As a recent college graduate, I think it’s great that Columbia invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on its campus. His appearance is a testament to tolerance and free speech.
In no way do I think the Iranian president is a good person, or agree with what he said, and I don’t think his appearance means that the country supports him, but the fact that a college feels comfortable inviting him and letting him share his thoughts makes me proud to live in the United States. No way would Iran let President Bush give a speech there without censoring him and carefully monitoring its broadcast.
On NPR today I heard an interview with an Iranian man who said he didn’t vote for Ahmadinejad but that the speech at Columbia made this man rethink his allegiance and decide to support the president, and that he knows other Iranian men who had the same reaction. I’m puzzled by this because I, like everyone I know, do not support him (not that it really matters because I don’t live in Iran). But that interview made me think — maybe the people who live there agree? Maybe he’s giving the people what they want?
I don’t think I can truly understand a culture where homosexuality ‘doesn’t exist’ and the Holocaust, which in my wildest dreams cannot think of a way that could all be made up, ‘doesn’t exist’ either. Not to mention all the women’s rights issues. The most I could do is read, watch, and learn about it, but I don’t think I could really understand.
Later I heard the introduction given Ahmadinejad by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. I feel that Bollinger verbally attacked his guest. As an invited guest, no matter his ridiculous beliefs, I feel there was really no need to verbally assault Ahmadinejad. His words told us all we need to know.
Students are smart enough to judge for themselves if they agree or disagree with Ahmadinejad’s words and actions.
Did you watch the speech? Do you disagree or agree with my reactions to the matter?
What do you think of Columbia’s invitation and Bollinger’s introduction?
What do you think of what Ahmadinejad said?