It has come to everyone's attention, even ours, that three notable women were to give the commencement addresses at three notable American institutions -- and that all three came to nought. Brandeis was going to award an honorary degree to human rights activist Ayaan Hiri Ali, who ran terrible risk to life and limb for criticizing Islam, voicing her dissent from the view that doctrinaire Islamist and jihadist doctrine are aberrant. Brandeis students and faculty voted her down, interpreting her declarations as examples of hate speech. Christine Lagarde, who heads the International Monetary Fund, decided against speaking at Smith College in view of the campus uproar directed at her economic policies. Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush's national security adviser, and in his second term his secretary of state, was set to speak at Rutgers's graduation ceremonies when petitions denouncing her warmongering made her think twice. Like Lagarde, she withdrew. A fourth woman, Jill Abramson [pictured right], the first woman to hold the top editorial position at the New York Times, lost her job a few days ago either because she was impossible to work with, because she asked for a raise, or because she hired a top Guardian editor from England.
We wondered what Lagarde, Rice, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali [pictured left] would have said to the graduating classes, and we would be interested in Abramson's take on what happened at the nation's graying paper of record. So we are inviting the four of them to blog for us at their convenience. In particular, we hope to ask Abramson whether she regrets the tattoo of the New York Times's gothic T that she sports on her back. We would ask Hirsi Ali whether, in view of the righteous indignation of the university town of Waltham, Massachusetts, she would revise her assertion that “Islam is imbued with violence, and it encourages violence.” Lagarde [right] stylishly wears Chanel and the couture of other major Parisian designers. Does she think the Smith protestors were motivated in part by a backlash against French fashion, in part by her professed egalitarianism? (She has said, “It’s a question of not so much pushing the boys out of the picture but making the whole frame bigger so that both men and women access the labor market, contribute to the economy, generate growth, have jobs, and so on.”) As for Rice [left], we wonder whether the Rutgers students, vociferous admirers of the music of "gigantic, gigantic, gigantic, big, big love," were rebelling not only against Rice's role in framing foreign policy for the 43rd president but also against her preference for Mozart's decidedly unfashionable Piano Concerto in D minor, which she played with the Denver Symphony Orchestra at the age of fifteen, as well as works by Brahms and Shostakovich?
We would post the three canceled commencement addresses, though doubtlessly we have been beaten to the punch by such bastions of freedom of speech as The New York Review of Books and The Yale Daily News. -- DL