Kenyon Alumni Bulletin: The Saga

June 20, 2006

Last Thursday I popped open my narrow aluminium mail slot to find the latest Kenyon Alumni Bulletin. Since I'm feeling a bit nostalgic these days, when I had a few spare minutes on Friday afternoon I sat down to read it lovingly from cover to cover. I didn't get very far before the following letter to the editor caught my eye:

Kerry at Commencement


I believe the selection of Senator John F. Kerry as Kenyon's Commencement speaker was inappropriate and disrespectful to the Kenyon community. There is no doubt that Mr. Kerry has had a long career of service to the country, but he is at this moment, like George W. Bush, a highly controversial and polarizing figure.

For its lectures throughout the academic year, the College should seek to bring such figures, including and perhaps especially those with whom it disagrees intensely. A Commencement address is not, however, an ordinary lecture. It is the last taste an entire graduating class will have of its alma mater and, as such, an improper occasion for reinforcing the political beliefs of some students and denigrating those of others.

Kenyon's Commencement addresses should be tributes to everything for which it stands and to what makes it distinct from mess halls, manufacturing plants, and town squares. They should be free both of the platitudinous cheerleading of members of presidential cabinets and the self-interested sanctimony of politicians who'd like to replace them.

Kenyon is not a campaign stop, nor a place to launch new political initiatives. It is an institution of higher learning, a village unmarked by the vitriolic character of much national debate, an extraordinary place that should conjure up vastly more than partisan associations in the minds of people who know nothing else of it.
D—- D—- '03

Since I'm not sure what the value of naming names in this case is, I've edited most of it it out, but if you are '04 like me you can probably get it in three guesses. Basically, reading this got me hopping mad. Maybe if I hadn't known this person, and known they are pretty much as Republican as they come, I would have bought the whiny affected sympathy. **Sidebar: May I also point out that I have it from a reliable source that Mr. DD was one of 25 alums who requested and was selected to meet Sen. Kerry personally before commencement. Apparently it's okay for Mr. DD to use Kenyon's commencement as opportunity to increase his seven degrees from George W. ranking but not okay for Sen. Kerry to speak at said commencement. I believe the word for that is spelled h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-i-c-a-l.** But I did know this person and I know his issues with Kerry have nothing to do with the fact he spoke at commencement. I figured a little letter writing of my own was in order. The send button has been pressed and the following missives await reply (although I am not holding my breath).

Question from a fellow Kenyon alum

Dear D—-,

You might remember me– I think we worked on Student Lectureships together while our paths crossed at Kenyon. I recently read your letter to the editor published in the Kenyon Alumni Bulletin concerning Sen. Kerry's speech at commencement. I am curious to know if you wrote an equally outraged letter on behalf of my own class of 2004 after then-Secretary of the Treasury John Snow addressed us at our commencement. His remarks were considerably less personalized to the Kenyon community than Sen. Kerry's were (and considerably briefer, although none of us were complaining) and he left immediately after speaking rather than respectfully waiting until the ceremony had ended. He represented an administration that you admit is as polarizing as Sen. Kerry's views, and he spoke in a presidential election year. In your letter, you allude to a figure that might be Snow, but you do not name him as you name Sen. Kerry. My point in asking you this is to ascertain if the concern you expressed that Kenyon might become an election whistle stop is genuinely on behalf of students or if it is a thinly disguised partisan complaint. While I might appreciate the former, I suspect the latter and object to your use of the alumni bulletin to forward the polarizing agenda you pretend to deplore. I will, of course, stand corrected if you did indeed write such a letter concerning Mr. Snow.

Best wishes in your current endeavors,
Me

re: Kerry at Commencement
Dear Editor,

I am disappointed with the Bulletin's decision to publish the letter submitted by D—- D—- '03 disparaging the College's choice of commencement speaker for the class of 2006. Anyone who is familiar with Mr. D—–'s Kenyon career will recall that he is far from nonpartisan. He was a leader of the Kenyon Republicans group and instrumental in bringing the indisputably extreme Republican Alan Keyes as a speaker to Kenyon's campus through the Student Lectureships Committee. As well, I understand that Mr. D—- was part of a group of 25 selected to meet with Kerry personally before the ceremony. If he disagreed so strongly with Kerry's invitation, he might have given someone else the opportunity to meet him. Instead of taking issue with Mr. Kerry's politics, he pretends to be outraged that a "polarizing figure" was invited to speak at commencement when his track record suggests that this more likely a partisan complaint. Instead of being honest about his objections, he disguises them with fabricated sympathies.

I will, of course, stand corrected if Mr. D— wrote an equally eloquent letter of outrage after my own class of 2004 was addressed by John Snow, then a representative of an administration which he admits is equally controversial. I have read Mr. Kerry's remarks, and unlike Mr. Snow's they demonstrated that he had taken time to get to know Kenyon and the class of 2006. I have also learned from faculty members that Mr. Kerry remained at commencement until every student had received his or her diploma. This stands in sharp contrast to Mr. Snow's preprogrammed and fortunately brief remarks that preceded his hasty retreat from a campus full of soon-to-be graduates who, after completing the Kenyon education both Mr. D—- and I profess to respect, could see right through him.

Sincerely,
Me, '04

——-

If replies from either party are forthcoming, I'll fill you in.

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No Responses Yet to “Kenyon Alumni Bulletin: The Saga”

  1. Lauren Says:

    Liz,
    I feel we need to bring more people into the blog fold. I leave comments on your page, you leave comments on mine, but the rest of our readers remain silent, refusing to let us hear their thoughts on Netflix mishaps, itunes misrecommendations, and in your case, annoying Republican alumni. What shall we do?


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