Pale Wire (Popscene)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

E.L. Ain't Down With The Mainstream

Earning his second Pale Fire appearance in less than a week, E.L. Doctorow made news yesterday when he was booed during his commencement speech at Hofstra University. You can read about it here.

Apparently, E.L. took the opportunity to criticize our president.

Many parents and relatives of the more than 1,300 undergraduates were livid over the address, saying afterward that a college graduation was not the place for a political speech. "If this would have happened in Florida, we would have taken him out" of the stadium, said Frank Mallafre, who traveled from Miami for his granddaughter's graduation.

Bill Schmidt, 51, of North Bellmore, shared the outrage. "To ruin my daughter's graduation with politics is pathetic," the retired New York Police Department captain said. "I think the president is doing the best he can" in the war against terrorism.

There are only few scant quotes from the speech in the article so it's hard to say how hard Doc was pushing it. All we get are a few short bytes and none of them seem crazy. There really isn't anything controversial about pointing out that Iraq didn't have any W.M.D., is there?

Beef must come from the fact that people don't expect to hear political statements during a commencement speech. I imagine most expect the usual happy horseship about unity and hope and how everyone's free to wear sunscreen. Blah. Boring. It's my understanding that, historically, commencement speeches have often served as venues for political discourse. It was during a commencement speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri that Winston Churchill coined the phrase "Iron Curtain" to refer to areas controlled by the Soviet Union.

If DePaul has announced who the speaker will be for my commencement on June 13, I've missed it entirely. There's nothing on the graduation webpage. Dream World: Chris Hitchens or Thomas Friedmen. Reality: Some Alumnus I've Never Heard Of