Weighing in on Arnold

Weighing In On Arnold

Last week's issue of the Corsair presented a number of arguments why Governor Schwarzenegger ought to be the keynote speaker at this year's graduation exercise, but none of the arguments hold up under examination:

The Right of Free Speech-Yes, the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. But First Amendment rights apply to everyone-even the worst among us. If free speech was the basis for picking a graduation speaker, anyone would qualify. Furthermore, the same argument for free speech ought to apply to those students who opt to exercise their right to protest the Governor's speech. The same people who argue for the Governor's right of free speech seem to object to that.

The Naked Partisanship of the Opposition-Of course, there is partisanship in the debate over Schwarzenegger-both pro and con. Why? Because the Governor has publicly espoused a divisive agenda that is deeply offensive to many people in California and entirely acceptable to others. If we invited a speaker who advocated the abolition of reproductive rights for women, or a speaker who advocated racial segregation, would that incite a partisan debate? In a heartbeat it would.

Many of the employees of Santa Monica College have been working here for almost as long as many of the students have been alive. The Governor advocates abolishing the defined benefit pension plans that those employees have been contributing to for many years, which would effectively prevent their retiring. At the same time the Governor advocates outsourcing their jobs. Can the students of SMC understand how those employees feel about the Governor coming here?

The Legitimacy of the Choice-Who invited the Governor? No one has claimed responsibility. Neither the Board of Trustees, nor the SMC Associates, nor the Faculty, nor the Classified, nor the Students, nor any recognized committee seems to have been involved, but apparently he's coming. Therefore, someone with the authority to invite the Governor did so, or the Governor wouldn't be coming. Why would we question the wisdom of an invisible authority? Isn't invisible authority the basis of religion?

Well, SMC is not governed by divine authority and divine authority is no longer considered a real basis for governance anyway. The College, unfortunately, is not blessed with infallible leadership. Few organizations are. Unconditional, uncritical acceptance of the dictates of authority has a rather poor historical record.

Arnold's The Man-He's the Governor of California. He's one of the most successful movie actors in film history. He was Mr. Universe. He's a multi-millionaire. He's the Terminator. He's a business man. He's married to Maria Shriver. He's a father. He's a cigar aficionado. He's a guy from a small village in Austria who attained unimaginable success--a self-made man. He's an inspiration. He's a Santa Monica College alumnus. He's a celebrity. He's famous! What more could you ask for?

You could ask for someone who has truly made a contribution--to art, to knowledge, to humanity, to the planet. You could ask for someone who articulates a vision of life that is relevant to your life. You could ask for someone with heart and with intelligence. You could ask for someone who has something to teach you, something to inspire.

Celebrities are media fabrications. Media giants prove this by creating celebrities continuously. Fame is fleeting. Your parents and your instructors remember celebrities you never heard of and you know celebrities they never heard of. You could be a celebrity if the powers that be decided to make you one and you wanted it. Being a celebrity neither qualifies or disqualifies you to be a graduation speaker.

Having something of value to say does.

Carl Gettleman
Academic Computing Instructional Specialist
Santa Monica College