October 18, 2005

Berkely Cancels Its Veterans Day Ceremony

Berkeley has canceled its Veterans Day ceremony due to a dispute over the selection of Bill Mitchell, who is the co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, as the keynote speaker:

Berkeley's Veterans Day ceremony, scheduled for Nov. 11, was abruptly canceled on Monday because the volunteer organizing committee split over the political content.

At issue was a proposal by the chairman, singer/songwriter Country Joe McDonald, to have Bill Mitchell, a co-founder of Cindy Sheehan's organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, as the keynote speaker.

Mitchell's and Sheehan's sons were killed in Iraq the same day.

Some committee members worried that Mitchell would inject an unwelcome note of partisanship into the event, which has been scrupulously non-political in years past.

"If you want to have an anti-war rally, count me in," said Linda Perry, an aide to City Councilman Laurie Capitelli. "But not on Veteran's Day. It's neither the time nor the place."

Edwin Harper, adjutant of the local Disabled American Veterans chapter, which has participated in past Berkeley Veterans Day observances, threatened that his group would pull out. "They have the other 364 days and 23 hours to make their political point," he said. "This one hour should be reserved for honoring veterans, period."

McDonald, backed by other members of the committee, disagreed, saying that not permitting Mitchell to express his point of view would be tantamount to censoring free speech.

"Their position was that no matter what he said, because he was a member of Gold Star Families, he wouldn't be allowed to speak," McDonald said. "I've been doing this for 10 years, and this is the first time content and affiliation ever came up for discussion. I was shocked to find this kind of narrow-mindedness in my own hometown, in Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement."

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.

Veteran's Day is, quite simply, a day set aside to honor those persons that have served in our nation's military and have thereby risked all to safeguard our country. A commemoration of Veteran's Day should not be used for political purposes or to further any other agenda.
Why politicize the event by inviting a prominent anti-war protester to give the key note address? I mean, seriously, does anyone at Berkeley believe that Mr. Mitchell would avoid espousing his views of war or Iraq? No. Of course not. Mr. Mitchell was selected because some of the organizers did, in fact, have an agenda... i.e., to use this particular venue to protest the Iraq War.
Would Mr. McDonald agree with a committee decision to have Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush or Condi Rice give a speech in which they spoke of the importance of the Iraq War? No. Of course not. I am sure that he would likely be one of the first to scream about the inappropriatenesss of "politicizing" the event.
Would Mr. McDonald still be shocked by the "censorship" of free speech if the committee had actually refused to use a pro-war speaker as the keynote speaker rather than refusing to allow an anti-war speaker to be the keynote speaker? No, I am sure that he would be silent on the issue.
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