Commencement speeches can be amusing, inspiring or, in the worst (some would say even the best) case, a bit dull. Schools tend to choose corporate CEOs, politicians and celebrities to send off the graduating class with a speech meant to give graduates a glimpse of what they can achieve if they work hard in the years that lie before them. Goddard College, a small liberal arts school in Plainfield, Vt., wanted a different kind of speaker. The graduating class chose a cop killer.
A video recording was arranged so that Mumia Abu-Jamal could speak to the students from Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pa., on Sunday afternoon.
Born Wesley Cook, Abu-Jamal has as his claim to infamy his 1981 murder of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner. He was sentenced to death the following year and has since become an icon of the left, honored on T-shirts and at “Free Mumia” rallies.
Abu-Jamal left little doubt about his guilt. Two hospital workers testified that they heard him shout his glee at killing Officer Faulkner on a routine traffic stop. The case against Abu-Jamal was brought by a Democratic liberal district attorney, Edward G. Rendell, who went on to become a governor of Pennsylvania and an officer of the Clinton administration.
The jury required only three hours to reach the guilty verdict that sent Abu-Jamal to death row. A federal court of appeals reduced the sentence to life without parole, enabling Abu-Jamal to write books and Marxist commentary to delight his radical-left fans.
Other cop killers yearn to live out their lives in anonymous obscurity, grateful for mercy they don’t deserve. But Abu-Jamal basks in infamy, pleased with himself for his two previous invitations to make commencement addresses, to Evergreen State College in Washington state in 1999 and Antioch College in Ohio in 2000.
Goddard College’s interim president said the student’s selection of Abu-Jamal to give the commencement address reflects “their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”
It’s unlikely the college would have gone to such lengths for a conservative speaker, who would not have had an orange jumpsuit to wear on his big day. The invitation from the Goddard students reflects not a “freedom to think radically” so much as the peculiar fascination of the left with murderers.
Che Guevara, the Cuban radical celebrated on T-shirts on college campuses throughout the ‘60s, put thousands of his political opponents against the wall for a firing squad at La Cabana prison in Havana. Josef Stalin’s purge in the 1930s took 20 million lives. Mao Zedong, once a hipster favorite, killed at least 20 million Chinese in his “great leap forward.”
These are not the sort of people who deserve poster space on dorm room walls, but some liberals yearn to feel “edgy” at the expense of the pain of others. They wouldn’t be caught with posters of stodgy old people who advanced society for the better. Who could imagine the left’s celebration of Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine that saved millions of lives, many of them in the Third World that the left professes to love. Marie Curie, the Polish-born chemist, discovered radioactive elements that led to the development of the medical X-ray, but her face has yet to grace a T-shirt.
A prison cell is a place of reflection and punishment and sometimes redemption, but it’s not a proper platform for speeches by killers. The Pennsylvania prison should unplug his microphone and tell Mumia to put a sock in it.