A great man once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Those words were spoken by John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Speaking before a country ready for change, Kennedy’s words were a call to action for the nation. He let the people know that moving the country and the world toward a brighter future would require the participation of the masses. Instead of focusing entirely on their busy lives, the people had to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good of humanity. As evidenced by the social upheaval of the 1960s, people took those words seriously. Such sentiment and willingness to sacrifice, I lament, has disappeared.
As a student here at Stanford, I see Stanford as more than just a university; I see it as an institution with a very important place in the world. Our alumni become lawyers, engineers, business leaders, and even Justices on the Supreme Court. An institution of such tradition and prestige obviously must stand for some higher cause. Stanford is an institution devoted to the never-ending search for knowledge and truth and using it to benefit humanity. The recent appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to the Hoover Institution, a think-tank that lies in the geographic heart of our beloved campus, violates the mission and moral conscience of Stanford University for many reasons.
As President Bush’s Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld played an important role in manufacturing lies to justify the imperialistic invasion of Iraq. He claimed that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were buddies and that Iraq played a role in 9/11. The 9/11 Commission found no connections between the two, thus proving this claim false. Rumsfeld also claimed that Iraq had massive stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction” and that Saddam would hand them to terrorists in order to attack America. Later weapons inspections proved this claim to be utterly false. Donald Rumsfeld also played a key role in authorizing the use of torture in places like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Anyone familiar with the Geneva Conventions would know that this is a blatant violation of international human rights law.
The list could go on and on but this is enough to prove that not only does Rumsfeld have no respect for the truth but he also has no respect for human dignity and basic morality. The fact that our university would allow such a person, a person who is basically a war criminal, to receive the title of “distinguished visiting fellow” at a think-tank in the middle of its campus with no challenge or voice of opposition makes me sick to my stomach.
But what makes me even sicker is the apathy among the student body. Having a man who has shown no respect for human life or dignity affiliated with your school should not be a politically taboo issue. Yet, it’s treated as such. People rarely talk about how Rumsfeld’s appointment is damaging not just to Stanford’s image but also for the future. Do we really want someone who played a leading role in manufacturing lies for an unjust war and authorized the use of torture making policy recommendations for a think-tank that sits in the middle of our campus? And it seems like whenever this issue is talked about, it’s reduced to cliché sound bites, such as Rumsfeld’s appointment is about freedom of speech. Donald Rumsfeld used his power and influence to smear people who disagreed with him and the president’s policies, labeling them as traitors or unpatriotic. In addition, it is not his mere beliefs that are offensive but his actions – actions that should make any moralistic or rational person sick to their stomachs. It is very possible to find another conservative fellow with much more integrity than Donald Rumsfeld. Therefore, freedom of speech is not the case here.
As a Stanford student, with many friends in the armed services, I feel it is my responsibility to stand up for human rights and oppose Rumsfeld’s appointment. If I refuse to speak out during such dangerous times – times in which millions of Iraqis and thousands of Americans are dying in an unjust war based on lies, times in which the United States is violating international human rights law by torturing people in secret prisons, all in the name of preserving “freedom” while restricting civil liberties here at home – then I will have blood on my hands. And so my fellow students, I ask of you to do this. If you truly love Stanford University, if you truly love this country and if you truly want to see a brighter future not only for yourselves but for your children and your grandchildren then DO SOMETHING. The time for making excuses is over. Ask not what you can do for yourselves but what you can do for the greater good of humanity. And you can start now by standing up for human rights and getting Rumsfeld off of our fucking campus.