Michael Bloomberg, New York’s former mayor, stood in front of thousands of graduating students as he condemned liberals on campus who have been intolerant of opposing views, during his commencement speech at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday. He expressed his dismay in the students and faculty regarding the protests that resulted in numerous commencement speakers withdrawing their attendance at the ceremony.
He compared the current situation to that of the 1950’s in which right-wing conservatives made attempts to suppress the ideologies of left-wing liberals. He stated that it has now become a common trend for liberals to repress the conservative ideologies.
Bloomberg continued by saying that the lack of tolerance for diverse ideas and expression have been known to be common among groups such as “monarchs, mobs and majorities,” however, they are now occurring among society and on college campuses. He stated that people must “follow the evidence” in the direction that it leads and “listen to people where they are.” By doing this, society can overcome any hurdle.
He continued condemning the act of intolerance by mentioning the protest that occurred at Brown University, where Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was expected to give a speech. It was cancelled after he was shouted down by students. The students were in opposition of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy as well as their treatment of blacks and Muslims. He also referenced the withdrawal of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was scheduled to speak at Rutgers as well as the withdrawal of International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde from Smith College after both were protested against by students. In regards to these protests, Bloomberg stated that the purpose of universities should be to promote discussion, not to silence it.
Bloomberg referred to data stating that over 90 percent of contributions for Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign came from Ivy League staff. He questioned whether the university’s majority political views were influencing the students and declared that an education in the liberal arts should not “be the art of liberalism.”
He expressed that these acts in which majorities shun the voices of opposing views is similar to the current situation in Congress where lawmakers are not willing to consider gun control. He mentioned last week’s shooting in Santa Barbara along with many other shootings that have occurred too often on school campuses to further express his views on the need for gun control.
Michael Bloomberg, 72, is a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist who earned his Master of Business Administration from Harvard in 1996. Bloomberg informed his audience that he was aware that his commencement speech on condemning intolerance was not “traditional,” however, he felt that it was the best time to address these issues. Following the speech, a number of students expressed their appreciation of the message Bloomberg presented, and some felt that his speech was contradicting of his past decisions such as the stop-and-frisk policy which many thought to be racially discriminatory. Among those who attended the ceremony were former president George H.W. Bush and singer Aretha Franklin who sang the national anthem.
By Sarah Temori