Text of Speech by Dr. Robert Cargill to Madera South High School Graduating Class of 2015

MADERA SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL STALLIONS
COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS – JUNE 4, 2015
DR. ROBERT R. CARGILL, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

Good evening.

I want to thank Mr. Lile for the invitation to speak to you this evening.

It is indeed good to be home. And I know that I’m home because my name is Robert, and yet ever since I’ve been back in Madera, everyone keeps calling me “Bobby”. On TV, I’m Robert. When I write books, I’m Robert. In the classroom, I’m Dr. Cargill. But in Madera, I’m Bobby. And it makes me smile, because it’s good to be home.

And please allow me to be among the first to congratulate the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School, the best high school in Madera.

Now, Mr. Lile has informed me that you are not permitted to use your cellphones to text or take pictures during the ceremony. But, since no such rule was given to me, I’d like to take and text some pictures for you. What do you say we take one cool-looking graduation photo?

I’ll post this picture on my Twitter, which is @XKV8R, that’s X-K-V-8-R, later this evening, and you can re-tweet or save it from there. Got it?

OK, now remember, this picture is going to live forever, so don’t do anything that some prospective employer is going to question, OK?

OK, here we go. 1, 2, 3. #MaderaSouth2015

Dr. Robert Cargill snaps photos of the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School. PHOTO BY JACK PORTER/BIG VALLEY NEWS (More: http://www.bigvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7367) Dr. Robert Cargill snaps photos of the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School. PHOTO BY JACK PORTER/BIG VALLEY NEWS (More: http://www.bigvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7367)

Tonight is a special night—a night for celebration. I even wore my favorite blue dress.

You’ve worked hard for many years, and you’ve earned this diploma, and so tonight we celebrate and honor your achievement.

Now, it is at this point in a graduation speech where the speaker traditionally bestows upon you pieces of advice that are supposed to make your lives a bit more successful. But I’m not going to tell you to “be all that you can be”, or “reach for the stars”, or to “think outside the box”, or to “wear sunscreen”, because you’ve heard all this before.

What I will tell you is what I’ve learned as a fellow Maderan, who has been “out there”.

I’ve learned that you should be nice to older people, especially your grandparents, and not just because they put money in your birthday cards.

Be generous with both your time and money.

Be on time. Showing up is half the battle, and showing up on time is another third.

And be nice. Be kind. I’ve traveled all over the world, and you simply cannot realize how much being generous, being kind, and being on time pays off in life.

And I’ve also learned that you should never, ever forget where you came from.

Never forget Madera!

Listen to me. I was exactly like you 24 years ago. I grew up in Madera, and like most other people I knew, all I wanted to do was get out of Madera. And not just to Fresno. I mean I wanted way out.

But I have learned that this feeling is not unique to Madera. It is the same feeling that every 17- and 18-year old feels in every city, in every state in the country, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York—everywhere!

You’re young, you’re full of hope and potential, and you’re ready to launch out from here and see the world. And that’s good. But never confuse a sense of adventure with a rejection of your hometown.

This place is a special place. And before too long, you will find yourself wanting to return to your home, to your family, to your friends, and to DiCicco’s.

Even those of you who swore that you would never come back to Madera will do exactly that, and this is a good thing!

You will use the education and experiences you gained working and traveling elsewhere, and will return to make this city—the City of Madera—a better place.

Because this city was made what it is today by those who have given their lives to make Madera a better place.

Take, for instance, your principal, Mr. Lile. Now, I went to high school with Mr. Lile, and, let me dispel a rumor you might have heard: back then, he had great hair!

And Mr. Lile and I graduated and went on to see the world. But here’s how much Mr. Lile loves this city: after giving his time and energy learning and practicing the craft of education as far away as Honduras and Dubai, he then returned to Madera to give his time and energy and life to serving you, and to serving the City of Madera, to make this place a little better than it was when he was a kid.

And this has been my experience with so many Maderans who contributed to my growth and education. This is what Bill and Pat Schawrtz did for me, and my first baseball coach, Ken Turner, and my Jefferson Junior High teachers Gary Espenship and Jeannie Lakeman all did for me. And when I was younger, it’s what my John Adams Elementary School teachers, Connie Barsotti and Jan Duke, did for me. I remember them both fondly and I miss them both very much.

And wherever I go, whether I’m writing a book, or appearing on the History Channel, or doing archaeology in Israel, or lecturing at the University of Iowa, it is all a result of the education that was begun here, and of the values that were instilled in me here, in Madera.

