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Helen Thomas Retires, Students Rally For and Against Her

 

helen thomas retires

Helen Thomas has retired since my blog post this morning about her cancelled high-school graduation speech. The 89-year-old Dean of the White House press corps, a torchbearer for female reporters, has had an unfathomably long career. And, until this week, has been uniformly praised and admired. Some of us will have trouble respecting her now that she’s advocated returning Israel’s Jews — a population that includes many Holocaust survivors and descendants of Holocaust survivors — to Germany. And Poland. And wherever else they came from.

And yet, a number of students at Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School, where she was supposed to give the commencement address, are upset that Thomas’ speech at their school has been cancelled. And they’re doing something about it. Check out this on-the-scene report.

Nate Freeman, a summer reporter for theawl.com, returned to his hometown of Bethesda over the weekend, and witnessed what was going on firsthand. Freeman writes:

“The Black & White—the Whitman student paper that I was the editor of a million years ago—is reporting that the students are prepping for their four years of parent-funded half-assed activism (that’s what college is for, right?) by feigning some independent opinions. The article says that after the fateful Thomas comment was leaked, senior Erica Bloom took to her friends list and invited her buddies to a Facebook event organizing a protest.”

Not only was there that Facebook call to cancel Thomas’ speech (and the speech eventually was cancelled, according to reports, on a joint agreement by Thomas and the school), but another group rose up to protest the protest. These students argued that the Helen Thomas graduation speech should go on as scheduled. Explains Freeman, “another Facebook group entitled ‘Helen Thomas should have been our graduation speaker’—started by Whitman senior Will Bartlett—is still active. ‘This group affirms a belief in reasonable discussion and feel that in this scenario, a clear minority was able to override a larger majority by distorting the issues and discussion,’ the group’s description reads.”

I’d have been a bit shocked about that second group, except that high school is a time for protests and for protests of protests. When I was in high school, I pamphleted against nuclear weapons and for more political activism. Isn’t that just what these kids are doing? And what I hope my son will do once he’s finally old enough to read? Plus, we’d already heard from one Walt Whitman students ourselves. The student posted on our own Famcrawler blog, here (see the first comment).

Thoughts?

PHOTO: helenthomas.org

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