The Bowdoin Orient

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College Republicans to bring conservative commentator

Dinesh D’Souza will speak on November 1

The College Republicans will bring neoconservative political celebrity Dinesh D’Souza to campus to speak on November 1. Despite negative student reactions to a talk he delivered at Bowdoin in March 2007, the co-leaders of the College Republicans, Jack Lucy ’17 and Francisco Navarro ’19 believe his lecture “What’s so great about America?” will offer a conservative narrative that has been missing from campus discussion. 

“We thought [D’Souza] was a great fit for what we were trying to accomplish, both as an intellectual counterpoint to bringing Noam Chomsky to campus and giving a voice to the conservative values on campus in a way that hasn’t been done recently,” Lucy said.

Navarro said that the funds used to book D’Souza came, in part, from alumni who donated explicitly to bring a conservative speaker to campus.

D’Souza grew up in Mumbai, India and first came to the U.S. as a high school student. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1983, he followed a career, “as a writer, scholar and public intellectual,” according to his website. D’Souza identifies as a neoconservative and has published several books as well as three documentaries, “Obama’s America,” “America: Imagine a World Without Her,” and “Hillary’s America.” 

When D’Souza spoke at Bowdoin in 2007, his talk centered around the war in Iraq. He argued that the only way the United States could lose the war in Iraq was if the Democrats continued to challenge the Bush administration. 

He characterized Democrats as willful traitors who were supporting the nation’s enemy, saying that domestic opposition operates in service of the strategic aims of America’s enemies and liberals are at best unwitting supporters in the civilizational struggle against radical Islam. 

Jeffrey Selinger, associate professor of government, was present at D’Souza’s 2007 talk as well as Chomsky’s recent talk. He commented on the many purposes and processes that go into choosing guest speakers. 

“Some [speakers]  are academics and are accustomed to producing, even in a large auditorium, a classroom-like feel,” he said. “Sometimes we pull in celebrities of different kinds. They could fancy themselves to be public intellectuals, but sometimes they’re incredibly polemical figures or deeply partisan or not particularly conscientious about research methods.”  

“Sometimes we’ve even had figures who come in who are unaware that they are willfully misinforming our students about the subject that they are addressing,” he added. “We have to be wary and mindful of the kinds of motives and purposes that lead visitors to take us up on an invitation to come speak.” 

Lucy noted that D’Souza, like Chomsky, speaks to the idea of American exceptionalism.

“People on both sides of the aisle feel like they’ve been effectively left behind for generations,” he said. “Figuring out how to make this country great and work for everyone is a focus of Chomsky and D’Souza.” 

Selinger, on the other hand, questioned whether D’Souza was the correct type of conservative speaker to “balance” Chomsky’s liberal discourse. Both figures are political celebrities, he said, which means that they are not speaking to college students and faculty in order to learn from them and engage in a larger intellectual conversation.

Selinger suggested that student groups invite lower profile, more academic political speakers, and consult faculty during the decision making process. 

“There are so many fantastic conservative and libertarian and progressive thinkers and writers that are out there and that could be drawn upon, and that aren’t particularly expensive either,” Selinger said. “Often times, the most deliberative figures are cheaper. They’re not celebrities, they’re very happy to come visit, they don’t often get the invitation.”

Wednesday evening, Ladd House discussed whether or not it would hold an event to debrief the D’Souza lecture. Michael Walsh ’19, a Ladd resident said that while the College House system is meant to be a platform to explore different ideas, many house members still opposed the event.

“It’s tough because Bowdoin is such an inclusive community and a lot of the non-inclusive views [D’Souza] has go against everything we stand for, but also because we’re in an inclusive community, [so] we should be listening to these rather narrow-minded opinions,” Walsh said. 

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