Like you, I am a Maderan. This is my hometown. I grew up in a house at 2305 Howard Road, across from Lions Town & Country Park. I played football on this field. I played baseball on that field, Mel Parker Field.

And I’m telling you all this for this reason: I am 42 years old, and I haven’t achieved anything that you can’t also achieve.

I am simply you, 24 years from now.

I’m that Madera kid who played little league on Field One for the Lions, who got Big Gulps at the 7-Eleven on Howard, before it was a Starbucks, who went to the Madera Fair, who got sugar cookies at Perlongo’s Bakery, and who had birthday parties at Madera Valley Bowl in Parkwood.

My great-grandparents and my grandfather, Ray Cargill, who served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War 2, are all buried at Jay Chapel. And both my parents, Len Cargill, and Sharon Costáles, spent their careers contributing to making Madera a better place.

I have been fortunate to experience tremendous successes, and to meet fascinating people, and I have experienced tremendous failures in life. And it was my Madera family and my Madera values that helped me through it all!

I, too, am a Maderan.

And if I can do it—a kid who grew up just down the street—then you too can have successes in your jobs, in your businesses, in athletics, and in your relationships.

So ask yourself: what will you be? What will you become?

Because being from Madera is an asset, not a liability.

Like many of you, I too was intimidated by other kids who were from big cities, who graduated from much bigger, and many times, private high schools. I went to public schools, Fresno City College, Fresno State, and UCLA. And many of the people I was competing with for admissions into colleges and graduate schools, for scholarships, and later for jobs were from wealthy families, who attended private prep schools, and then went to Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Dartmouth. And like you, I know that it’s an uphill climb competing against people who have had many advantages in life.

But let me tell you what I’ve found. I found that when I was applying for admission into a program, or for a job, the interviewing committee notices that some people are advantaged over others. And they can see when someone has had the best of everything, while others have had to work their tails off every day to overcome the fact that their families weren’t wealthy, or they weren’t from big cities. They recognize that you had to work hard. They recognize that you may have experienced the death of a parent at a young age, or have disabilities, or served your country in the military, or had to raise kids.

And they not only recognize it, but they soon realize that it is often the candidates from the small towns, the blue-collar kids, who have already proved that they can work hard and have what it takes to succeed in college, in jobs, and in life, who are often the better candidates.

You must continue to work hard. I’m a tenure track professor at a Big Ten research university, The University of Iowa, and I regularly admit that I’m not the smartest person at the university. I’m not even the smartest person in my department. But I make absolutely sure that no one will ever, ever outwork me.

Now, I’m also not going to say, “You can be anything you want to be,” because to be honest, it’s not true. Some of you cannot and will not be certain things, just like I cannot, and will not ever dunk a basketball.

But while you can’t “be anything you want to be”, you can be many things that you might think are out of your reach right now. Just because you didn’t do well in math doesn’t mean that you won’t get the hang of it two years from now, and become an engineer. Just because you didn’t have a lot of friends in high school doesn’t mean that you won’t have many, good, real friends in college. Just because you didn’t go on a lot of dates in high school doesn’t mean you won’t find a wonderful partner and live a happy life. And just because you use a wheelchair to get around doesn’t mean you can’t be voted Prom King! Where is Lucio Garcia anyway?

So while you can’t do anything, you should still dream big, set lofty, but attainable, incremental goals, and continue to prepare yourself for success.

Because you live in a magic time in history, and in a place where many, many things are possible. And what you can’t see at this moment is that a series of events is about to unfold in each of your lives, and a number of opportunities are about to present themselves to you. And while you have no way of knowing what they will be, or when they will occur, what you can do is put yourselves in the best possible position to be ready for when those opportunities arise.

You have already taken the first step; you have completed the necessary requirements to graduate from Madera South High School, and if I might add, the best high school in Madera!

But graduation from Madera South is not the end of your journey as a Stallion, it is just the beginning, because like me, you will take what you have learned here in Madera, along with the friends and relationships you have made, and you will work even harder to make your goals a reality, beginning today.

Well…maybe tomorrow, because tonight—tonight, we celebrate!

So be proud that you grew up in Madera. And be proud that you are a graduate of Madera South High School. Never forget the work you had to do to make it this far, and use this taste of success you experience tonight as incentive and motivation for your next great adventure.

Congratulations to all of you!

Have fun and be safe tonight!

