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May 23 2017

Notre Dame Graduates Miss Pence's Freedom Of Speech Lesson By Walking Out

via Forbes

Vice President Mike Pence returned to Indiana to deliver a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame over the weekend.

A small group of graduates walked out when the former Governor of Indiana began speaking. Only about 100 students of the approximately 3,000 students graduating participated. That’s less than 5 percent. But it is what made headlines—Some Notre Dame graduates walk out over VP Mike Pence speech, for example.

What should have made headlines was the Vice President’s comments in favor of freedom of speech. In his remarks, he said:

But Notre Dame is an exception, an island in a sea of conformity so far spared from the noxious wave that seems to be rushing over much of academia. While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness, all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech.

These all-too-common practices are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge, and they are wholly outside the American tradition.

Pence describes a real problem on many college campuses. Instead of universities encouraging discussion between opposing voices, students are taught to keep quiet, directly or indirectly.

Some of the stories about college “snowflakes,” those who seem to be offended by everything, are humorous at first—especially when they involve coloring or Play-doh. But there are serious consequences when universities are more focused on coddling students than fostering civilized debate, as Pence explained:

As you, our youth, are the future, and universities the bellwether of thought and culture, I would submit that the increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses jeopardizes the liberties of every American. This should not and must not be met with silence.

What the Vice President was trying to teach the students, in the last hour of college, was the value of civil disagreement.

Pence, for one, hasn’t whined about the small protest at Notre Dame. I wouldn’t expect him to. This isn’t the first protest he has faced or the first time he has extolled the virtues of freedom of speech.

After the election, Pence went with his family to see Hamilton. In addition to boos, the cast read a statement to Pence. On Fox News Sunday, Pence said of the incident:

It was a real joy to be there. When we arrived, we heard a few boos and we heard some cheers and I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like.

I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you I wasn’t offended by what was said. I’ll leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say it.

His approach sharply contrasted with that of President-Elect Donald J. Trump. Trump tweeted:

The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.

While students might disagree with some of Pence’s policies, they can learn a lesson from him. A lesson about how we can hold different views in this country and still listen to the other side. Students shouldn’t try to avoid all views with which they disagree. That’s not what college, or America, is supposed to be about.

In his Hampden-Sydney College commencement address, Bret Stephens, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, said:

Safe spaces, physical and intellectual, are for children. You are grown-ups now. If your diplomas mean anything, it’s that it is time you leave those spaces behind forever.

That’s good advice for all college graduates.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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