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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Harvard Commencement and Class Day speakers have had their problems. Shevardnadze was a socialist, Brundtland was a whale-killer, and Powell was seen as anti-gay. All, on the other hand, had redeeming qualities that made them worth honoring with speaking roles at Commencement.
This year's speakers are both departures from this norm of flawed but nevertheless worthwhile picks. We're thrilled about the choice of Vice President Al Gore, a beacon of integrity and intelligence amid the Clinton administration's legion of unethical cronies playing by Arkansas rules.
"Quota queen" Lani Guinier, on the other hand, is famous only for her attempts to dismantle democracy by turning it into a scheme for ensuring outcomes favorable to what she views as the interests of "authentic" minorities.
Why, Guinier asks, should geography rather than race determine how we form groups to elect representatives. The answer is simple--we want to encourage geographic communities, not racial balkanization.
While minority interests must be safeguarded within a democracy, Guinier's philosophy of groups "taking turns" in ruling is not the way to run a government. There are other ways to guarantee minority rights without fostering racial division, such as the Bill of Rights and a judiciary to enforce it.
Perhaps, most importantly, she lacks the accomplishments we expect from a Class Day speaker. Although she is a tenured law professor, she has been selected as a speaker only for the distinction of being rejected to head the civil rights effort of the Clinton administration.
Even Clinton had the sense to drop Guinier. The Senior Class Committee should do the same.
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