Michael Bloomberg Harvard Commencement Speech 2014 | Harvard University Commencement 2014 | Summary and Q&A

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May 29, 2014
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Harvard University
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Michael Bloomberg Harvard Commencement Speech 2014 | Harvard University Commencement 2014

TL;DR

Freedom and tolerance of ideas are vital in universities, as they provide a neutral forum for research and debate, and prevent the repression of unpopular views.

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Key Insights

  • 🎓 Freedom and tolerance are essential for universities to fulfill their purpose of advancing knowledge and promoting democratic ideals.
  • 🤪 Censoring or repressing ideas, whether liberal or conservative, goes against individual rights and free societies.
  • 🤨 The homogeneity of political beliefs among faculty members in Ivy League universities raises concerns about the lack of diversity in viewpoints.
  • ☄️ Ideological stubbornness, especially when it comes to scientific evidence, can hinder progress and limit the country's ability to solve problems.
  • 👻 The federal government's reduced investment in scientific research has allowed other countries to surpass the US in this field.
  • 😚 Graduates are encouraged to speak up and defend the rights of others, even if it means facing opposition and losing friends.

Transcript

Thank You Katie and thank you to president Faust and the Fellows of Harvard College the board of oversees and all of the faculty alumni and students who have welcomed me back to campus I am excited to be here not only to address the distinguished graduates and alumni at Harvard University's 360 third commencement but most importantly to stand in th... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does Bloomberg describe the role of universities in society?

Bloomberg explains that great universities are places where people from all backgrounds and beliefs can come together to freely study and debate their ideas.

Q: What does Bloomberg say about the freedom to express one's own ideas?

He states that the tolerance for other people's ideas and the freedom to express one's own are inseparable values that form the basis of a democratic society.

Q: What examples does Bloomberg provide to highlight the repression of ideas?

Bloomberg discusses cases where commencement speakers were disinvited or faced protests due to their political views. He also mentions instances where scientific evidence on topics like gun violence and climate change is disregarded due to ideological beliefs.

Q: How does Bloomberg suggest universities can prevent the repression of ideas?

Bloomberg believes that universities must provide a neutral forum for researching and debating all issues without tipping the scales in one direction. He calls for the protection of tenure, ensuring that scholars can conduct research on ideas that challenge societal norms.

Summary

In this commencement speech at Harvard University, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg discusses the importance of tolerance and freedom of expression at great universities. He addresses the trend of censorship and conformity on college campuses and criticizes the silencing of voices that are deemed politically objectionable. Bloomberg argues that universities should promote open debate and a diversity of ideas, rather than adhering to a particular political ideology. He also highlights the need for evidence-based decision making in areas such as gun control, evolution, and climate change. The speech concludes with a call for graduates to stand up for their beliefs and defend the rights of others, even when it is unpopular to do so.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does Michael Bloomberg begin by thanking Harvard and mentioning Oprah?

Michael Bloomberg begins by thanking Harvard and mentioning Oprah because he is excited to be speaking at the same location where Oprah spoke the previous year. He is acknowledging the significance of this moment and showing appreciation for the opportunity.

Q: What changes has Bloomberg noticed since he was a student at Harvard?

Bloomberg has noticed several changes since he was a student at Harvard. The sandwich shop he used to love is now a burrito shop, the worst house is now an artisanal gastropub, and the old Holyoke Center has been renamed the Smith Campus Center. He jokingly expresses frustration when alumni put their names all over everything.

Q: What does Bloomberg believe is the purpose of great universities?

Bloomberg believes that the purpose of great universities is not only to advance knowledge but also to advance the ideals of the nation. He states that universities should be places where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can come to study and debate their ideas freely and openly.

Q: How does Bloomberg describe the vulnerability of the trust in our democratic society?

Bloomberg describes the trust in our democratic society as perpetually vulnerable to the tyrannical tendencies of mobs and majorities. He argues that the freedom to express your own ideas and the tolerance for other people's ideas are inseparable values that form the basis of our society.

Q: What examples does Bloomberg provide to support his claim that repression of ideas is stronger now than ever before?

Bloomberg provides several examples to support his claim that repression of ideas is stronger now than ever before. He mentions the 1950s when Senator Joe McCarthy attempted to repress those who sympathized with communism. He also mentions recent events where commencement speakers were disinvited or protests led to the censorship of certain viewpoints.

Q: Why does Bloomberg state that neither party has a monopoly on truth or God on its side?

Bloomberg states that neither party has a monopoly on truth or God on its side to emphasize the importance of listening to diverse perspectives and the dangers of ideological conformity. He wants to emphasize that different viewpoints should be explored, debated, challenged, but also respected and celebrated.

Q: What is Bloomberg's view on scholars being funded if their work conforms to a particular view of justice?

Bloomberg opposes the idea that scholars should only be funded if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. He argues that this notion is a form of censorship and compares it to McCarthyism. Bloomberg believes that universities should provide a neutral forum for researching and debating issues without tipping the scales in a particular direction.

Q: What reasons does Bloomberg give for the decline in federal spending on research and development?

Bloomberg argues that the decline in federal spending on research and development is due to elected officials who prioritize ideology and religion over scientific evidence. He highlights examples such as the prohibition of gun violence studies by the Centers for Disease Control and the rejection of natural selection in South Carolina's science standards.

Q: How does Bloomberg conclude his speech?

Bloomberg concludes his speech by urging the graduates to speak up for what they believe is right, even if it is unpopular. He encourages them to stand up for the rights of others and fight against repression. He acknowledges that they may face opposition but believes that history will be on their side and that the nation will be stronger for it.

Q: What is the main message or theme of Bloomberg's commencement speech?

The main message or theme of Bloomberg's commencement speech is the importance of tolerance, freedom of expression, and the open exchange of ideas at universities. He criticizes the trend of censorship and conformity on college campuses and emphasizes the need for diverse perspectives and evidence-based decision making in society. He calls on the graduates to stand up for their beliefs and defend the rights of others.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Famous alumni and former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, addresses Harvard graduates and emphasizes the importance of freedom and tolerance in universities.

  • He highlights the vulnerability of this trust, discussing incidents of censorship and repression of ideas on college campuses and in society.

  • Bloomberg warns against promoting an ideology in universities and calls for the protection of diverse viewpoints and the freedom of expression.

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