View Full Version : Guiliani Faces Protest

05-25-2005, 06:11 PM
Giuliani faces protest


May 23, 2005
By Ed Barna Rutland Herald

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College's graduation ceremony Sunday featured protest actions by students, parents, faculty and more when former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani received an honorary degree and gave the commencement address.

But the number of those who put red scarves over their mouths as symbolic gags during his speech, or passed out leaflets questioning the official story on the events of 9/11 in which Giuliani played an important role, were a small minority of the several thousand people present.

Rumors of a mass walkout did not materialize and the large number of campus security officers marshaled for the occasion had little to do but watch.

Most of the students rose to give Giuliani standing applause after his speech on leadership. It was not as intense as the ovation that student speaker Thomas Stults received for his knowing, humorous view of the class's life together. But by the end, those standing greatly outnumbered those pointedly staying put.

There had been opposition to Giuliani playing a similar role at Loyola College's graduation in Baltimore on Friday, but that was mainly from Catholic leaders — who boycotted — and others saying it was inappropriate to have someone with Giuliani's stance on abortion rights as the speaker. At Middlebury, his planned appearance had been controversial since it was announced in March.

College spokeswoman Sarah Ray, speaking Wednesday, said protests were likely because Middlebury has tried to create a diverse student body that now includes numerous students of color from the New York City area.

Part of the college's account of his selection as commencement speaker, not included in the honorary degree citation read Sunday, said: "During Giuliani's eight years as mayor, New York City's crime rate fell by 57 percent, and the FBI designated New York as America's safest large city. … Income and property values rose, and whole neighborhoods were redeveloped."

A different view came from graduating senior Cynthia Hernandez, who organized a showing on campus of films critical of Giuliani and helped organize Sunday's protests.

"As a minority student from New York City, I am offended that his record of condoning civil rights abuses against racial minorities, the poor, the homeless, the queer community and the artistic community is being ignored in favor of honoring an opportunistic performance during the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001," Hernandez said.

Giuliani's three days at the emergency command post he created near the disaster site earned him Person of the Year honors from Time magazine.

"For eight years before that, people like me lived in fear of the police brutality against people of color that he failed to condemn," Hernandez said. "I've been personally affected by his "Broken Windows" theory of law enforcement" (remove the conditions that breed crime by eliminating all signs and types of disorderly conduct), "which effectively meant that the streets were being made safe and clean for middle-class whites and tourists at the expense of the homeless and people of color."

"It is an outrage that Middlebury College ignored the interests of its sizable minority population in order to honor someone who has made his career by deliberately making them the victims of his policies," Hernandez said.

Some parents were also critical of the choice. Rosa Maria Castillo-Kesper of New York City said she had seen many mayors, but none as responsible for police violence as Giuliani, whose 32 percent approval rating before 9/11 was "the lowest of any mayor in the 20th century."

There were two students on the Honorary Degree Committee that included Giuliani in the list of candidates forwarded to college president Ron Liebowitz for his final decision.

Eric Davis, secretary of the college, said in March, "One reason his commencement speech will be especially meaningful to students in the Class of 2005 is that the Sept. 11 attacks took place on what was the second day of classes for the current seniors."

But graduating senior Evan Parton of Poultney said it was "insulting, degrading and insensitive" to choose Giuliani. A graduation speaker ought to be a role model, he said, and after what he saw in Kevin Keating's film "Giuliani Times" — to be released in September — he could never see Giuliani in that role.

Unruffled, Giuliani delivered a speech on leadership similar to the one he gave at Loyola. There were four lessons he had learned, he said:

"You have to have strong beliefs," to develop goals — though those can change with experience.

"You have to be an optimist," the way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed black people could realize the dream of equal rights or the way football coach Vince Lombardi insisted that he had never lost a game."

"You've got to have ethics and morality and a sense of right and wrong." He urged graduates to choose public service, saying "It's not just a good thing to give back, it's essential to your happiness."

"You have to be prepared," not because there won't be surprises, but because if you are, the solution "will just be a variation of what you've prepared." In his own case, "New York City is an emergency a week," and after working with other officials to create more than 25 emergency plans, when 9/11 came "every decision I was making came out of one of those plans."

Meanwhile, some in the audience were flipping through leaflets handed out by Stan Chaucer of New Haven, a recent high school graduate. The leaflets had come from a Mendon activist Lynn Sandage.

She said on Saturday, she had spent most of the day on Main Street in Middlebury where she met Chaucer giving out information promoting a theory that Giuliani had been part of a conspiracy to create the 9/11 attacks as a way for George Bush and right-wing allies to seize more political power.

For those who want to pursue that theory, she and Chaucer both recommended Michael Ruppert's book "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil." Sandage summed up this alternate view by alleging, "Giuliani's a mass murderer."

For Stults, such controversies were part of the reason for going to a liberal arts college. Students gain "the idea of perspective," learn the limits of all ideas, and thus develop tolerance for differing values, he said.

"As one of my professors said, 'It's not about creating a point of view, it's about creating a dialogue,'" Stults said.

Following is a list of Vermont graduates at Middlebury College:

Burlington, Cristine Chiasson; Caitlyn Long, Saba Rizvi; Chester, Richard Root; Cornwall, Gale Berninghausen, David Lindholm; East Burke, Joshua Dalley; East Montpelier, Kathryn Biggam; Hinesburg, Nathan Anderson; Londonderry, Benjamin Cooley; Middlebury, Zubin Mistri; Middlesex, Asher Burns-Burg; Newfane, Molly Russell; Norwich, Nicholas Colacchio; Rebecca Voake; Poultney, Evan Parton; Proctorsville, Gianina Farrugia; Ripton, Levi Doria; Brian Phinney; Royalton, Phoebe Chap; Rutland, Michael Keenan, Elizabeth Lathey; Shelburne, Matthew Meyer, Elizabeth Van Woert; Shoreham, Tabitha Connor; South Strafford, Kathryn Olson; Springfield, Jonathan Taft-Dick; St. Albans, Graeme Connell; Nicholas Janson Christopher Jennette; Stowe, Eleanor Parker; Waltham, Liam Quinn; Waterbury, Rebecca Hewitt; West Dover, Leticia Williams; Westford, Colin Rodgers; Weston, Mayo Fujii; Wilmington, Tyne Pike-Sprenger; Woodstock, Buck Sleeper.