Newspaper Publisher Shouted Down at Commencement for Defending Civil Liberties

Newspaper Publisher Shouted Down at Commencement for Defending Civil Liberties
By Matthew Rothschild

December 19, 2001

Janis Besler Heaphy is the publisher and president of the Sacramento Bee. On December 15, she tried to give a commencement speech at California State University. But she wasn't able to finish because the audience "drowned her out by stomping their feet and clapping until, about five minutes into an eight-minute text, Heaphy finally gave up and sat down," writes Daniel Weintraub, the public affairs columnist for the Bee's editorial pages.

Newspaper Publisher Shouted Down at Commencement for Defending Civil Liberties
By Matthew Rothschild

December 19, 2001

Janis Besler Heaphy is the publisher and president of the Sacramento Bee. On December 15, she tried to give a commencement speech at California State University.

But she wasn't able to finish because the audience "drowned her out by stomping their feet and clapping until, about five minutes into an eight-minute text, Heaphy finally gave up and sat down," writes Daniel Weintraub, the public affairs columnist for the Bee's editorial pages.

Early on in her speech, Heaphy said: "No one argues the validity and need for both retaliation and security. But to what lengths are we willing to go to achieve them? Specifically, to what degree are we willing to compromise our civil liberties in the name of security?"

Hardly controversial questions.

A little later in her speech, she said: "The Constitution makes it our right to challenge government policies. Our culture makes it our duty. Raising issues. Asking questions. Debating options."

Again, not exactly incendiary stuff.

But too strong, evidently, for the crowd of seniors at California State's commencement, who didn't let her finish.

If they did, they would have heard her final thought: "Freedom of expression is one of our most cherished American values. It sets us apart. It makes us great. . . . But it can't be taken for granted. America was founded on the belief that the freedom to think as you will and speak as you think are essential to democracy. Only by exercising those rights can you ensure their continued existence."

Don't they teach the Bill of Rights at California State?