Michigan College Liberals Up in Arms: Conservative Pat Boone Delivering Commencement Address
April 22nd, 2012
by Drew Zahn
The faculty of a Michigan college is up in arms over the choice of singer, actor and author Pat Boone as commencement speaker for the institution’s 2012 graduation ceremony.
According to a report in the Toledo Blade, petitions protesting Boone’s selection and honorary degree have been circulating among students and faculty at Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., since the school announced the decision on April 2. The school’s faculty association even approved a resolution last week condemning the choice and demanding the school withdraw its invitation.
Janet Salzwedel, an officer with the faculty association, told the newspaper professors were upset with what she called Boone’s “inflammatory kinds of rhetoric.”
The Blade also cited objections over Boone’s willingness to question Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president and the legitimacy of the document the White House presented as Obama’s purported, long-form birth certificate.
“He is free to speak at other places,” Salzwedel said, “but this is about the students and their day, and [Boone] is not what Adrian College represents.”
According to the Blade, it’s Boone’s commentaries in WND that have “riled some people on the United Methodist Church-affiliated college campus.”
A Facebook page set up to “keep Pat Boone off of Adrian College’s campus” contends that Boone spends his time as a “political pundit, promoting his views of racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance” and then links to a press release put out by the Human Rights Campaign, a leading homosexual activism group.
The Facebook page, under the name of Adrian College junior Chelsea Blankinship, cites a 2008 Boone column in WND that she says “stepped outside the bounds of decency and morality” for “comparing LGBT activism with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.”
Boone’s column specifically states that homosexual activists haven’t grown as violent as jihadi terrorists, but does point to “the anger, the vehemence, the total disregard for law and order … the hate seething in the words, faces and actions” of some of California’s Proposition 8 protesters, who took to the streets demanding the state’s voter-approved ballot initiative preserving marriage between one man and one woman be struck down.
“Hate is hate, no matter where it erupts,” Boone writes in the column’s pivotal paragraph. “And hate, unbridled, will eventually and inevitably boil into violence. How crazily ironic that the homosexual activists and sympathizers cry for ‘tolerance’ and ‘equal rights’ and understanding – while they spew vitriol and threats and hate at those who disagree with them on moral and societal grounds.”
Blankinship contends of Boone, “When someone makes their living declaring hate and intolerance, [he] has no place on a college campus that was founded as a campus that accepts diversity.”
College President Jeffrey Docking told the Blade that Boone was selected from a list of speakers forwarded by a committee, which included faculty, and that Boone has no intention of politicizing his commencement address.
But Docking also insists that colleges should not be in the business of screening out politically incorrect viewpoints.
“The original concept of a university was to create a venue in society where people with different points of view could come together to share and discuss them without fear of persecution,” Docking writes in a statement on the college’s website. “While Mr. Boone’s political views and social positions have raised healthy debate over the years, to suspend his commencement address based on arguments against his beliefs, opinions and ideology would be a form of intolerance that cannot be condoned.
“In truth,” Docking continues, “even while people can debate his position on controversial issues, his success as a musician, actor and businessman is undeniable. Mr. Boone’s professional success story is one worthy of the recognition he will receive on Commencement Day.”
Furthermore, Docking explains, Boone has graciously offered a representative of those opposing his speech an opportunity at the commencement itself to explain why he should be denied the opportunity to speak and to share his experiences with the class of 2012.
Senior Zachary Ritchie, president of the student group Adrian College Conservatives, has also come to Boone’s defense. Ritchie wondered whether the school’s faculty would be so active if politically conservative students objected to a more liberal speaker.
“Would the faculty react the same way?” Ritchie asked. “I don’t think they would.”
The Blade reports the college’s Institute of Ethics will hold a forum on April 24 from 6 to 7:15 p.m. at Downs Hall Theatre on Adrian College’s campus to discuss Mr. Boone’s selection, at the request of Docking.
Boone’s entertainment heyday was during the 1950s and early 1960s. In his long career, he has sold more than 45 million albums, had 38 Top 40 hits and appeared in more than 12 Hollywood movies.