Saturday, May 20, 2006

"... is to be governed by your inferiors."

Today was graduation day at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. My niece, 2-time All-American Sarah Elizabeth Berheide (Field Hockey and Lacrosse), graduated Magna Cum Laude today. Her story is already an inspiring one... and it is just beginning. I couldn't be prouder if she were my own.

Included with the 600+ Class of 2006 Honorary Doctorates were bestowed upon 3 distinguished guests, Douglas Greenberg, visiting professor of history at the University of Southern California and executive director of USC's Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education; Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey who was head of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the U.S.; and Arthur Mitchell, founder and artistic director of the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Mr. Greenberg spoke about the joy of watching his daughter Molly graduate that day. His memorable quote was that when people asked him what lessons he has learned from history, particularly the Holocaust on which he has particular expertise, he said that there are 3 decisions that people should never make.

1. To be a perpetrator
2. To be a victim
3. To be a bystander

He spoke of Darfur and other troubles in the world today and said that we are all mostly bystanders. Unfortunately I missed what Mr. Mitchell had to say as SPAC is an outdoor theater and it was very cold so I returned to the car to get a blanket for my granddaughter.

Gov. Thomas Kean spoke of public service. He told how when he was the age of the graduating class a young President, John F. Kennedy, urged his generation to public service. He pointed out how his generation was ready to retire and asked who would replace them. He then urged them to at least consider spending a number of their years in some form of public service or other.

And then former Gov Kean (R-NJ) quoted Plato:

"Plato said, "The penalty for not participating in government is to be governed by your inferiors." Think about it. It may be happening."

Gov. Kean did not know that a liberal blogger was in the audience and would be posting his words on the internet within hours. However, Skidmore holds it's graduation at SPAC, The Saratoga Performing Arts Center and it was a full audience. He most certainly knew that he was speaking publicly. By his intonation one could tell that he intended a particular effect. By the applause and laughter he received (from most, not all) one could tell that the effect was achieved.

Elsewhere in Saratoga Springs today, John "anti-New York" McCain was the guest at a fund raiser for embattled Congressman John Sweeney. Swillionaires for Sweeney were on hand to show their support.

Meanwhile today, 20TrueBlue and Kirsten Gillibrand were canvassing in New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno's backyard of Brunswick, NY. Last week, Democracy for the Hudson-Mohawk Region canvassed with Kirsten Gillibrand in Clifton Park, NY, currently John Sweeney's backyard.

"Plato said, "The penalty for not participating in government is to be governed by your inferiors." Think about it. It may be happening."

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Are you participating?


Charles said...

I wasn't there, so I didn't hear the intonation and can't guess the effect he intended.

Is it possible that Kean was making a small joke at his own expense?

He was, after all, a ::cough:: Governor.

Andrew C. White said...

I wish I had planned on reporting the event. I'd have captured more of his speech.

He was strongly urging the graduating class to get involved in politics and public service. He and all the others spoke in one way or another about the great need our country has for new leaders and new visions.

He was most definitely speaking out against the current leadership and using them as evidence to support his call for these graduates to get involved.

dancinfool said...

Not hearing him speak, I can only say that the words themselves, in conjunction with his plea for public service and being a part of the process, are pretty straightforward. Most readers would probably arrive at the same conclusion:

The people of the US have been governed by their inferiors for 5 long years....

josh said...

As a member of the Skidmore class of 2006 (unfortunatly I didn't know your niece) I can attest that yes, he was quite evidently telling us that we are currently being governed by our inferiors. However, I think that he just threw it in there as a cheap rhetorical applause line, because he was following Greenberg's (not Mitchell-- he came last) superior (in my view speech.

Greenberg gave a very powerful speech imploring us (the graduates) not to ever choose safety over freedom, and reminding us that we (all of us in the west) are fortunate not through virtue, but due to chance.

Kean, I think, was just trying to prove that as a Republican, he has the cred to speak to an overwhelmingly liberal class, along with other liberal speakers. He was playing to his audience, and thus overemphasizing the fact that he may not consider Bush to be his choice of president. Thus, he was saying, I may be a Republican, but I still feel your pain.

He was pandering. He did it well, and in a pretty good speech (public service, after all, is very important), but he was pandering to his audience. And they (we) bought it-- I can tell you that the graduates loved that line.

josh said...

And after four years I still haven't learned to proofread what I write. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

As a former NJ'er and alumni of Drew University, AND a former member of the Drew Board of Trustees, I can tell y'all that Tom Kean is not what you think of when you think of Republican. Unfortunately.

alberich said...

I guess Gov. Kean must have given a similar speech to the speech he gave at Rutgers.

While he definitely was playing the "fair and balanced", "both sides are wrong" game, it was pretty clear that he was about as fair and balanced about doing so as, e.g. Fox News. Except in the other direction: he pretty much giving the same "for whatever reasons I am still going to call myself a Republican and not directly attack the Republican party or support the Democrats, but you can bet your life that in the privacy of the voting booth, I've not voted Republican for the past decade" game that Ford is playing and that Goldwater played toward the end of his life (and that my father, who in his youth was a conservative Republican, played until he finally came out of the closet as a lefty-liberal Democrat).

I was particularly happy (and applauded as did a few others ... albeit we all did so maybe too quietly and politely to be noticed) when Kean praised the Daily Show. Did he do that at your commencement too?

Andrew C. White said...

Mark Kleiman over at The Reality-Based Community Decodes Kean

Andrew C. White said...

Josh, I don't think he was pandering. Kean is not a fan of the Bushies. The Plato quote was in keeping with the tone of the rest of his remarks. The "Think about it. It just may be happening" might have been thrown in for the applause but I don't think the point of Plato was a throw-in.

By the way, what in the world were you doing blogging here last night? You should have been out celebrating your achievement!

Congratulations to you and the rest of Skidmore's Class of 2006!

I hope you and your classmates will take his and Greenberg's advice and get involved.

We need you.

alberich said...

So did Kean give props to TDS in his speech at Skidmore?

Andrew C. White said...


Sounds like his speech at Rutgers and Skidmore had similar content but were not the same. I didn't hear anything from him attempting to be fair and balanced. It was all about public service and the need for new blood in politics. I don't recall him saying anything about The Daily Show. There were a few comments, I think from him but I'm not sure at this point, with various musical references but other then the Plato comment he didn't really reference one side or the other.

alberich said...

Just to be clear Kean nowhere utterred the phrase "fair and balanced".

At Rutgers Kean talked a bit about the scandals engulfing DC and (in vague terms except for his specific mentioning of UMDNJ) NJ and then named a few names, mostly Republican (e.g. Delay) but also a Democrat or two (as I said, he was "fair and balanced"). But he proceded to say the real problem wasn't specific scandals but the degree to which, as evidenced and possibly caused by talk shows (I forget how he put it, but this is I guess a fair enough summary), our discourse on political matters has degenerated. He said we needed to have a more enlightened discourse and then said something to the effect that the Daily Show is a step in the right direction.

Yeah. I guess much of the content of the speeches (including the Plato quote), as well as the take-home message about public service, was the same, but some specifics differed.

Andrew C. White said...

Ok, yeah, he didn't say anything about the scandals or name any names. I think he did say something about discourse and there was plenty of talk about various issues (Darfur, Global Warming, etc) but nothing about the scandals or specific names.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure he's at least a friendly acquaintance of Christie Todd Whitman, who was NJ's last Republican gov & the Bush admin's first EPA director (or was it Interior Secretary?). That experience clearly left a bad taste in her mouth -- she wrote that book "It's My Party Too." It seems entirely likely that he commiserates with her.