Open VISIONS Director Philip Eliasoph anticipated the mixed reaction from audience members Monday night about William Bennett’s conservative stance on the war in Iraq.

“As we develop a roster of speakers for Open VISIONS Forums, we realize that controversy is always in the air,” said Eliasoph.

Eliasoph said that since Bennett has argued his viewpoint on various TV shows, he has every right to an open mic at Fairfield.

Bennett, this week’s Open VISIONS Forum speaker and former U.S. Secretary of Education, majored in philosophy at Williams College before receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Texas. Despite this liberal academic background, he has come to form some very conservative viewpoints.

“NBC reported last week … that the news from Iraq is that there is no news from Iraq,” said Bennett, to a crowd of approximately 600 members of the Fairfield community.

According to Bennett, the situation in Iraq has been getting better. The bombings and roadside explosions have recently stopped.

Bennett also answered questions from a curious audience.

Posed with the inquiry of how he could still support the “disputed” Iraq war, Bennett asked, “Do you think it is open to dispute?”

“I have a feeling that ABC, NBC and CBS can report that there is not dispute,” he said. “I think I even heard a report for Al Jazeera [Middle Eastern media source].”

One student who disagreed with Bennett’s position was Mike Curran ’09.

“I was highly skeptical of the speech because he spoke in romantic tone about the war in Iraq,” said Curran.

“You can’t compare World War II with the insurgency in Iraq.”

Mike Csorba ’09 echoed Curran’s views.

“I think it was biased but he has some good points, such as that the killing has slowed during the month of Ramadan,” he said.

Greg Behrons ’11 disagreed with Curran and Csorba’s opinions on Bennett’s lecture.

“I don’t think he really changed the way I view Iraq,” said Behrons.

“He did, however, open my eyes to the problem of education in our country,” he said.

“I really wanted to become a college professor,” said Bennett.

Instead, Bennett was selected as the secretary of education for the Reagan administration. By his own account, he was the only Democrat and the poorest member of the cabinet at the time.

“Everyone was talking about how they took a pay cut from not working elsewhere. … I was happy with a raise,” said Bennett, who drew laughter from the crowd throughout his speech.

But he also spoke more about serious topics.

According to Bennett, America’s education system is in trouble.

“As the students get older they continue to score worse against other industrialized nations,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.