The University was fortunate enough to host House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Monday for a lecture on his view of the problems the nation faces, especially our economic hardships, and how best to address them in today’s day and age. I was excited to see a speaker of this magnitude in person. Not being a very political man myself, I went in pretty much unbiased. I don’t define myself as a Democrat nor a Republican, but rather a middleman who sways with the wind of respective issues based on my own personal issues.
As soon as I approached the Michigan League, I saw what was unmistakably a mob of protesters picketing and yelling things like “R.I.P. Middle Class!” Generally being a pretty level-headed, non-aggressive person, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I prefer to avoid a fight if I can, so I began wondering just what kind of political tension I was getting myself into. I absolutely support free speech, however, even in its most extreme forms, and it’s nothing new to see people voicing their opinion in every kind of venue you can imagine on and around the campus.
Though on this day, I can’t say I was too supportive of what I saw take place. Let’s start with a short biopic: At first sight, Cantor looks like your average political guy. He’s white, middle aged, Ivy League educated, Southern and conservative. But one can’t Sparknotes this man and get the full story. He’s not your average white, Southern lawyer.
To begin with, Cantor is Jewish. He represents a vastly under-represented religion in terms of the political spectrum in this country. In fact, Cantor is the only Jewish Republican member in all of Congress. Does he come from old Southern money? No, that’d be assuming too much. Cantor’s grandparents escaped religious persecution in Hungary at the turn of the 20th century and came to the U.S. with few possessions but high hopes — like so many other families in search of the American Dream. Oh yeah, and his daughter is a student here. Just like us.
Now let me say I consider this University to be a classy school. A school of gentlemen and ladies, alike. This event was sponsored by the Ford School of Public Policy, which is named after a certain alum who we refer to today as the late, great President Gerald Ford. While attending this school, not only did Ford make it work coming from a local, broken family — he rose through the ranks of the social strata, became captain of the football team, state politician and, of course, later the President of the United States. A man of class. A true Michigan victor.
The behavior I witnessed at this event was generally not classy or respectful, and certainly not behavior Ford would condone. We already know why, don’t we? It’s pretty much undeniable that Ann Arbor, on occasion, is simply too liberal for its own good. Too much of anything turns into a bad thing. Students cheered on every cutting, far-left-leaning question like “How is the American dream alive in Scandinavia?” and “Do charter schools mean the end of public education?” with whistles and yells before the congressman was even given the chance to respond.
People, can you imagine how this man must have felt? He is a Republican politician from Richmond, Va. who took the time out of his insane schedule to talk to us. Before you make some snide comment at a public speaking event, think about what you’re really saying. Yes, I know how smart you are with your sophisticated Philosophy 400 level class. But do you hold a J.D. from William and Mary Law? How closely do you work with President Barack Obama?
This isn’t a question of right and wrong, demented opinions or even corrupt politicians who could be interested in hurting national interest. This is a question of tolerance. Please do voice your opinion, but do it appropriately. It is simply not OK to invite a middle-aged father of three, who is far more educated and more experienced than most of us will probably ever be, to speak at your school and then attack him for expressing his ideas on how best to help this country. That is not only rude and disturbing, it’s downright embarrassing conduct for any Michigan Wolverine.
Expect Respect. Give it. Get it. That statement is the University’s new motto, so follow suit. Voice your opinion, but in the words of Eric Cantor himself, “It is a fact that at some points we must agree to disagree to get through this life together.” Watch your words guys, and please continue to stay classy Ann Arbor.
Alexander Hepperle is an LSA sophomore.