by Amanda Beaudoin on Friday, May 4th, 2012
Students filed into the ACC at 8am on this past Wednesday to begin the bi-annual Seminar Day hosted by the Public Issues Board. Having registered online for their top choices of seminars, students attended four different speeches over the course of the morning, including a keynote speech by renowned and controversial linguist, philosopher, and political commentator Noam Chomsky.
This years’ speakers consisted of a wide variety of professional and political ground-breakers, from Milton alumni to the parents of current Milton Students. The speakers presented on an array of topics: Students could hear both a serious address from the Director of Public Affairs for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, and a light-hearted talk from Will Graham, a Milton Alumnus who currently serves as Executive Producer and Director of the satirical Onion News Network. Other speakers included Dr. Cumrum Vafa, a string theorist who is the father of Keyon (I) and Neekon (IV), and the eminent Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy, who lead a seminar entitled “Racial Politics in the Age of Obama.”
The Public Issues Board has devoted much of its time this year to the planning of Seminar Day. By reaching out to the friends and families of current Milton students and making use of the Development Office’s large compilation of Milton alumni engaged in fascinating endeavors, the Board was able to assemble the numerous speakers who comprised Wednesday’s program.
Professor Chomsky was undoubtedly the most notable speaker of the day. Currently a Professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chompsky has received worldwide recognition for his political commentary, specifically American foreign policy. As Mr. Bland noted in his introduction, Chompsky is a “…part of American history.” His address on the nature of U.S. policy in the Middle East focused on three regional factors: the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ongoing Arab Spring, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. As expected, Professor Chomsky presented a highly critical appraisal of U.S. Near Eastern policy. Citing direct quotations from a diverse array of sources without utilizing any notes, Professor Chomsky addressed every topic with the intellectual rigor for which he is known, and presented a case not often heard in discussions of U.S. foreign relations.
Describing what he termed as the United States’s destabilizing countries in order to “stabilize” them: The Unitied States’ repeated insistence on destruct popularly supported governments in order to implement unpopular leadership willing to comply with US officials, Professor Chomsky argued that this strategy served to create “subordinate client state[s]” around the world. Professor Chomsky also noted a Western tendency to support dictators until “the last minute” before their overthrow, and the U.S.’s continued obstruction of comprehensive settlements on both Iran’s nuclear program and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Other highlights of the day included former gubernatorial candidate Warren Tolman, Latin America human rights researcher Kate Doyle, Dave Jenkins, a Milton alumnus engaged in environmental justice work in Roxbury, and Steven Tolman, a former Massachusetts State Senator and President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. In all, 23 speakers participated in this year’s Seminar Day, and brought a considerable and intriguing change of pace to the typical Milton week.
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