Advertisements

Full Text of Prof. Robert Cargill’s 2014 University of Iowa Graduation Speech (AKA “The Hashtag Speech”)

The following is the full text of my 2014 Commencement speech to the graduates of the University of Iowa (Twitter: @uiowa) College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Twitter: @UIowaCLAS) at the 1:00pm ceremony on May 17, 2014 in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Here is just my speech:

Here is the full commencement ceremony:

=====

Vice President Rocklin,

Dean Djalali,

Members of the Platform Party,

All 10,000 Statues of Herky scattered throughout Iowa City

Families, Friends, Alumni,

and most importantly,

graduates of the University of Iowa Class of 2014.

I am honored to have been invited to give the faculty address, but I only have a few minutes to speak. And since most faculty speeches say the same thing, that is, “Congratulations”, “We’re proud of you”, “Good luck”, etc., I thought I’d use my time instead to give you something a bit more memorable.

Not only is this graduation ceremony being streamed live, but because my speech has to be so short, and because I’m also a professor working in the digital humanities, I’m going to be live tweeting my speech as I speak.

And I’ll be using the hashtag #UIGrad2014.

And I’m going to start with some pictures, but I need your help. I need you to take some pictures with me. And then you can tweet your photos using the hashtag #UIGrad2014 while the other students’ names are being read.

And you can re-tweet this speech and my photos available at my Twitter account: Robert Cargill, which is @XKV8R, that’s at X-K-V-8-R, as well.

So listen to the speeches, and then re-tweet during the reading of the names. Got It?

OK. Let’s start out with the ultimate “Class of 2014” graduation picture. Parents and friends up in the stands, you can play along too. We’ll all take pictures together.

Ready? What’s that? No, I will not take a picture with your camera.

OK, ready? Please, please…do not flash the graduation speaker.

OK, ready? One, two, three.

#UIGrad2014

OK. Now here’s a picture you can’t get. Here’s a picture of the platform party.

#UIGrad2014Platform Party #NotAnACTUALParty

OK, and now for the speech.

=====

Greetings University of Iowa “Class of 2014”. # Greatest Iowa Graduating Class EVER!

Congratulations! You guys did it! # Some Of You After 5 Years

Soon, you will be University of Iowa graduates and will either enter the workforce, or graduate school. # Either Way You Will Be Underpaid

And what’s even better, you will soon be receiving phone calls from the Alumni Association. # Send Money

Your time at the University of Iowa has been and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest periods of your life

when life was fun! # In Relatively Good Shape # Relatively Thin # Weren’t Bald

[Takes off cap and bows.]

I speak from experience.

In fact, you will soon catch yourselves saying thing like,

“College life was so good“.

“Iowa was awesome.” # Often While Sitting At Your Desk At Work # Or Changing Diapers # Of Twins (True story!)

But I want to give you a quick heads up about what to expect from this day forward.

Because you will also remember your time at the University of Iowa as one of the most transformative periods in your life.

And you will quickly learn that these changes do not stop once you graduate. They actually come faster. # And Become More Expensive

Just ask the people sitting up here.

But your personal transformation as a Hawkeye doesn’t end today.

In fact, in many ways, life as a Hawkeye really begins today.

And for some of you, that life will be spectacular.

You will have tremendous success, you will be happy, and will make lots of money. # The Alumni Association will Definitely Be Calling You.

And be proud! The University of Iowa has prepared you for that success.

But for some of you, life will be very difficult. You will face challenges.

You will lose jobs. Relationships will be strained. Money will be tight.

But believe it or not, the University of Iowa has prepared you for this as well.

Because we the faculty, and your college experience at Iowa didn’t just teach you about math and science,

and most importantly, classics and archaeology # Shameless Plug

But your University of Iowa college experience has prepared you to think on your feet, embrace life,

and yes, deal with disappointments, and deadlines, and challenges.

And this is when you must,  you must, learn to rely on each other, your University of Iowa network

because from this day on, you are all Hawkeye Alumni. AND HAWKEYES ALWAYS, ALWAYS STICK TOGETHER! # And Are Very Nice About It

And part of being a member of the University of Iowa family means looking out for one another and helping each other out wherever life takes you.

Because you will meet Iowa alumni everywhere you go.

I remember the day I was hired to teach here at Iowa.

I was still living in California, and I had bought a University of Iowa sweatshirt when I had interviewed here for the job.

