Obama speaks out for free speech

Just a quick note, thanks to reader Barry who alerted me to this item. On last evening’s news, I watched part of Obama’s commencement address to the graduates of Howard University (a historically black college in Washington, D.C.), and I have to say that it was pretty stirring.  Now, as his term comes to an end, I’m even prouder of this man.

Here’s his whole 45-minute address should you want to watch it (you should!):

The Hill reports one especially good bit of the speech: Obama’s call for intellectual diversity (and the right of free speech) on college campuses. (See the next post for more on this):

“There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view or disrupt a political rally,” Obama said at his commencement addresses at Howard University.

“Don’t do that, no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths,” the president said. “Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk.

“Listen, engage, if the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them, teach them, beat them on the battlefield of ideas.”

Obama appeared to be referring to a series of incidents in recent months where controversial speakers were shouted down or had their events cancelled on college campuses, as well as loud protests that have shut down rallies for presidential candidates.

He also singled out one student, Ciearra Jefferson, at 42:10, and extolled her for fighting for an education. You can see her at 43:15 as she stands up, weeping. It was deeply moving.

The ending (keep listening for the last two minutes) is lovely.

The full transcript of his speech is here.

15 Comments

  1. Merilee
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Yes!

  2. George
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Maybe I am an effete snob, but could someone explain to me why Donald Trump is in any way qualified to succeed this man?

    • BobTerrace
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      One cannot explain the inexplicable.

  3. jay
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile back at the nuthouse:

    http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/27273/

    Undergrad links to Obama’s comments about students being ‘coddled,’ gets ripped by peers

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      That seems to be a college news site from the political right, filled with articles describing endless incidents from the regressive left. What disturbs me is that I find myself agreeing with essentially every point of view in that web site.
      I am not leaving the left. The left is drifting to the left of me.

  4. Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Indeed! I have vehemently disagreed with some the actions taken by President Obama, and scratched my head at some his policies. There’s no problem with that at all, obviously. What is absolutely awesome about him is his intellect, dignity, and style; his ability to remain calm and resolute no matter the difficulty of a situation or the vile racist garbage thrown at him by members of our own government and the gaggle of duckspeakers at the FNC. He proved to be a center-left President, but I think that was more expedient strategy rather than genuine desire. I am proud he is from Chicago. I am proud he was fairly elected TWICE (unlike his predecessor). I am proud that he has come right out and directly denounced this asinine censorship on college campuses, of all places. In a time where sheer volume and appeals to our basest emotions pass for political discourse, President Obama’s call for a truly democratic discourse sounds “revolutionary” by comparison, and that’s a terrible indictment of how far we’ve already fallen. It is especially relevant and powerful when one considers that, even when his wife and children were savaged by the conservative press and even members of the Beltway, NOT ONCE did he claim that nobody had a right to say such things. He simply kept winning, and showing more class and dignity every time.

    Perhaps some on the Left wanted him to get angry, to lay into the drooling drones. I can understand the feeling, but as he himself said, let the fools have the microphone. I may not be happy about certain policies. But when I think about the chaos he walked into–and I believe he was set up just as Carter was in ’76–the accomplishments of President Obama are even more astonishing. The next president has enormous shoes to fill (and though Sanders is far more openly fiery than President Obama, I am convinced he’s the only person who can come even close to developing the foundation President Obama for which he fought tirelessly for eight years. Is it perfect? Far from it. I am still terrified by the continued shrinking of the middle class. But it takes two to tango when it comes to political expediency. Eight years of racist obstructionism will screw up even the best laid plans.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      +1!

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      + 2!

  5. GBJames
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    There are some things about the Obama presidency that have disappointed me. But he is by far the best president we’ve had in my lifetime. I will miss him when he’s gone.

  6. Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    That was indeed a classy and moving speech. I can’t imagine even a single one of the seventeen Republican presidential primary candidates who could hold a candle to this man.

  7. athiest in a foxhole
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Excellent speach! I truly hope the students take his advice.

  8. Posted May 8, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Well if nothing else I can point to this for people who don’t think this is an actual trend. I would say it has to be a pretty significant one for the president to take notice.

    • StephaJL
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      There is that, if nothing else. Yet perhaps his comments preasge a turning of the tide — if more figures like Obama begin to push back in this fashion, we might eradicate the trend sooner rather than later.

  9. Craw
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I am not one the man’s admirers on balance, but he has been consistently good on this. Something you cannot say about Sanders, Clinton, Trump.


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