New School President Bob Kerrey recently praised a group of student protesters, comparing them to the students in Tiananmen Square. Was he referring to the Belarussian students who risked police beatings and frostbite to protest a corrupt election? Or the Iranians who risked arrest and torture to protest the rule of the mullahs?
No. He was proud of his own students, who had heckled Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as he delivered their commencement address. In Kerrey’s mind, heckling McCain in a college surrounded by professors and students who agree with you is comparable to facing a tank or torture. Though admitting that he and McCain felt insulted by the students’ disrespect, he went on to praise the students for the self-restraint they showed in not shutting down the entire ceremony.
Clearly, it doesn’t take much to earn respect these days. But these students can congratulate themselves on “speaking truth to power.” The rest of us can wonder why it is suddenly noble to reject even listening to someone with whom you disagree and why a university president — and former United States senator — would encourage them in their self-important rudeness.
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