GROUP THINK is The DP’s round table section, where we throw a question at the columnists and see what answers stick. Read your favorite columnist, or read them all.
This week's question: Is the selection of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) as commencement speaker problematic given the partisan nature of the selection?
Joe Tharakan | Cup O'Joe
Cory Booker is a fine choice for Commencement Speaker. Yes, he is a Democratic senator, and therefore inherently a partisan pick. But he is still a great speaker and inspirational orator. Lots of colleges invite "partisan" speakers to their commencement ceremonies — every United States president who has ever given a graduation speech is a partisan pick.
Besides, Penn has a long history of picking partisan politicians to speak at commencement. In 2015 we had Democratic UN Ambassador Samantha Power, in 2013 we had Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, in 2008 we had New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in 2007 we had Republican Secretary of State James Baker and in the most obvious parallel, in 2001 we had sitting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) deliver the commencement address. I don't see why Cory Booker is any more controversial than any of these other picks in the past.
Mike Palamountain | Stranger Than Fiction
Is it so “problematic” to be partisan? Taking sides on an issue just means you care about something. And the only reason it might be problematic to be partisan in this case is because it forces your opponents to reconsider and potentially feel uncomfortable about their own views. There’s nothing wrong with a mental or moral stretch every now and then.
With that said, do I think the choice of Cory Booker is problematic? No. Booker may be a rising star in the Democratic Party and a household name for speaking out against Trump now and again, but his voting record is less radical. Booker is a mainstream liberal democrat. Penn is a mainstream, liberal institution. The pairing makes a lot of sense.
What would really be “problematic” would be to invite University of Pennsylvania alumnus Noam Chomsky to speak. Even though I’m not sure he’d accept, bringing such a renowned intellectual and activist whose presence and rhetoric would certainly be problematic because it would offer a radically different point of view than that held by most Penn students and mainstream politicians. Noam would be the problematic speaker Penn deserves, even if it’s not the one Penn wants.
James Fisher | Spilling the Real Tea
I think that Cory Booker speaking at the 2017 Commencement ceremony is a great relief amidst all the Trump drama going on right now, especially since he is a frequent critic of Trump and his immigration ban. We need strong resistance to Trump in any form. I’m especially happy that it’s a strong black figure speaking out against him and his policies, regardless of some of the opposing views regarding Booker’s intentions for not supporting Trump. I’m not too informed on everything Cory Booker has done politically. But it is certainly better than a Trump supporter speaking at the Commencement ceremony.
Isabel Kim | It Keeps Happening
The fact that Cory Booker is commencement speaker is not problematic, or at least not because of partisan reasons. First of all, there is no way to select a politician as commencement speaker without the selection being partisan, and we don't pick commencement speakers based on their lack of bias. Had the school been concerned with partisanship, they should have selected a speaker with no ties to politics. I think that choosing Booker does speak to the political climate and attitudes that are prevalent around campus, which is pervasively liberal, and it does make sense to pick a speaker that the majority of the student body is not opposed to.
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