Hello and welcome to commencement season here at SK.
Lots of controversy going on in these parts. But it’s nothing we have not heard before.
Back in 1990, my pub reported on the heated debate over then-First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush being asked to speak at Wellesley College. A group of students at the time had petitioned the selection, citing Barbara rode the fame wave by grabbing onto her husband’s coat tails.
Mrs. Bush was further criticized for leaving Smith College in the middle of her sophomore year, so she could marry the young navy flyer, George Bush.The petition asked the college to invite a woman who had earned her own fame.
The debate was so volatile, you’d think there was nothing else going on in the world.
All was resolved when Mikhail Gorbachev, then president of the Soviet Union, and his wife Raisa came to visit the U.S. Some quick-minded diplomat suggested the Soviet First Lady, who had earned a doctorate in philosophy, join the U.S. First Lady at the Wellesley College commencement podium.
What a show that was. Both women were gracious and spoke about women in modern society. Of course, that was 24 years ago, and modern society had changed even more.
Wellesley’s sister college, Smith is back in the news regarding its choice of commencement speaker, Christine Lagarde, a highly accomplished French lawyer and head of the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF is a global consort designed to foster economic growth and stability worldwide. That all sounds wonderful but it comes at a heavy price. Criticism includes the IMF demanding recipient governments privatize their natural resources, such as water, and to farm food for export and not local sustainability.
The IMF gets further black marks. Apparently some of these balanced budgets come at serious cost to women and other minorities.
We only have space for a few examples here. In Tanzania, fees on basic health services have discouraged women from seeking pre- and post-natal care and from delivering their babies at hospitals. This, sadly, translates into higher infant and maternal deaths.
IMF-imposed taxes to balance budgets in Zambia have led to a fewer girls enrolling in school but an increase in girls participating in “survival or subsistence sex.”
These are real issues and should not be swept under a thick stack of neatly balanced budgets. They need to be brought to the world’s attention, which is why we are so pleased with the petitioners at Smith College.
Here is their well-written petition, which eventually convinced Legarde to withdraw her invitation. Let’s hope it convinces her to look at the underbelly of the IMF operation.
Congratulations to all those graduating college or who have a loved one graduating college this spring, xo LMA
Reconsider the Smith College 2014 Commencement Speaker
The following members of the Smith community request that you reconsider your decision to select Christine Lagarde as the commencement speaker for the class of 2014. By selecting Ms. Lagarde as the commencement speaker we are supporting the International Monetary Fund and thus going directly against Smith’s values to stand in unity with equality for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity or class. Although we do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments as a strong female leader in the world, we also do not want to be represented by someone whose work directly contributes to many of the systems that we are taught to fight against. By having her speak at our commencement, we would be publicly supporting and acknowledging her, and thus the IMF. Even if we give Ms. Lagarde the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system, we should not by any means promote or encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters. The IMF has been a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries. This has led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide. At Smith College, a school with a campaign called “Women for the World”, we are taught how to stand up and fight against inequality and corruption. We are taught to speak up when something is unjust, and we do not wish to be represented by a system that doesn’t support us
(A totally unrelated-but-related aside, while in the press booth, My Pub sat next to journalist Marjorie Egan. who was reading – and we are NOT making this up – “Little Women.” She said she was reliving her childhood.)
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