By Jiesi Zhao
Every year around this time, our nation’s universities start announcing the commencement speakers for the graduating class. And each year, our top universities proudly decide to host an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of liberal speakers. In fact, according to Young America’s Foundation’s 17th annual study, there were only three identifiable conservative speakers out of our commencement speaker list for the nation’s top 100 schools in 2010 (Click here to see the full list).
Having been “spoiled” with past speakers like President Bill Clinton, Google-founder Larry Page, and President Barack Obama (2010), it comes at no surprise that students at the University of Michigan are protesting this year’s commencement speaker selection. On Monday, the University of Michigan announced Governor Rick Snyder as the 2011 commencement speaker. Later that day, students were already planning protests which occurred in front of the university president’s office on Wednesday, and creating online petitions to remove him from the commencement ceremony.
Senior Rick Durance told The Michigan Daily that having an elected official speak “is dividing our graduating class” as he leads the petition against Snyder. He also admitted that he was not against having President Barack Obama as commencement speaker last year. Seems like a double-standard that only applies to one side of the ideological spectrum.
Moreover, some have objected to the administration’s selection seeing as he’s “only” the governor and not the President or founder of a large corporation like Google. However, I doubt that this is the real issue; if you asked liberal students what they would think if President George W. Bush or Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were to give the commencement address, I would bet they would be even more enraged and dissatisfied. Furthermore, unlike Clinton and Obama, Governor Snyder is a triple alum of UMich, with a B.A., MBA, and a J.D. from the institution, and has had a successful career in the private sector before deciding to run for public office for the first time in 2010. Sure, he doesn’t sit in the oval office in DC, but his resume is far from shabby. In fact, the new 2011 U.S. News & World Report rankings have Michigan Law ranked 7th in the country and its business school ranked 14th. And the fact that he left a successful private sector career to become a public servant is an admirable quality for a commencement speaker whose job (at least in part) is to inspire the young graduates.
Just goes to show that after years of indoctrinating students with one-sided liberal arguments in classrooms and having speakers like Clinton and Obama, students have become intolerant of other viewpoints. Ironically, in President Obama’s commencement speech last year, he urged students to not “narrow [their] broad intellectual exposure” as they leave college.
Jiesi Zhao is a Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar at Young America's Foundation