Conservative Commencement Speakers a Rarity · 26 May 2004

By Peter Bronson--The Cincinnatti Enquirer, 05/23/04

The commencement speech is the most excruciating two days of a graduate's academic career. OK, so it only takes an hour. It just feels like two days.

The good news is that like newspaper editorials, marathon church sermons and liberal talk radio, it's quickly erased from the memory to prevent psychological damage from traumatic boredom syndrome.

That's a good thing.

The bad news is that most commencement speeches sound like a lethal blend of editorials, sermons and liberal talk radio.

"Don't be afraid to fail," the speakers say - then launch an antiwar tirade that fails to make any contact with reality.

"Follow your dreams," they say, as they describe the fascist Bush nightmare.

Quoting from "1,000 Commencement Platitudes," they say, "Seize the day" - then seize the microphone to inflict their 1960s flashbacks on the captive Class of 2004.

I'm not exaggerating - any more than commencement speakers who say, "I'll be brief."

The A-list of speakers at America's top universities sounds like the imaginary John Ashcroft Un-American Enemies List: Bill Moyers, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw, Alan Alda, Danny Glover, Andy Rooney, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Robert Redford, Whoopi Goldberg, Anthony Lewis, Gloria Steinem, Gary Trudeau, Lani Guinier, Oliver Stone and the Most Wanted Clintonistas, such as Madeleine Albright, Janet Reno and James Carville.

Students for Academic Freedom found that among 32 elite colleges and universities, left-wing commencement speakers outnumbered conservatives 15 to 1. In 10 years, 22 of the schools did not invite one conservative.

Conservatives are not entirely ignored. This year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was a speaker - for 56 graduates at Ave Maria Law School in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Even in Republican southwestern Ohio, conservative speakers can be as rare as Bush-Cheney bumper stickers in a faculty parking lot.

One of Xavier's unpaid speakers this year was Ray Suarez of NPR - liberal talk radio.

UC, which had two conservatives, two liberals and one undecided (Gov. Bob Taft) in the past five years, has invited on June 11 Coretta Scott King, who sermonizes on racial and economic injustice for $50,000.

Miami University's $25,000 speaker on May 8 was Jehan Sadat, "international activist for peace and women's rights."

Melva Gwen of Westwood attended Miami ceremonies. "Speeches started out 'I will be brief,' then went on forever into what I categorize as a version of the 'Ugly American speech,' " she said. Grads were told, "America has to be more accepting of other cultures because of globalization. What nation in this entire world or time has been more accepting of other cultures?"

Good question. What nation in the world would tolerate so many insults and rants under a hot sun, sweating in stifling caps and gowns, without making a rebuttal with automatic weapons?

After four years of relentless political indoctrination by liberal faculty members, it's amazing students can endure one more minute without getting sicker than a freshman at a fraternity kegger.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, heckled by liberal protesters, told graduates at Michigan State University this year, "I do not remember a single word the commencement speaker said, and you won't either."

I'll be brief: That's usually a good thing.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.