John Leo

A Williams College student wrote this to an Internet site: "I listened to that 18-minute, stale, anti-intellectual heap of contradictory crap. If part of MY tuition had gone to pay for that smarmy SOB to irrationally rant about the country I love at MY commencement, without a word about the fact that I was, er, graduating, I would have considered it a duty to drown him out with insults."

Statements like this are reminders that the booing of commencement speakers often has a lot to do with arrogance and tone. But it is also true that for students who have had to endure so much PC indoctrination for four years, one last dose of ideological claptrap during a graduation ceremony can seem like the last straw.

At Ithaca College's graduation, some students and parents booed anti-war commencement speakers Ben and Jerry, the foreign policy experts and ice-cream makers. Ben was predictably obnoxious. The students didn't mount a major rebellion; a few new graduates walked out. There were six or seven heated confrontations that never quite developed into fights, and several students started a "Bomb France" chant to irritate the leftist ice-creamers.

Students today, trained at Internet speed, are inclined to react quickly to provocations. My guess is that the booing of commencement speakers will become a routine reaction to pomposity, gassy ideology (call it Hedgesism), or the failure to comprehend that the day is about students. Good.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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