A new record may have been set this year for how quickly controversy came to GW’s campus. It’s only two days into the new academic year, and already two different public figures have stirred emotions in Foggy Bottom. Yesterday, the coup-removed President of Honduras, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, spoke at the Elliott School. Only hours later, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell (R) spoke in the Marvin Center. Regardless of our personal reservations toward both speakers, the Hatchet’s editorial board wholeheartedly supports their appearances on campus.
Zelaya currently sits at the center of an international firestorm over the coup that removed him and has ultimately kept him from returning to Honduras. His appearance has prompted many to question if allowing him to speak at GW lends credibility to a person who may ultimately be impeding democratic progress in Latin America.
Though he was attending a College Republicans event, the exposure of McDonnell’s 20-year-old graduate thesis put him in equally hot water. Since its publication, McDonnell has come under tremendous scrutiny, as the thesis expresses extremely conservative positions, including the belief that discrimination against gays is acceptable and that employed women damage families. He has since stated that he no longer holds these views, and that twenty years has greatly changed his positions.
While both of these speakers are controversial to say the least, it is important that the GW community allow such individuals to speak. In an academic setting, discourse and debate are vital elements of a well-rounded education. It may be the knee-jerk reaction to simply argue that such a speaker should not come to campus (especially in Zelaya’s case), but doing so would only isolate preconceived beliefs, rather than subjecting them to critical analysis.
Giving public figures a venue to voice their opinions does not necessarily mean GW supports their views. Students are free to protest, and hopefully they choose to do so respectfully. We hope to see more high-profile figures on campus this year, whether or not we personally agree with their actions or beliefs.
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