Among the countless e-mails Hamilton students received last week, one in particular caused me to jump for joy. It told of the availability of a free ticket to “Common Ground featuring David Axelrod and Karl Rove, moderated by Susan Page.” However, my joy quickly turned to apprehension for this coming event when I shared my excitement with another student. The student commented in reply: “Karl Rove really is a terrible person, though”. I was struck by the gravity of this statement. I realized that the event could lead to campus-wide protests.
I remembered the events last year at the University of California-Berkeley as well as our fellow NESCAC school, Middlebury College. Last February, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at Berkeley. The campus did not respond well to the idea, and a protest resulted that according to a CNN report caused over $100,000 in damage. These protesters “tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm.” In another case, people at Middlebury blocked Charles Murray, a libertarian and social scientist, from speaking on campus. As a result of another round of “protests,” Murray feared for his safety and a faculty member was seriously injured in an attempt to defend him.
So here we are, Hamilton. There’s no need to sugarcoat it: Our campus is strongly liberal, at least socially speaking. Yes, Karl Rove was a senior advisor to George W. Bush, a Republican. But this essay is not in defense of Mr. Rove’s views. I am not a Republican, and am not stating that I agree with the views of Mr. Rove. What I am trying to say, and warn about using the examples above, is that Mr. Rove has the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The purpose of this event is to allow two of the most prominent minds on each side of our political spectrum to discuss political topics that are tearing our nation apart. It’s also to invite a community of intellectuals to listen, and observe what two giants in the political field have to say. You may not agree with Mr. Rove, and you hopefully won’t always agree with Mr. Axelrod, but hear them out.
Hamilton has a wonderful opportunity to establish a reputation as a left-leaning college that allows free thought and discussion, as opposed to schools like Cal and Middlebury. So I urge you, fellow Hamilton students: Hear them out. Let Wednesday, October 18, 2017 be an evening when Karl Rove and David Axelrod hold an epic debate in the field house. Do not let it be the opener to a New York Times article the next day about an unruly and violent protest.