How dare President Wright

Now may be as good a time as any to call for the resignation of Dartmouth President James Wright.

A number of conservatives, including our own Dinesh D’Souza, have successfully–hijacked, some would say–the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” arguing that present-day liberals are not only failing to live up to King’s call for colorblindness, but in fact they are doing entirely the reverse.

In President Wright’s commencement address today, he invoked a former Republican president’s call for the embracing of knowledge, education and free speech. Meanwhile, Wright’s administration has trumped free speech and relegated it to ranks that would’ve shocked President Eisenhower in 1953 and must be making him roll over in his grave today.

Wright’s “Principle of Community” is being used to burn books. He oversees a once proud liberal arts college turning mediocre research university in which guilty middle-class whites and ‘everybody else who isn’t racist’ must go out of their way to deny history–the Indian was never really our mascot (it didn’t appear on uniforms or in the daily student newspaper, right?), no Indians ever scalped anyone, etc.–and obfuscate current events.

In his speech, Wright espouses “openness to ideas” and “tolerance towards those with whom we might disagree.” I suppose we all ought to do as he says, not as he does.

But then he also embraces “the resolution to face those broader matters that seem to be simply wrong, the courage to confront them.” On one hand, we are to tolerate everyone with whom we disagree. On the other, he acknowledges that some matters seem to be “simply wrong” and they are to be confronted.

I am baffled, I am embarassed, and I would like a new Dartmouth College President to deliver an address at the graduation of my class of 2004 next spring.

A section of President Wright’s speech:

In 1953 President John Sloan Dickey invited President Dwight D. Eisenhower to receive an honorary degree at that year’s Commencement exercises. In an historic, well-publicized statement, President Eisenhower urged the graduates not to join “the book burners,” an obvious and pointed challenge to the excesses of McCarthyism and a remarkably clear call for openness to ideas and tolerance towards those with whom we might disagree.

President Eisenhower’s comments that day offered much more than the criticism of the book burners, which produced the headlines across the nation. He also told the graduates here that there were two qualities he wished them to embrace: joy and courage. Joy, that which makes for a happy life, is obviously personal, but it is critical. And President Eisenhower thought courage equally important. He described honesty and integrity as manifestations of courage — the honesty to look closely at ourselves and what we do, the resolution to face those broader matters that seem to be simply wrong, the courage to confront them.