Since my last post discussing the issue of Kit Bond speaking at my commencement ceremony, I have experienced several occurrences that have renewed my mindset on the situation. I would like to share these with you.
The first came when discussing the situation with fellow students who were also opposed to the selection. The original post in the Facebook group mentioned a rumor that the administration delayed the announcement of the commencement speaker, so that the students had no choice but to silently protest.
The conversation was among three fellow students and me. I was the first to say that the rumor was untrue, and that the announcement date was independent of the date of selection. This is the point at which it got out of control. I tried to reason with these three, openly stating that though I am still opposed to the choice, the administration and trustees made the decision based on two of the university’s biggest values, as clearly stated in the master plan.
I was immediately ravaged by angry comments. Among them were accusations of the administration receiving money to sway their decision, and the “alienation” of the LGBT students and allies by appealing to the much larger, broader military audience. I was even accused of sucking up to the administration, and not actually contributing at all to the protest movement whatsoever.
This was the first moment in which I realized what was going on. While I still openly expressed my opinions of being opposed, and did so by publishing my earlier blog post in the school newspaper, I still encouraged openness to the other side of the story. Yet rather than listen to my reasoning, I was insulted and thrown under the bus simply for understanding the opposition; for being open-minded. That was the first.
The second happened just recently. While leaving class, I ran into an instructor whom I met at a scholarship dinner last fall. He is a very friendly instructor named Larry who teaches in the management department. We discussed all that was happening for us, and then he brought up the Kit Bond issue. Larry referred to Bond as “Chris”–his real first name–and talked about how he knew him back when he was my age.
He talked about Bond’s passion as a student. At the time when he was in school, there had been some issue involving animal rights on the campus. I don’t recall exactly what that was. But Larry said that Bond was the most level-headed and ethical student he knew because of the way he approached situations of conflict. Larry looked at me right in the eyes and said, “Nick, he is an ethical guy. Believe me.”
That’s when the realization hit me: is it really worth it? Is standing up and turning our backs in protest of someone, who isn’t even a politician anymore, really worth the trouble? We are completely entitled to our opinions, as is Bond. Should we really despise somebody simply because of his opinion? Absolutely not. Because he is human, just like everybody else. And it’s not like he’ll be talking about his political stance anyway.
If our college campus is so “open-minded” then why are some of us closing ourselves off to other people’s opinions? It’s hypocrisy; no more, no less. His selection was based on the university’s values, not its culture. To say that this selection is marginalizing a group of people is irrational; by saying that, you are only marginalizing yourselves and enforcing the negative stereotype that gay people are bitchy. And that really doesn’t help our cause.
What we should be protesting is the reform of the selection process. To get more students involved in the process beyond the initial nomination stage, that way all points of view are represented. One of my final comments in the mentioned Facebook thread is that pointing fingers gets people nowhere. Simply ranting about a problem doesn’t fix it. Rather, negotiating with the people who can make change happen, even if they’re on the “other side,” is a much better solution. That way it establishes and reinforces the respect and understanding shared between the administration and students.
So I don’t know if I will be protesting at graduation. Just because I don’t agree with Kit Bond’s political opinions doesn’t mean I can’t take something useful and insightful from his commencement speech. Webster has taught me to be open-minded, and I plan to utilize that quality to its fullest extent.