This past weekend, liberal billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered an incendiary commencement speech at the University of Michigan.
In what has cleverly caused a social media backlash, Bloomberg ridiculed the notion that university boards and administrators overly kowtow to their students’ needs to feel safe and protected. He stated simply that universities were making “a terrible mistake” in hindering the growth of students’ minds.
In what turned out to be an attack against liberal students’ demands for “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings,” Bloomberg received more boos than applause during his address. Considered by some to be a bold move, he declared that these so-called safe spaces on university campuses were just the opposite. In his speech, he said that, “One of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views.”
He further explained that trigger warnings, in which professors give advance notice to students before showing graphic content, weaken students. He said,
“The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations - not run away from them. A microaggression is exactly that: micro. And one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views.”
He continued, stating that an open mind in our global economy is “the most valuable asset you can possess.”
The media mogul proved he is exactly that by using these challenging statements against university policies to capture a larger audience for his derisions concerning the U.S. presidential race. Bloomberg, who had considered running for the 2016 presidential election as an Independent, used the opportunity to dig in to the presidential candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties.
He reflected on this year’s election, saying,
“Our country is facing serious and difficult challenges. But rather than offering realistic solutions, candidates in both parties are blaming our problems on easy targets who breed resentment. For Republicans, it’s Mexicans here illegally and Muslims. And for Democrats, it’s the wealthy and Wall Street. The truth is: We cannot solve the problems we face by blaming anyone.”
Bloomberg continued to acknowledge the power of social media. He argued that although angry tweets and Facebook posts are “democracy in action,” it prevents politicians from doing things that they consider to be right.
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By using a resourceful means to throw in his two cents about the presidential election, Bloomberg’s address is not without fault. Overly simplified and overtly political, his Michigan commencement speech initially sent the right message to the right people, but then misses the point when it comes to explaining how politicians should behave. Luckily, he didn’t run for president.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst