Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org
editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel,
Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs
throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Sanctimony – And
The Ironies of a “Liberal” Education
by Carol Platt Liebau 6/2/03
It doesn’t matter how long ago one’s school days
actually were. The early days of June are still flavored with
the sweet taste of liberation and the memory of the exhilaration
occasioned by the school year’s end, with the promise
of slower, lazier summer days.
year’s college graduates, the exhilaration is,
of course, tempered by nostalgia. For them, it’s
not only the end of a school year, but the end of an era.
so, at colleges
and universities across California, young people in their
early twenties are gathering one final time before venturing
the working world (or to graduate school).
Here in California,
as members of the Class of 2003 are being handed their
diplomas, the farewell message ringing
ears is an overwhelmingly liberal one. In a sense, the
ceremony itself becomes emblematic of many students’ college
experience – an
occasion hijacked by the liberal politics of the university
administration, expressed through the choice of a commencement
College, graduates heard from Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Democrat
D.C. At Mount St. Mary’s College, U.S. Reps. Linda
and Loretta Sanchez -- both Democrats -- offered commencement
At Occidental, the speaker was civil rights activist
Connie Rice, while at Pitzer College, feminist social
critic Naomi Wolf held
center stage. Liberal syndicated columnist Molly Ivins
was speaker at the Scripps College graduation, Clinton
White House chief
of staff Leon Panetta did the honors at Berkeley, and
Peter Yarrow of the ‘60’s folk trio Peter,
Paul and Mary offered his thoughts at San Francisco State.
statewide, goes on and on. In fact, U.S. Treasurer Rosario
Marin and Bill McCartney (founder and president
of Promise Keepers) are the only readily identifiable,
or conservatives to address college graduates in California
this year. And no one can pretend that outstanding
are unavailable here – California is home to
syndicated radio talk show host and author Hugh Hewitt,
and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, U.S.
Rep. David Dreier,
chairman of the House Rules Committee, and aspiring
governor Rep. Darrrell Issa, just to name a few.
the situation is the same – the left-wing
politics of graduation speakers mirror those of university
This year, only four of the top 50 schools in the
nation (as ranked by U.S. News and World Report)
speakers -- Centre College (Sen. Mitch McConnell
and his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao); Georgia
(Sen. Elizabeth Dole); University of Notre Dame (Sen.
Richard Lugar); and Yeshiva University (scholar Daniel
contrast, former Democratic senator George Mitchell
spoke at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology; U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan addressed students at Duke, former Secretary
of State Madeleine
delivered speeches at both Smith College and Washington
University in St. Louis, and radical law professor
Lani Guinier spoke
at Bard College.
the views of the graduation speakers may match those of the
with student opinion.
In fact, according to the U.C.L.A. Higher Education
Research Institute, student views are moving appreciably
on many issues, including sexual mores, abortion,
taxes, and firearms.
disjunction and the heightened emotions elicited by 9/11 and
Iraq war, it
was perhaps inevitable
controversy would erupt at this year’s
commencement ceremonies – including
the much-publicized incident when students booed
and heckled the anti-war speech of New York Times
reporter Chris Hedges
at Rockford College in Illinois. And as spring
turns to summer and
a new group of young people set out to take on
the world, there is reason for hope.
the days when liberal students booed and shouted
down speakers like Nicaraguan Contra
Calero (he was
thereby prevented from speaking at Harvard
in 1987), their rudeness was countenanced by elite
makers as a
at least excusable, show of “civil disobedience.” Now
that conservative students have started to
emulate those demonstrations of disagreement,
started to hear a new call for “civility” on
college campuses. What a refreshing irony it
would be for liberals to sound the clarion
call for a long-overdue, much-needed
to bring some decorum back to the way that
campus debates are conducted!
more importantly, as they sit one
last time as a “captive
audience” for a final leftist lecture,
conservative college students should draw
consolation from one fact: all the sanctimonious
liberal academics they have endured over
past four years have done them a huge favor.
The dogma that they have endured,
debated and disputed has taught these young
conservatives how to think for themselves,
and how to understand, defend and articulate
their own principles. In the crowning irony,
through the disdain
and opposition that is too often heaped on
college-age Republicans, the liberal professoriate
has created a class of conservative
gladiators who – unlike their Democratic
compatriots – are
used to being challenged, ridiculed and even
attacked. They are prepared to enter the
political fray, and can do so without
and without fear.
So when the
liberal political establishment wonders why their fevered fulminations,
sanctimony and their withering
contempt cannot stifle the vitality of
conservative movement, perhaps they should
consider one possibility:
it was the training
the conservatives received at college.
And maybe, just maybe, that education was worth
CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and
commentator based in San Marino, CA.