Calvin to “Welcome” President Bush

Today’s source of disgust is the fact that Calvin College will be hosting President Bush as the speaker for this year’s commencement (Brits read: graduation) speech, bumping out the previously booked Nicholas Wolterstorff. You can read the official announcement here or media mouse’s report here.

It’s a remarkably divisive move for a college that has been trying to position itself as transcending the narrow confines of the world of “Christian education”. While the honour of being recognised by your country’s president is significant, it is diluted when that president is this divisive, has a track record of excluding people from his events on the basis of their political allegiance, and consistently attempts to co-opt the Christian faith into a narrow partisan agenda. While the appearance of President Bush may shore up support for the college in conservative circles, it’ll hurt attempts to reach out beyond them.

The official announcement makes mention of Jim Wallis’ scheduled appearance at Calvin next month as evidence of “breadth”; a suggestion dripping in irony. While the media may position Wallis slightly to the left of the centre of American politics, the politics he is promoting on his current tour are explicitly centrist. To those of us who can more easily be described as “left-wing” and/or “liberal” it rather reads as: “We’re balanced! We occasionally let centrism into our right-wing outlook”. Very, very sad.



  1. James, if people keep making comments like that, how in the world are we ever going to get an upstanding Christian like Tom DeLay to give our commencement talk?

    Wait…it’s not April Fools any more? Oh…mercy.

    At least you won’t have to sit through the drivel.

  2. 🙂

    Yes, for that I am very, very grateful. I’m definitely feeling for non-tenured Calvin faculty right now….

  3. Warning…cynical comment ahead…

    I wonder how much G-bykes had to kick in as a campaign contribution to get this to happen?

  4. Word is that Bush was looking for a sympathetic venue in Michigan. Byker was simply willing to prostitute his campus.

  5. I am not saying that I am happy for the President’s Visit but for discussions sake, do we have to focus on the political lean. I guess I look at schools who get comedians like chris rock, or dana carvey and Bill Cosby. What makes them a great pick for a graduation speaker. Is it possible to see Bush as a Celeb, rather than his policies. I dont know maybe I feel bad for those wishing to protest, Cant Calvin kick them out because it is a private school? Give it a chance, even though the guy will have to have his words fed to him and pray that he doesn’t mess up.

  6. I’ve really tried to think about this as a publicity coup, but it seems to undercut the school’s attempts to reach out to a broader community, and with reports that the whole thing was set up because Bush was looking for a West Michigan venue it looks highly unlikely that his speech will be anything but propaganda. There is a time and a place for propaganda, and it’s not at an event which is meant to be honouring the hardwork of 900 graduating students.

    It will be very interesting to watch what happens with regards to protests. Calvin can certainly keep those of us who are not students/staff/faculty off campus, but what are they going to do if graduating seniors or attending faculty want to protest?

  7. Give Bush a break. He seems to be a fine guy in a difficult situation. What’s the harm in having a diverse point of view in the campus speakers.

  8. There is nothing wrong with diverse points of view, should such a thing be encouraged. If the administration were to invite prominent Democrats (or independents) to make similarly high profile appearances, I’d be much happier.

    And yes, Bush is in a difficult situation, but a large chunk of it is of his own making. It’s no-one’s fault but his administration’s that they’re floundering in a mess over an ill-advised and deeply divisive social security policy. It’s no one’s fault but theirs that they lied about their reasons for going to war with Iraq. I’d have more sympathy if I thought they had more respect.

  9. Let’s take off our rose-colored glasses and look at Byker. He’s an officer at former Enron partner InterOil Corp. He contributed thousands to Bush’s re-election. He has an agenda and it aligns with Bush’s. See what the rest of the world is saying about the characters involved with InterOil at: