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In Carson Commencement Flap, the Bullies Win

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It is hard to imagine a more inspiring occasion. The graduation ceremony for Johns Hopkins University Medical School was set to welcome the man who has brought it so much attention lately-- Dr. Ben Carson, the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery whose observations on culture and politics have earned him millions of new fans in recent months.


But those views ruffled the sensibilities of ideological hooligans at Hopkins, who sought to chase him from that occasion.

Sadly, they have succeeded.

Displaying characteristic gallantry and class, Dr. Carson has withdrawn, rather than see the event reduced to a circus.

Yet I am conflicted. I understand his logic, but I don’t like to see bullies win.

The so-called Health and Human Rights Student Group at Hopkins is surely high-fiving this weekend, having attracted sufficient attention as a result of their online tantrum regarding Dr. Carson’s comments on gay marriage.

Appearing with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Dr. Carson asserted that no divergent sexual taste should compel a change in the definition of marriage.

His exact words: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are-- they don’t get to change the definition.”

Displaying stunning foolishness, Dr. Carson’s tormentors began bleating that he had in fact equated gays with the pedophiles in NAMBLA and people who seek sex with animals.

He did nothing of the kind. He merely offered a succession of constituencies who may wish for marriage to be bent to their model.

But objectivity vanishes when opportunists seek to score cheap political points. And these are not just garden variety activists-- these are medical students.


If these young adults can’t muster the clarity to see Dr. Carson’s point, I shudder at giving them access to scalpels.

No one is saying these leftist students had to agree with Dr. Carson’s quote. But basic decency requires that they tolerate them, just as conservative students should tolerate a liberal commencement speaker. Have universities finally cast off their last vestige of reputation as environments promoting an exchange of ideas?

It is not as if Dr. Carson would have spent even a single moment on the subject that gave the students conniption fits. He was not going to stride to the microphone to say, “Congratulations on reaching this milestone. Now here’s why I oppose gay marriage.”

His remarks would have been filled with the inspiring themes that have captivated millions who have heard him speak this year-- themes of excellence, self-reliance, high standards and hard work.

But that message has been banished, sacrificed on an altar of manufactured outrage.

The bullies won, and that stinks.

The record will show that Dr. Carson was not un-invited, that he withdrew voluntarily. I understand his logic. His e-mail to the medical school dean, who unfortunately joined in the chorus of disdain, said:“Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interests of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year... My presence is likely to distract from the true celebratory nature of the day. Commencement is about the students and their successes, and it is not about me.”


Dr. Carson is right. It is not about him. But it is about something larger than both his views or those of his critics. It is about the ability of speakers to have access to stages on university campuses without fear of being torpedoed by a few malcontents.

I wish Dr. Carson had thought about the damage his deference has done to a cause he says is vital-- the fight against political correctness.

In his email to Dean Paul Rothman, Dr. Carson lamented the sorry status quo that led to this controversy: “Someday in the future, it is my hope and prayer that the emphasis on political correctness will decrease and we will start emphasizing rational discussion of differences so we can actually resolve problems and chart a course that is inclusive of everyone.”

Valuable words, but that cause requires action.

It requires the occasional speaker to refuse to back down in the face of petulance. Here, it required Dr. Carson to force the University to kick him off that stage.

Maybe they would have, maybe not. If he had spoken, maybe everyone would have grown up a little and allowed the address to pas without further whining, online or in public.

But probably not. There surely would have been protests, maybe even the occasional heckler. And while that was what Dr. Carson sought to avoid, imagine the value of that image.


Imagine a gaggle of white yuppie med students daring to bedevil a proud African-American doctor who has performed more miraculous surgeries than the lot of them combined ever will.

That’s the kind of development that truly moves the ball down the field against the scourge of PC.

I do not begrudge Dr. Carson his decision. But we should all know that his withdrawal is a sweet inspiration for every group of yahoos looking to hound the next conservatives invited to campuses all over America.

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