The case for protesting your commencement speaker

It’s understandable if speakers want to spare themselves the discomfort of engaging with critics, but it’s also a good reminder of just how little interest they have in sparking provocative political debate. And it’s another reason why The Daily Beast, in writing lines like, “God forbid these delicate students should be exposed to an idea or an organization with which they disagree,” is missing the point.

These speakers are not being silenced. They decided to withdraw when it looked like the attention they would be receiving would not be entirely flattering. Rather than have a conversation about it, they fled.

It’s also part of what makes Vox’s framing of the issue so off base. “When conservatives are back in power … the left will rediscover the importance of protecting unpopular opinions,” Michelle Goldberg, a journalist with The Nation, tells Vox.

It’s an interesting conversation, but it has little to do with the topic of protesting commencement speakers. These speakers are not some poor oppressed minority just trying to offer colleges students a thought-provoking argument or different political outlook. Rather they are some of the most powerful people in the free world who have come to collect laurels and offer up platitudes about success and navigating life after college. They are not taking questions. Commencement lectures are a one-way, often dull street.