Last week, David Horowitz came to speak on campus to discuss the threat of a radical movement happening in the world and its threat to Western culture. The majority of the people that attended the speech knew there were probably going to be some things said that people disagree with. We booked a room that seats about 250 and had to unfortunately turn away over 50 people.
When David started his speech, he did not say anything controversial. Actually, a good portion of the beginning of the speech was more like a history lecture then anything else. Yet, there was almost immediate objection and interruption by a student answering his cell phone. David made certain claims that were disagreed with. He was then booed, hissed and yelled at. It was apparent to some that it would get out of hand, and emotions were flying high.
David opened the floor to something kind of like questions. Many of the people that approached the microphone opened up every “question” with a statement and usually a derogatory remark against David. People got personal against him and said some very obscene things. David at one point responded with a remark that I would not have said. He even later apologized for getting personal, but can we blame him? I mean here is a man that has been an activist for over 40 years and has thrown himself out to the people for dialogue and yet he is continually disregarded, demeaned and abused without the ability to speak. Is that fair? Should we not allow free speech on an academic campus?
OK, some people that were there will tell you David was constantly interrupting the questioners, but a passive observer noticed that he would only respond when provoked.
Anyone who has brought a speaker to campus will tell you that Q&A is a necessary part of the program. Some groups like to have the questions submitted beforehand, which are then decided on and read by an announcer. We did not want to go that route. We felt it was our obligation as students to let students ask the questions. Please remember, we all came there to listen to David speak, not the individuals who approached the microphone. As well, the majority of the views against him had been expressed in editorials, Facebook and all over the Internet. Would it not make sense to leave those insidious remarks at the door and try to push for a dialogue of understanding between opposing parties?
Lastly, I will respond to two occurrences that have happened since the event. First, I would like to respond to the accusations that we were turning off the microphone. I point out that it was a question-and-answer session where very few questions were asked. The microphone was only turned off when there were obscenities said, when it was apparent that a question was not going to be asked or at the end of a very long statement, or when it seemed that David was going to respond to an accusation, comment or question. Never was the microphone turned off because anybody disagreed with what was said. Secondly, I would like to point out a lot of the good that has come out of the speech. It has opened channels of communication from opposing sides to figure out our differences and have an understanding of such differences.
I have personally opened a dialogue with a student who started off degrading and mocking me before I let him know what I believed. Then after 14 messages and close to 6,000 words of dialogue, we have been able to seriously discuss what it is each of us believes in and why. A lot of the time, there are only small differences in the hopes we have for this great country, the people of the world and for the ending of bloodshed. Any human being given the chance with the knowledge of a free society and free thinking people will choose democracy, which is my hope for all mankind. Thank you, David, for coming. Let’s keep the conversation going.