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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I was offended last year to hear that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was questioning the historical accuracy of the Holocaust. On that note, I would like to take the opportunity to commend Columbia University for allowing him to address students Monday in an open forum.

In recent years, Americans have become accustomed to censoring ideas and people they do not find agreeable. Columbia's decision, despite harsh criticism, is demonstrative of the American commitment to free discourse outlined in our Constitution and judicial history.

Americans have also become accustomed to allowing individuals to embody the intentions of a state. Iran has a rising middle class and continues to elect reformers with every new election cycle, in direct opposition to the rhetoric coming from the top. We should not allow the figurehead of a state to set the political agenda for his or her nation. If states were judged entirely by the actions and statements of their chief executives, the United States would not stray far in global public opinion from Iran.

While we at UF continue the debate over free expression and the right to inquiry, I offer kudos to Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, for backing his university's bold move in the interest of education. With President Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia, the United States moves one step closer to abolishing the culture of suppression we have lived in during recent years.

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