As usual, liberals dominate college commencement addresses

Lest anyone remain unsure of the political polarization expertly nurtured and promulgated by the left in the wake of the Trump victory, look no farther than America's colleges and universities.  Lauded as incubators of free speech and expression since the 1960s, campuses across the nation are failing to promote diverse opinions when viewpoints are conservative.  An excellent case in point is U.C. Berkeley.

Widely regarded as the birthplace of the free speech movement, recent high-profile attempts to silence controversial ideas highlight just how narrow-minded higher education has become.  In February, U.C. Berkeley had to cancel an appearance by right-wing commentator and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos after 150 masked agitators violently protested and caused $100,000 in damage.  Last month, U.C. Berkeley canceled an appearance by well known author and commentator Ann Coulter over fears of potentially violent protest and forced College Republicans to cancel an appearance by conservative writer David Horowitz.

These examples are troubling, to say the least.  But even more concerning is the nationwide trend to promote liberal ideology and silence conservative viewpoints during commencement season.  According to Young America's Foundation's annual surveys, there are upwards of 40 percent more liberal commencement speakers than conservative.  Campus Reform reports that liberal speakers outnumbered conservative speakers 4 to 1 in 2016.  The same group recently reported that among the Ivy League schools, none of the 2017 commencement speakers is an outspoken conservative, yet many are prominent liberals.  The College Fix reports that among the U.S. News and World Report top 100 universities in America, only two institutions booked Republican-aligned speakers this year.  President Donald Trump himself is delivering only one commencement speech and was not invited to continue the tradition established by five of the last six newly elected presidents to deliver the commencement speech at Notre Dame.

Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered a commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University over a cacophony of boos and jeers.  Many graduates at the historically black university stood and turned their backs while DeVos was speaking.  Similarly, when the decision was announced that Vice President Pence would speak at the Notre Dame graduation, students immediately went on the offensive with claims of sexism, racism, and homophobia.

In a nation founded on free speech and a university system shaped by diversity and intellectual rigor, I find recent trends toward silencing conservative thought both troubling and hypocritical.  Our college years should be a time in our lives when pre-existing notions are challenged and diverse viewpoints respected.  Do we really want to teach our kids to be offended by every ideal that challenges their worldview?  If we champion free speech in this nation, we must embrace the fact we will not always hear what we want to hear.  We may sometimes feel uncomfortable and possibly even offended.  I have to believe that this is preferable to going through young adulthood believing that one's ideas are somehow too special to be challenged.

Are we really doing our graduates a favor by having Eva Longoria tell them Republicans are racist because they do not support amnesty for illegal immigrants?  Will new graduates get a better start in life after Will Ferrell gets a few laughs by skewering religion and those who embrace their faith?  Maybe Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz could inspire future entrepreneurs with his experiences of alienating customers who support marriage.

The point is, there are countless numbers of qualified conservative speakers who would deliver inspiring commencement speeches to our nation's young graduates.  Relying on celebrity status is a cop-out.  Unfortunately, university concerns over ruffling feathers by providing diverse viewpoints have sidelined some of the most dynamic speakers of our time.  If our nation truly wants to train the next generation of leaders, we need to worry less about feelings and concentrate more on developing critical thought.

Republicans now control 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships.  It's time for them to use their leverage to ensure that commencement speakers are balanced, conservative books are included in required reading lists, and new faculty hires begin to reflect the diversity of viewpoints in the country at large.

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