So the day I was hired, I put on my sweatshirt, and, I kid you not, I went hiking out in Yosemite National Park, at 7000 feet,

and was proudly wearing my new Iowa sweatshirt, when some random hiker passes me and yells, “GO HAWKS!”

And I didn’t KNOW the proper response yet! I had just been hired and I didn’t KNOW to say, “GO HAWKS”, back in response, or “ON IOWA”!

So…I hesitated, and was caught off guard and said something like, “Uh…Soarin’ High”.

I didn’t know whether I was supposed to screech like a hawk # Makes Poorly Executed Sound of Hawk

I had no clue! I didn’t know what to say, # Not What A Hawk Actually Sounds Like

but I’ll be damned if there wasn’t an Iowa Hawkeye alum hiking at 7000 feet in the middle of Yosemite National Park screaming “GO HAWKS!”

By the way, # Cargill Did NOT Just Tell Iowa Graduating Class Of 2014 To “SOAR HIGH”. I just want to get that cleared up.

But now I know what it means to be a Hawkeye.

And I also know that your degree from the University of Iowa will prove to be one of the best investments you will have ever made.

In fact, you will never spend money that pays off as much as the money you spent going to the University of Iowa.

Actually, let me say that again: For some, YOUR PARENTS will never spend money that pays off as much,

as the money THEY spent putting YOU through the University of Iowa. # Some For five Years

So be proud! You ARE the University of Iowa.

And if you can handle six-month winters covered in snow, # The Planet Hoth, then you can handle anything!

So take it from a highly educated man wearing a beret and a blue dress. # Fashion PhDiva

Do me three favors today:

First, say thank you to your parents or grandparents or whomever put your through college.

In fact, give them a hand right now. # See Mom, I Love You. Please Send More Money

Second, find a faculty member after the ceremony and say, “Thank you.” Maybe send them an email. # Or Endow Their Chair

And finally, find a student you don’t know, or never really talked to, and say, “Hi”, and give them a hug. # Guys, This Is Your Last Chance. # I’m Trying To Help.

Because you never know when that fellow Hawkeye graduate is going to bail you out. # Of Prison

So…graduates of the University of Iowa Class of 2014,

on behalf of the faculty of the University of Iowa, # Professional Nerds, CONGRATULATIONS on your graduation!

We are very proud of your accomplishment,

because not long ago, we too were graduating just like you. # Except We Are Not Moving Back Into Your Parents’ Basement For The Summer

And you are always welcome to come back to campus and visit us. # Preferably Sometime BEFORE You Ask Us For A Letter Of Recommendation

To Leah DeGrazia and Andrew Deloucas, and to all my students graduating today, I love you. Congratulations and good luck!

Thank you all again. Be safe and have fun tonight! #GO HAWKS

=====

Some other pictures I took from the platform:

Tassel turning ceremony

Pic with University of Iowa Board of Regents student representative Hannah Walsh

And a member of the audience captured the second half of the speech. Thank you!

=====

For more images and tweets from the 2014 University of Iowa commencement ceremony, visit the hashtags #UIGrad2014 and #UIGrad14.

=====

I also want to acknowledge my inspiration behind this speech by thanking Ellen DeGeneres for her Oscar antics that inspired the Twitter pics of the graduates, to Stephen Colbert‘s “The Wørd” segments and Kevin Nealon‘s SNL “Mr. Subliminal” sketches for inspiring the idea behind the hashtag punchlines, and to Conan O’Brien for making graduation speeches fun. And many thanks to Cale Staley for his work behind the scenes. Thanks to all of you!

 

 

On Faith, Freedom of Expression, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Statement in Response to the Protests in Egypt and Libya

Yesterday, Egypt’s ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood, released a stern condemnation of a low-budget, poorly produced attempt at religious satire uploaded to YouTube by a coward hiding behind an alias. The Muslim Brotherhood also expressed disapproval of the vicious retaliatory protests that have led to the murder of four American diplomats in Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador, encouraging somewhat ambiguously:

“All Muslims to uphold and apply Quranic principles and emulate the Messenger of Allah.”

I understand the Egyptian government’s frustration. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood’s proposed solution only exacerbates the underlying problem that is quickly coming to the forefront in Egypt and around the world:

“We denounce abuse of all Messengers of God, Prophets and Apostles, and condemn this heinous crime. We further call for criminalization of assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions.”

