Art Of The Illiberal

condoleezza-riceLiberal  [lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl]

Adjective: Favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.

At New Jersey’s Rutgers University, however, the range that students and faculty are willing to “permit” freedom of action is sharply defined to extend only up to the point at which they begin disagreeing with you. Cross the line into a divergent ideology and you’ll find yourself out of an invitation to deliver their commencement speech:

From USA Today:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed out of her role as commencement speaker at Rutgers University following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War.

These students and faculty staged sit-ins and said Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a member of the Bush administration.

Rice announced her decision in a statement Saturday.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

In an act that drips of irony that participants aren’t likely even aware of, the “liberal” self-appointed champions of the civil rights movement co-opted an iconic form of protest out of that era–one that African-Americans used to such dramatic effect to lobby for an expansion of rights–to squelch the voice of an intelligent and wonderfully accomplished African American woman who actually lived in a segregated South because of her role in a war that didn’t sit well with them. What are the chances they would trot out the same tactic for liberal hero Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize force in the same war?

By any objective standard, Condoleezza Rice’s career is formidable. Second African American appointed Secretary of State (after Colin Powell), and the first African American woman appointed to the post. First woman National Security Advisor. Former Provost of Stanford University, where she has also been a professor of political science for twenty years. Accomplished concert pianist.

Given her part as an influential player in the post-9/11 geopolitical landscape, as well as her experiences facing adversity as a minority during a period of intense cultural upheaval, common sense would dictate that she could offer new graduates keen insight and wisdom as they head into reality.

But for the university who considered it a worthy investment to pay Snooki of Jersey Shore fame $32,000 to impart such timeless sophistication like “study hard, but party harder” and the complex inner fashioning of her “pouf” hairdo to its students, Rice’s role in the Iraq War so befouled the paper thin sensibilities of Rutgers students and faculty as to warrant such an inviolable red line that our president is taking pointers.

Rice isn’t the first on the right to run against the grain of the campus speech commissars. Just last year, up-and-coming conservative favorite Ben Carson, a mega-successful pediatric neurosurgeon, was forced to withdraw from his commencement speech at Johns Hopkins for his now-blacklisted opinions that dared stray from the fold concerning gay marriage.

The disinvitations of Rice and Carson for holding differing or unpopular opinions highlights a larger problem among the college brain trust. According to a survey by Campus Reform, liberal commencement speakers outnumber their conservative counterparts by over 2 to 1 this year. So in reality, it’s a two-fold problem: not only do conservatives have a difficult time being invited in the first place, they also seem to be run out afterwards with growing regularity.

Which speaks ill of the sort of “liberal” arts that our campuses are conveying to their students. Neither Rice or Carson have a right to speak at commencement–or anyone else for that matter–but the fact that their diverse worldviews and accomplishments aren’t compelling enough to appeal to students who claim to prize diversity of thought doesn’t bode well. A nation that faces significant fiscal and cultural challenges just over the horizon would do well to produce graduates who are capable of the rigors of vigorous public debate, and who champion the ability of people on the opposite side of the political divide to argue their corner openly.

Instead, we’re treated to a deeply illiberal and pansified college environment where the Western ideals of open expression is traded for closemindedness and intolerance of thought. Graduates of today, indoctrinated with such a poisonous mindset, are the sorts who tomorrow will deprive future Brendan Eich’s or Donald Sterling’s of employment or ban them from the public square simply for holding private opinions or for transgressing against the Thought Police’s proclivities.

Rather than stand up like a free citizen and win the debate, college residents have discovered it’s easier to shutter up debate entirely. The left has adopted the ideals of free speech and expression just long enough to arrange their pieces on the chessboard, and now there’s nothing left but to execute the checkmate and drive out dissent completely. A healthy society cannot afford to churn out students of this frame of mind, and should be quite ashamed. We, however, march ever on.

Such is the art of the illiberal.


About Michael Haugen

Michael Haugen is a full-spectrum conservative and recent graduate from Eastern Washington University (BS Biology). His main interests in politics and public policy center around health care, education and tax reform. He'll be returning to EWU in 2014 to complete a Master's degree in Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @HaugenTRA


  1. What’s In A Name? | The Right Argument - June 18, 2014

    […] of the elements in this debate, and not even the most interesting one at that.  Free speech is always under attack, and this is merely another battle in the long slog of that […]

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