U community responds to Condoleezza Rice’s invitation to speak

Above the threshold to Northrop Auditorium reads the script: “The University of Minnesota, founded in the faith that men are ennobled by understanding, dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth, devoted to the instruction of youth and the welfare of the state.” As a student, when I read these exalted words, I am reminded that the University’s great purpose is primarily to be a forum of knowledge. Its campus is a marketplace of free speech, shared ideas and open dialogue. It’s a bastion that protects First Amendment rights. It’s a medium through which not only students are benefited by increased understanding, but also the entire state.

Given this, one can imagine my discomfort and sheer disbelief when I read that Students for a Democratic Society is attempting to pressure the University to disinvite former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking. In my mind, there is nothing more antithetical to the concept of the University and a democratic society than efforts to, in effect, block a speech to students and alumni. In a free, democratic society, it is up to every individual to evaluate the credibility of each piece of information they come into contact with. No one person has the authority to take that right away and censor what they think others should hear.

Whether you believe the war crime allegations against Rice, I think we can we can all agree that education requires a free exchange of knowledge. Rice faced challenging issues during her time at the U.S. State Department. In a time of terrorism and war, she made decisions that some find unpopular. She stands for principles that some disagree with. She represents a viewpoint that perhaps a minority of students and faculty support. But when has a U.S. citizen ever been guilty of a crime without a showing beyond a reasonable doubt? When has it ever been advantageous to furthering understanding, learning and truth to cast premature judgment against someone? When has restricting a free exchange benefited society?

It’s only through free speech and exchange of ideas that learning can advance. For example, science progressed by improving theories that were once considered true but were later found to be lacking. So, too, the law developed by improving upon once-accepted doctrine with new theories and concepts. Our concept of morality in this country has changed over time. When once some people were not treated equally, now more are — and in the future, hopefully even more will be. Without free speech and exchange of ideas, none of these progressions would have been possible. The status quo would still exist. So, too, if we begin to inhibit speech on our campus by limiting access to our students and community, we will diminish the search for truth and work against society’s welfare.

My call to every student and faculty member is this: Let students hear from both majority and minority opinions. Let others evaluate the merits of an argument or position on their own. To quote scripture, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Let our democratic system determine history; refrain from immediate judgment until the evidence concludes that suspicions are proof-positive. Let an open dialogue occur on campus. Let Rice speak.

Kyle Kroll- University student


Condoleezza Rice was just one of the Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld gang that made up the ineffective George W. Bush administration, and we can’t blame her for all of their sins. Perhaps her most memorable quote occurred when she was part of the crew pushing for the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Referring to Saddam Hussein, she told CBS News that “he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device.” The truth was that Hussein was bluffing and had no chance for any kind of mass destruction weapon.

Bush and his officials are often accused of lying about weapons of mass destruction in order to drum up support for the Iraq invasion. I suggest that they were simply ignorant, sincerely believed the nonsense they were promoting and were sucked in by Hussein’s bluff.

If occasional ignorance disqualifies potential guest speakers, the University of Minnesota would be hard-pressed to find one.

Rolf Westgard- University Lifelong Learning Program