The solution proposed by the Muslim Brotherhood is the prohibition of criticism (which they define as “assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions”) of all religions. However, categorizing criticism of any religion as “abuse” and as “heinous crimes” is not a viable solution in a free society. In fact, it would only serve to resurrect the totalitarian suppression of freedom of thought and expression that they experienced under Hosni Mubarak.

All individuals – both those who express faith in various deities and those choosing to adhere to no religion – should have the freedom to debate, criticize, and yes, joke and satirize all forms of ideology, including economic, political, and yes, religious.

The United States of America is founded upon this fundamental principle – the freedom of expression – as well as the freedom to worship or not worship any god we so choose. Freedom of expression lies at the heart of any free society. To exempt religion from this free expression, and to demand that no religious figure ever be criticized, rejected, satirized, or even questioned is little more than an attempt to exploit this horrific tragedy – the murder of American diplomats by Islamic protestors resulting from their anger over an insulting film on YouTube – to elevate Islam to a state that stands above criticism.

As a scholar and a professor of religious studies, I reject any attempt to quell the critical inquiry of any religion, including Christianity and Islam. While the parody of a religious figure may be considered an insult to some and a foolish act in poor taste to others, the solution is never, ever violence coupled with a call for the criminalization of the critique of religion.

Simply put, truly free citizens of any state should have the freedom to practice and profess the religion of their choice, but should not have the power to criminalize those who do not profess their religious faith.

The statement released by the Islamic Brotherhood further stated:

“Certainly, such attacks against sanctities do not fall under the freedom of opinion or thought. They are crimes and assaults against Muslim sanctities, and must not be tolerated by the countries where they are produced or launched, since they are also detrimental to the interests of those countries in dealings with the peoples of the Muslim world.”

The new definition of "religious persecution".

The new definition of “religious persecution”.

Evidently, the Muslim Brotherhood differentiates between freedom of thought and opinion regarding politics, economics, and perhaps where to eat dinner, and the freedom to critique, satirize, and even denounce certain religious beliefs and practices. This assumed privileged status of religion in Islamic countries is similar to the misguided assumption made by Christians in the United States. We must remember that there is a distinct difference between “religious persecution” and the challenging of the privileged status a particular religion enjoys in a given country, be it Christianity in the U.S. or Islam in Egypt.

The critique, ridicule, or rejection of a religious belief or ideology is no different than the critique, ridicule, or rejection of an economic or political belief or ideology: all involve the freedom to accept or reject in thought, word, or practice any position held within them. Religion cannot possess a privileged status above other forms of expression simply because someone else might find it offensive. Likewise, one religion should not enjoy exemption from critique over another religion in any country.

"Religious offense" is apparently a relative designation.

“Religious offense” is apparently a relative designation.

Freedom of expression must be preserved regardless of the subject matter, and regardless of the (over)sensitivity of those who might disagree with the expressed speech. This is especially true in nations that engage in vilifying other religious groups. It is patently hypocritical for the leaders of a government to insist that their religion be respected at all times, while arguing that the consistent denigration of another government with different religious beliefs (let’s say Israel for example) is perfectly legitimate. Perhaps this rational disconnect explains the puzzling, yet carefully worded portion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement that read:

The West has passed and imposed laws that punish those who deny or express dissident views on the Holocaust or question the number of Jews killed by Hitler, a topic which is purely historical, not a sacred doctrine.

One either believes in the freedom of thought, speech, and expression of political and religious beliefs, or one does not. One cannot argue that Islam (or Christianity or Judaism for that matter) are somehow uniquely exempt from another individual’s freedom to express thoughts and speech against them. Despite the fact that the creator of this low budget, miserable attempt at religious parody was cowardly enough to hide behind a pseudonym, his right to express his speech on YouTube – however foolish – must be protected. (However, if he forged, criminally impersonated, or stole the identity of another individual, or engaged in internet activity after being convicted of a crime and ordered not to do so, then obviously this is a criminal act. However, none of this has been alleged against the man hiding behind the alias ‘Sam Bacile’.)

The Muslim Brotherhood tepidly implied that Muslims should restrain their outrage at sleights against Islam to “peaceful and legal” means:

“The peoples and governments of the Muslim world have every right to condemn, with all peaceful and legal means, this new violation and heinous attack, and to take appropriate action to deter repeats of such acts of barbaric aggression.”

