those comments or not, how could one possibly decide that they're "discriminatory?"

There seems to be no denying that these college students are offended by the comments but something tells me they spend an awful lot of time being offended and have just gotten really good at it. I believe higher education today has excelled at churning out offended young people. Modern colleges have become factories of aggrieved ignoramuses.

An editorial which appeared in the independent St. John's student newspaper The Torch from the Managing Editor Emeritus highlights the problem. Not only is she outraged by the invitation to King, she is offended by King's response to the students' outrage.

To top this all off, King’s reaction to students’ protests of him, which was covered by nearly every major newspaper in New York City, was through a statement on his website in which he says, “Students at St. John’s University are protesting my selection as this year’s commencement speaker. That, of course, is their right even though they are misguided and wrong.” Rather than choosing to take the high road in a situation that can truly not benefit anybody, King chose to attack the very students he is supposed to be congratulating and motivating on May 19th.

Attack?! Since when is saying somebody is wrong considered an attack? Did the writer of that piece get through four years of college without anybody telling her she was wrong? About anything? Has the ban on red pens become so thorough that nobody can even hear they're wrong without screaming that they're offended? Has it become out of bounds on college campuses to say what you believe? Has our intense commitment to tolerance made disagreement in and of itself "offensive?"

Too many young people say "I'm offended" as if they've actually made a logical point. It is the modern equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater. You say it to create bedlam, confusion, and in the end people get hurt. But maybe they know that. And that's even scarier.

I'm afraid the offense these students take says more about the sad state of much of higher education than about Peter King.

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About Matthew Archbold

Matthew Archbold
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Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph's University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.