Freedom to speak: Ruth Simmons

“One’s voice grows stronger in encounters with opposing views,” said Ruth Simmons, in a commencement speech at Smith College. Simmons had been vice provost at Princeton University before moving to be president at Smith and then at Brown. She is now on the board of trustees at Princeton. In the address, she speaks of being silenced, when growing up in the Jim Crow south, and of defending the right to free speech, at Brown, for someone who denigrated blacks. Her message:

Be proud of the tradition of protest in our nation’s colleges and universities. That tradition has changed our country and the world for the better.

Don’t complain when the statement of your views leads others to disagree. Implicit in the affirmation of your right to voice your views is your obligation to protect the rights of others to their views.

Don’t shut the door to new knowledge and greater discernment by closing your eyes and ears and hearts and minds to what others have to offer.

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