On April 15, 2013, St. John’s University announced the 2013 Queens Commencement Speaker: Congressman Peter T. King, a representative of New York’s 2nd District (consisting of parts of Nassau and Suffolk county) and formerly the Chairman of the US House Committee on Homeland Security.
Throughout his years in Congress, King has made discriminatory and offensive comments regarding issues such as bilingual education and domestic terrorism. Here are some of his statements as quoted from his website (http://peteking.house.gov/):
On Bilingual Education:
“The English language has been the glue which binds us together as Americans...The federal government has imposed such misguided programs as bilingual education and bilingual voting ballots. These programs have been a disaster, dividing our country by language and leaving immigrants in linguistic ghettos.”
On Homeland Security:
“As Committee Chairman I have conducted a series of hearings on the extent of radicalization in the Muslim-American Community. We must move beyond political correctness and address the root causes of how and why certain individuals are being radicalized here in the United States and participating in terrorist attacks against Americans.”
Congressman King has had his say. Now it is our turn to speak.
St. John’s promotes itself as an environment that fosters diversity. In our mission statement, we pride ourselves on being a Catholic, Vincentian, and Metropolitan University. The St John’s University website combines these three ideas and advertises them to communicate its pride in the diverse student body: “Students at St. John's represent a vast range of nationalities, ethnicities and faith traditions. This fosters the cosmopolitan atmosphere you expect of a world-class Catholic university -- reflecting the remarkable diversity of New York City itself.” Having individuals who speak multiple languages, come from various backgrounds and faiths is what enriches our experience here as St John's students. We take pride in our bilingual population.
As a University, we clearly cherish the dignity of every student, administrator, and staff member on campus. According to the St. John’s website, “[we have] respect for the rights and dignity of every person and each individual’s responsibility for the world in which we live.” Congressman King's trials against American-Muslims last year contradict this respect for the rights and dignity of our students here.
It is clear that his views do not reflect this mission of respect, tolerance, and diversity. Our concern, as graduating seniors, is having him as our Commencement Speaker. This speaker is unique for the graduating class because she/he should be someone who represents our experience at St. John’s and will inspire us to make a difference in the world around us. At a school with such a diverse student body, the views that Congressman King represent will be contradictory to our experience and who we are striving to become.
We are asking all of you to show your support to the Concerned Graduating Seniors, and have St John's University choose a Commencement Speaker who rightfully represents the core of our Catholic, Vincentian and Metropolitan mission.
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