Buddy the Elf could mostly aptly describe the topic of the recent Charles Carroll lecture by David French, because French truly sat on a throne of lies. Before and after his lecture, French continually enflamed passions surrounding Brett Kavanugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. This included displaying an appalling willful ignorance towards the implications of confirming someone to the Court after an insincere and contrived hearing, which allowed senators in the majority the opportunity to pontificate about Kavanaugh’s virtuosity rather than establish the credibility of each witness.
It is not that I have any objection to someone with French’s views giving a heavily promoted lecture in Rehm Library. In fact, I would like to see a wider range of speakers on both sides of the ideological spectrum at Holy Cross. I grew up in a political environment where right leaning politicians are nearly non-existent, and I have always appreciated the opportunity Holy Cross provides to engage with, and learn from, views different than my own. What tarnished the Charles Carroll program and J.D. Power Center in this instance was their refusal to note the tension between the lecture’s topic and actions of the speaker. Hosting a lecture titled “Civility Isn’t Surrender: A Defense of Decency in the Culture Wars,” without acknowledging the recent smutty and coarse writings of the speaker is the epitome of academic incongruity. Instead, political science majors were treated to a sycophantic email about David French, JD—complete with the extraordinary claim that he received presidential buzz in 2016. The Charles Carroll program’s directors allowed their veneration of French to cloud their vision of the pivotal moment during which he was speaking. Their desire to present an unimpeachable conservative voice to the student body overrode their obligation to give the Holy Cross community the most intellectually enriching experience possible. Which is truly a shame, because no matter a speaker’s ideology, nobody can honestly engage in the political arena without ruffling feathers. Failing to acknowledge the contradictions between French’s public statements and the scholarly topic of his lecture robbed the entire Holy Cross community of an opportunity to think critically and learn.
This deep hesitation to engage, or even acknowledge the contemporary political landscape speaks to the deeper flaws within the Charles Carroll program. It is clearly important to understand the abstract concepts presented by Mr. French and Dr. Whittington. However, to truly help all members of the Holy Cross community become active citizens in this diverse American landscape, our college must also host speakers that are going to directly address today’s issues. Hosting David French for a high-minded intellectual backscratching session without any acknowledgment of the wider context of the moment was a bafflingly vacuous exercise. It was tantamount to gaslighting the majority of the student body while catering to those who merely wanted to see David French in the flesh. The constructed and imagined reality presented by the Carroll program’s leadership is not befitting of an academically rigorous Jesuit institution. It is a thinking perhaps more suited for those who wish to retreat to the comforts of their own mind rather than expand their critical thinking abilities. The Charles Carroll program has done an excellent job bringing thought provoking speakers to campus in the past, and I would urge them to learn from this recent blunder and continue their important work.
Willy Bryne Vogt