In an abnormally rare interview with USA Today’s “TCPalm” Network, President Father Leahy publicized his views on today’s political climate, working amongst the growing divide of today’s political opinions, the failings of many of America’s public schools, and on one of my personal favorite topics: free speech on college campuses.
For context, Leahy is never the type to give bold public statements; he is rarely heard from even when there are internal BC issues, his opinion on politics is typically kept private, and he has largely remained a figure hidden in the shadows for most BC students. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it highlights the uncommon nature of this interview.
Leahy spoke with reporter Eve Samples, who published their conversation on TCPalm’s online news site. Samples found reason to interview BC’s President due to his upcoming talk entitled “Bridging Divides: Fostering Dialogue and Civic Engagement”.
When asked about current political climate and his opinions about morality regarding it, Leahy gave answers that I think are quite reasonable and that I reckon many might agree with.
To paraphrase, Leahy compared this young White House to that of Andrew Jackson in 1828. Jackson was a political figure who upended many of the traditional views on the “political class” of early America. Leahy refers to many in the time period as being fearful of “this buffoon coming in from the backwoods”. He then goes on to say however (in a very Obama-esque quote) “America survived the big transition. It was not easy. I would certainly not hold Jackson up as a paragon of virtue. But if you look at the long sweep of history, there have been ups and downs. When you take the long view, the pendulum swings and comes back to the middle.”
Leahy said that he finds it painful to watch the moral stances of Donald Trump as our President, but he has full faith in the government to enact policies that will lean more moderate than extreme. He also said, in a reference to Trump’s foreign policy, he thinks Trump panders to an extreme and walks back on his statements, which to me seemed to be Leahy thinking the President isn’t as hell-bent on American protectionism as others do.
At one point in the interview, Samples asked Leahy a very straightforward question on the topic of campus free speech. This topic has been in the news consistently for the past two years almost, with incidents at Yale, Missouri, Cal-Berkeley, and others becoming national headlines for multiple days. I was very interested to finally get a sense of Leahy’s opinion on the matter, and am sure others will feel the same. Here is the transcript.
Some university campuses have created “safe spaces” and employed “trigger warnings” to protect students from offensive speech. Do you think such devices are valuable in fostering constructive dialogue? Or do they threaten free speech?
“I don’t support the concept of safe spaces or trigger warnings being required. I think we have to help young people live with realities. I don’t want anybody being harassed or called names — but I think there’s a softness in the American segment of the population aged 18 to 22, where some people don’t want anybody to disagree with them. And parents, in so many instances, have protected their children. Life has some tough moments. I think there’s a value in having moments where there’s some irritation, and it’s got to be handled correctly. But I don’t believe in trigger warnings. I think challenge is a good thing.”
Frankly, my opinion on the matter mirrors that of our President. The right to freedom of speech and expression, a right that I believe should be able to be enacted without fear (under the presumption it is used respectfully), is the absolute backbone of the United States constitution and of the liberal western world.
I’ve noticed a trend recently seems to be, as I like to put it, a race to see who can be the most offended. People are so stuck to certain political mantras, opinions, parties, ideologies, – whatever – that no constructive or real conversations can take place anymore. There is a fear to speak out by many who disagree, and there is an unwillingness to differ from ones perceived political platform on ANY issue, no matter how big or small. This of course is an issue that stretches all the way to Washington D.C., but it has perpetrated through educated young people in enormous dimensions as well.
I agree with Father Leahy. I agree with the notion that one can only grow through these tough, challenging, irritating discussions, moments, and realities. Many are living through times of adversity now, and I assume some will side in against Father Leahy’s opinions.
I challenge those people to ask themselves though- “how can these differing opinions, these tough times, these headaches and heartaches and abnormalities, make me better, wiser, and more understanding of my fellow man?”