Mitt Romney, Free Speech, And Education

Maybe it is because I live in a city with a major university and  attend lectures and speeches every year by a wide range of men and women.  Maybe it is because I am naturally curious.  Whatever the reason,  I find the Governor of Massachusetts to be so very wrong in his current rift with Harvard University.  Mitt Romney, more a Presidential wannabe than a statesman, has ordered state agencies not to participate in safeguarding Iran’s ex-president during a national visit, which includes Boston.

Mohammed Khatami, the former leader of  Iran is visiting for a United Nations conference and therefore is a foreign guest. He is in our country as a private citizen and with his status should be afforded scurity measures which are provided in part by local authorities.  While Romney found it impossible to lend his state agencies for security, the Major of Boston replied affirmatively to the State Department when asked to provide police escorts.   Romney is an example of what is wrong with conservative politics in the Bush era of militarism. 

I always smirk at those like Romney who fail to understand the art of dialogue and conversation.  As a nation we are scared to talk with our enemies and have frank discussions with those who strongly disagree with American policy.  Bush will not meet with Korea or Iran for talks on differences of opinion.  Well, lets face it, Bush does not even talk with Americans he disagrees with.  One heck of a way to ‘lead’ a nation.

Khatami will speak Sunday at Harvard University in Boston and also has spoken in Chicago and visited New York on his swing through America.  But to hear Romney tell it Khatami should be barred from making speeches as Iran is trying to get a nuclear weapon.  Let us be clear on one thing before we go further.   Romney, and those who think like him are fools.

To think that there is something foul about Khatami’s invitations from places like Harvard speaks volumes about the lack of understanding the Governor has about the value of education.  There are too many conservatives who like to censor debate and control the lively and frothy intellectual vigor of a university setting.  They like to stifle differences of opinion and shut down routes of potential consensus building that can lead to resolutions which do not require military might. And finally, sadly, too many conservatives disdain education and so have no knowledge of the electricity that builds during a speech of the kind that Khatami will deliver. 

If the United States had adopted the purely political mindset of Romney we would have never talked with the Soviet Union.  We would have never ventured to China in hopes of a mutual relationship.  America at it’s best is when we know there are various views in the world that run counter to ours but still are big enough to sit and hear what they have to say.  I know conservatives enjoy militarism over dialogue but given the mess the Bush Administration has created it might be time to sit and talk for a while.

As Americans we must never cower to the likes of Romney and others who would push their stale and unimaginative visions  upon students in our nation’s colleges.  Our history proves we fight our battles best with reason and cerebral power.  If those who do not understand (like Mitt) would be quiet, take a seat, and listen to what is being said from the lectern they might view how other people in the world think.  Perhaps something can be learned and incorporated into our collective thinking if we all take a deep breath and listen to others.

Finally, our nation’s colleges will brim with all sorts of speech this fall with the mid-term elections underway. I look forward to the dynamic and controversial words that will flow from the UW-Madison and other campuses around the country. It is stimulating for me and it is healthy for our country.

Suck it up Mr Romney.

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