Protest overshadows lecture



I was quite pleased with Kathleen Sibelius’ fine Landon Lecture last week. When allowed to describe the new health care plan at length, she demonstrated its very reasonableness, including a significant benefit of continuing students’ health insurance past graduation. I would not be surprised at the same reasonableness that got her elected here, except for having been barraged with misinformation and distortions, as more media time was actually given to paid campaign attacks than to campaign issue coverage, like money – especially corporate money, increasingly takes over our supposed democratic elections.

Sibelius dodged all the sensationalism, having always preferred the true leadership role of addressing the needs of almost half a million uninsured Kansans, ignored by party leaders for decades. The best leaders should now engage in dialogue to improve the voted plan, as was eventually done with every new program, now indispensible, from Social Security to minimum wage, Medicare, Medicaid, Civil Rights – all of which were just as hysterically opposed at the start.

As to dialogue, however, one aspect of the event was disappointing to me. While we again had to endure the ridiculous Phelps’ crew demonstrating outside, I believe the university’s decision to cordon them from contact was wrong. It may be prudent in some public venues to avoid possible confrontations, but the resulting impossibility of any dialogue (even recognizing where dialogue becomes hopeless) does deep disservice to what a university is for – dialogue, even with the most challenging, provocative or even disturbing ideas and points of view. I hope this isn’t continued.