Giuliani seems like a misguided choice

By Middlebury Campus

Author: David Edelson

I am baffled and concerned that the reaction to the cartoon of Giuliani as Hitler has seemingly obfuscated the much more important issue of whether Giuliani is an appropriate person to speak at graduation in the first place. As a Jew and former rabbi, I agree the cartoon was not in the best of taste. I also agree with President Liebowitz’ s concerns regarding it. However, the satirical cartoon itself hardly seems as worthy of concern as the invitation to Giuliani himself.

At the very least, Giuliani has a long and deeply disturbing history of turning a blind eye to police brutality, racial profiling, civil rights concerns, the health of the homeless and corporate greed. To me he is emblematic of the looming shadow of authoritarianism and of overbearing state power that is of such concern in our nation these days.

Moreover, he is certainly known for his advocacy of the rights of the wealthy over the rights of the poor. There are few figures in New York politics that have polarized racial and socio-economic groups to the extent that Giuliani has.

Given our hope of reducing racial tension on campus, this seems a misguided choice for our college graduation. I understand the desire of the committee to invite a figure directly relevant to the aftermath of 9-11, but as far as I can find in my research, Giuliani has done very little positive with his opportunity and fame. He has instead profited from his being anointed as “America’s Mayor.” He is certainly not my mayor.

Why not invite one of the 9-11 Wives – Mindy Kleinberg, Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza or Lori Van Auken? These are women who took a horrific personal tragedy and transformed it into an impetus for national reflection and change. They worked tirelessly to get Congress to do a serious investigation of the events of 9-11 and to enact sweeping changes in our nation’s intelligence gathering systems. In short, they did something productive with their grief, and modeled a form of activism that is sorely needed today – everyday citizens effecting great changes in this democratic nation.

Wouldn’t their work provide a better role model for our graduates? Wouldn’t one of them deliver a more relevant and inspiring speech? Instead, we will have a speaker who is divisive, who will invite widespread community protests and who will alienate a good portion of the graduating seniors and of our faculty and this at what should be a celebration of unity and community.

It is a disappointing choice, and one that should be reconsidered. Let’s not let a cartoon distract us from the real issue.