Any believer in the freedom of speech must understand the misguided nature of this statement, as it characterizes the production of a low budget film as a “heinous attack” and equates it with “acts of barbaric aggression”. The murder of diplomats is a “heinous attack” and an “act of barbaric aggression”. On the contrary, the production of a film is the exercise of one’s freedom to create an admittedly dreadful attempt at a Mel Brooks style, comically offensive parody and call it art. No one was killed in the production of this sloppily-made internet movie. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, as the representative leaders of Egypt, are even paying attention to this film as the impetus for anything other than the desperate need for acting lessons and courses in video and sound production demonstrates their inability to grasp the fundamental aspects of freedom of expression.

The Muslim Brotherhood concluded their statement with the following:

“While we reject and condemn the bloodshed and violent response to that abuse and the incredible tolerance certain countries show towards it, we cannot ignore the fact that these countries never made a move regarding the abuse until after the strong reaction seen across the Muslim world.”

They continue:

“Those who insult the sanctities wish to poison budding relations between the peoples, to disrupt the efforts to build bridges between civilizations, and to sow discord between the peoples.”

Again, if the Muslim Brotherhood continues to equate the verbal or acted criticism via parody of a deeply held belief as an “act of aggression”, then we should not hold out much hope for a truly democratic, truly free Egypt under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. If insulting the tenets of a religious faith can somehow be construed as a legitimate reason for bloodshed – whether officially endorsed by the government or not – then we cannot consider any person, group, or government adhering to such an unbalanced system of justice in any way “free”.

Perhaps the most telling (and certainly most discouraging) comment came at the heart of the statement, as the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to, in a sense, excuse, or at least defend the response of the riotous Egyptian crowds:

“Thus hurting the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims cannot be tolerated…”

The fact is, they must. Hurt feelings must be tolerated if the ideal of the freedom of expression in a free, democratically elected state is going to survive. All peoples – including Christians in the United States and Muslims in Arab nations – must learn that insults are one of the unfortunate byproducts of the freedom of expression. Those who have chosen to live in free nations simply cannot afford to be overly sensitive to perceived sleights – especially to their religion – as others have the right to freely express their disapproval of beliefs held by others.

Unfortunately, in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are often those who seek out occasions to respond aggressively to simple words spoken against their religion. They seek out opportunities to take offense at religious criticism with the hopes of gaining a political advantage over those with whom they happen to disagree. And while no one wants to live in a world full of insults and negativity, we cannot discard our fundamental freedom of expression simply to preserve the overly-sensitive, politically opportunistic few who seek to elevate their religious beliefs above others’ freedom to express disapproval.

The newly elected leadership in Egypt has a profound decision to make. Does it retreat to the fascist, totalitarian dictates of the Mubarak regime, which suppressed the voices of millions who simply wanted their protests to be heard without fear of reprisal, or does it embrace the democratic freedoms that allowed Egypt to elect its first democratically elected president, even though it may mean having to tolerate dissenting opinions, critiques, parodies, and yes, even insults in the process of preserving the freedom of ideological, economic, and religious expression that are the hallmarks of great societies?

We must watch how the Muslim Brotherhood responds to criticism – both of their authority and of Islam. Should they choose to ignore petty insults made by anonymous cowards on the internet and focus upon leading a great nation with dignity and honor and fairness toward all peoples, then they will be lauded now and throughout history as evidence that democratically elected Islamic political parties can successfully lead a modern, secular state. But, should they continue to incite violence and condemn any and all who would critique their rule, their economic policies, or their religion, then they will simply be remembered as one more failed Islamic regime that was more concerned with defending the honor of their religion than they were with conducting the official business of the state and overseeing the benevolent government of its people.

The choice is theirs. And the American government’s response should depend upon this choice. Should the Muslim Brotherhood choose to defend the freedom of expression, then Egypt should continue to enjoy the privilege of strong U.S. support as true allies, and the financial support that comes with it. But should the Muslim Brotherhood choose Islamic fundamentalism and to defend a religion against petty insults at the expense of freedom of expression and fundamental rules of diplomacy, then the U.S. must consider treating Egypt as any other totalitarian religious regime and withdraw its political, military, and financial support.


Dr. Robert R. Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. He earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. He presently teaches a course on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and also teaches courses on the History of Jerusalem and Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys.

conan o’brien’s excellent 2011 dartmouth commencement speech

Conan O’Brien really is an excellent speaker. He has proven this much with his most recent Dartmouth Commencement address. Beyond all the laughter, when Conan speaks seriously, it is sincere and incredibly meaningful.

I loved the line: “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

HT: Roger Nam

%d bloggers like this: