Andy Serwer '81, the managing editor of Fortune Magazine, is not a bad guy. By all accounts, he's actually a pretty good guy, a real good guy, even. Before his speech at Common Hour today, he will probably be introduced by President Barry Mills or Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, either of whom will undoubtedly shower him with praise. Perhaps he deserves it.

As the face of Fortune Magazine, however, Serwer is one of the bad guys. Looking back, Fortune is the magazine that selectively quoted then-candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign to make him seem like a protectionist, anti-business, anti-worker (huh?) radical. It's the magazine that carries the ideological torch of Reaganism and promotes the philosophy that " good."

Of course, I only label Mr. Serwer as one of "the bad guys" because of his associations. And there have certainly been worse Bowdoin graduates. Melville Fuller, Class of 1853, was the chief justice of the Supreme Court who, in 1896, wrote the majority decision in Plessey v. Ferguson and thus gave racial segregation the constitutional thumbs up. Lawrence Lindsey '76 was the economics guru who orchestrated the Bush tax cuts and many other disastrous economic policies during the Bush Administration. Franklin Pierce, Class of 1824, was...Franklin Pierce. But Mr. Serwer's speech today brings up an interesting and important question: When faced with campus speakers who represent the conservative establishment, where is the line between disrespect and standing up for what you believe in?

Perhaps someone like Andy Serwer doesn't warrant the same vocal opposition that President of the Minuteman Project Jim Gilchrist, who was run off the stage by protesters at Columbia University last year, did, but would Lawrence Lindsey? How about Jes Staley '79, who, while serving as CEO of Asset Wealth and Management at JP Morgan, probably earned a chunk of the blame for the recent financial meltdown?

Once, while in a discussion with a group of activist seminary students, the great community organizer Saul Alinsky was asked, "We're going to be working for old line conservative figures in the Church hierarchy; how can we avoid losing our ideals?" Alinsky's response was simple: "Decide on your first day whether you want to be a bishop or a priest."

His point was that when we set out to get ahead in a hierarchy, whether it be the Catholic Church, JP Morgan or any other group, we subject our own values to the judgment of the superiors that we hope to impress. The same holds true even before we enter the professional world. In the name of "learning," we subjugate our values to the moral rubric of those who have already succeeded, nearly regardless of who they are or what they represent, hoping to imitate their success.

Ambition makes us conservative. We look to the conservative establishment that came before us and, despite our ideals, consciously or unconsciously try to emulate and gain the approval of the establishment. Our respectful silence as we behold these destructively conservative figures comes partly from our well-intentioned habit of respecting our elders, but it also comes from our misguided desire to emulate the heights that they have climbed to—no matter the cost to our character.

We must shed these inhibitions and become real, vocal citizens.

We must look seriously at the protest over Jim Gilchrist at Columbia University last year. Few situations warrant such an outpouring, but we must know that that kind of activity is within our arsenal and, in less extreme circumstances, proportionately less drastic actions must also be considered.

As a liberal arts college, Bowdoin rejects pre-professionalism. That means we do not offer a communications or business major, but it should also mean that, as students, we stand for ideas and refuse to be forced into silent reverence by those who have climbed the professional ladder on the ideas of the status quo.

Do not be silent Bowdoin: Stand up and speak!