The results of USB 11, an ASSU resolution to oppose the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to the Hoover Institution, were 8 in favor, 5 opposed and 2 abstentions. The resolution was 2 votes away from the 2/3-majority needed to pass. At first glance, these results seem like a definite loss to the vast majority of the undergraduate student body that opposes his appointment and the over 4,000 people who signed the online petition to oppose his appointment. While it is a devastating loss to the thousands of us who oppose Rumsfeld’s appointment, I think these results signify a threatening disease I have witnessed not just on Stanford’s campus but within our generation – fear.
Fear may not be as horrific as AIDS when it comes to amount of human devastation it exacts but I do feel it is a disease that is worth worrying about. Fear causes people to not take a stand on a controversial issue in the most dangerous of times. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, it’s not like World War III is going to start with Rumsfeld being on our campus.” You’re right, it won’t but let’s put it in perspective.
Donald Rumsfeld has shown countless times that he shows no respect for truth, wisdom, or human life or dignity. As President Bush’s Secretary of Defense, he played a leading role in doctoring up lies and dubious claims to justify the invasion of Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States. Iraq did not possess massive stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction”, as later weapons inspections proved, and there were no connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda or the terrorist attacks of 9/11. However, the Bush administration managed to fool the entire American public into supporting an unjustified, immoral, and imperialistic invasion of a country that never attacked us and posed no threat to us. The tolls on human life have been devastating. Thousands of young Americans and millions of Iraqis have lost their lives in a conflict that should have never happened in the first place. In addition, as Bush’s Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld authorized the use of torture in places such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, an utterly blatant violation of international human rights law. And yet, the Hoover Institution has the audacity to award this man with honors and allow him to make policy recommendations for their Middle East Task Force. Do we really want someone of such character making policy recommendations for the future in the middle of our campus?
Honestly, every time I go through Donald Rumsfeld’s actions, it makes me sick to my stomach. It sickens me everyday to know that so many people who didn’t have to die have died as a result of this man’s actions. It makes me even sicker that our university – the administration and the undergraduate senate – does not have the guts to stand up against something such as this. Donald Rumsfeld epitomizes everything that our university is opposed to. Stanford University is one of the greatest universities in the entire world. Our alumni have created Yahoo!, Google, given birth to Silicon Valley, and even served on the United States Supreme Court. Therefore, this university is clearly driven to the pursuit of knowledge and truth and using it to benefit the world. Donald Rumsfeld is the polar opposite of that. His actions have shown that he is willing to lie and break the law in order to pursue aggressive, imperialistic and immoral policies and, thus, his appointment violates the mission and moral conscience of Stanford University.
Now how does this relate to the fear amongst Stanford students and our generation? Well, here’s the answer. The undergraduate senate had a perfect opportunity in its hands to stand up for the voice of the student body and the moral conscience of this university but they FAILED. The primary argument driving the debate was whether or not such a resolution – a resolution actively condemning the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to the Hoover Institution – was reaching beyond the scope of the ASSU. It is such a stupid argument. If the vast majority of the undergraduate student body opposes the appointment and the undergraduate senators were elected to serve the will of the undergraduate student body, OF COURSE IT IS WITHIN THE ASSU’S SCOPE! However, as lame and absurd as this argument was, it managed to win as it caused the bill to be 2 votes short of receiving the 2/3-majority required to pass. As an undergraduate who loves this university and voted for many of the senators in the ASSU, I feel personally betrayed – betrayed because they rejected my voice and so many voices on this campus. This is what I mean by fear. Because this issue is so “political” and “controversial”, many senators did not want to touch it for fear of being too “extremist” or not moderate or intellectual.
Fear is not something that occurs just at Stanford but within our entire generation. Sure, our generation may be technologically savvy. We know how to market ourselves to the best colleges. We’re up-to-date on current events, involve ourselves in community and government activities and still manage to keep up good grades. On the outside, our generation looks prosperous and has a bright future ahead of us. However, our generation is missing something that the previous generation of the 1960s had – and that’s courage.
With so many things going on in the world – global warming, international terrorism, the war in Iraq, torture, the restriction of civil liberties at home, racism, poverty – these times are only a few assassinations from being as terrible as the 1960s. The previous generation faced many controversial issues – racism, civil rights, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, etc. – but they had the courage to stand up for what is right and move the country in the right direction. They marched, protested, lobbied and did whatever they could to stand up against the many injustices going on at that time. It took them years of fighting but they managed to accomplish many things that many of us take for granted today, such as civil rights for women and minorities. However, you don’t see our generation doing the same thing. Sure, we may say we care about social issues but so many of us are not willing to take a firm stand and fight for what is right. Anytime there is an opportunity to take a firm stand, we fear being labeled “extremist” or “on the fringe” and choose the easier path of being “moderate” and constantly researching and debating. While researching and debating are very important things and being moderate is not a bad thing, they are not adequate tools to create change in such dangerous times.
John F. Kennedy said in Inaugural Address, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” The ASSU had a perfect opportunity to let the outside world know that the undergraduate student body is vehemently opposed to the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to the Hoover Institution, a man who violates the moral conscience of the university. If the ASSU had any courage, it would have welcomed the opportunity to stand up for what is right. Instead, they capitulated to fear and shrunk from this opportunity. This makes me sick. I, however, choose not to capitulate to fear and welcome the responsibility to stand up for what is right. As long as Rumsfeld is here and as long as there’s unnecessary suffering going on in the world, I will speak out and I will stand up for what is right. The question is, will you?