"Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy went to Columbia University today (my alma mater) to get reaction on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's upcoming campus chat. It was no surprise that many of the students were intrigued by the anti-American Holocaust denier, but I was stunned to hear some thought it was "cool" to have him on campus. Because he hates America he is "cool"?! Would it also have been "cool" to have had Hitler or Usama bin Laden speak, too? Those kids should attempt to go to school in Iran where education isn't as free or open as it is here.
Apparently, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger will introduce the Iranian leader. He promises to ask tough questions. Then the distinguished visitor will give a speech. Students are told they can ask questions, too.
Do they honestly believe that this will be an open exchange of ideas? That he cares about American values and ideals? He wants the photo op of intellectuals at a prominent American university embracing him and denouncing U.S. policy around the globe. He may get a few hecklers or people angry that he denies the Holocaust, but that isn't likely to change his mind or encourage him to reconsider his positions.
Last year Columbia withdrew its invitation to have him speak. A university official questioned whether or not Ahmadinejad upheld the school's "values" without ever stating what those values were.
I have to question the values of a university that welcomes the leader of a country on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror but refuses to allow the presence of the ROTC on campus. I guess our military is more threatening than the Iranian president is.
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