Recently, FAMU’s Student Body President, Andrew Gillum addressed the media regarding an invitation extended to Gov. Jeb Bush. The invitation, sent out by President Lewis and FAMU administration, asked Bush to speak at our spring graduation commencement ceremony. Gillum told the Capital Outlook that FAMU students will “turn their seats and their backs to him during the address” should Bush accept the invitation.
While Gillum’s comments represent a portion of the student body, his remarks do not express the sentiments of all students. There is, most certainly, a segment of FAMU students that have expressed great hostility at the extension of this invitation; however, no one – not even the student body president – should assume to speak on behalf of all of us.
As a FAMU student, I agree with President Lewis’ statement.
“Governor Jeb Bush was very helpful to FAMU during the bombing crisis and in the return of the FAMU Law School. We thought it was time to invite the highest ranking political figure in the state of Florida,” Lewis said.
The real issue in this situation is not the legitimacy of the One Florida Initiative, Talented 20 Program, 10-20-Life Plan, the A+ Plan, or how Jeb Bush shares or does not share our ideals. The real issue is one of respect. Gov. Bush holds the highest office in our state.
Whether or not I agree with his policies, I respect him.
Threats to walk out or turn backs to an invited keynote speaker are childish methods we should consider beneath us. The message sent by such actions is clear, “Since I don’t agree with you, I won’t respect you.”
There is nothing wrong with not supporting Gov. Bush’s administration, or strongly disagreeing with his policies. We can disagree with Gov. Bush, but we should do so in a productive manner that will allow us to open a dialogue based on mutual respect.
The pessimistic would say, “Yeah, but I don’t think he respects us, so why respect him?” The answer is simple – your attitudes and actions are not a reflection of the person they are aimed at, they are a reflection of you. Should Gov. Bush accept the invitation and address our student body, what will our actions say about us?
The greatest danger we face in a situation like this is alienating the very person we need to work with to advance this university’s goals. I think the governor should speak at our graduation.
I also think he should be given a tour of our university, and invited to hear the vision of where FAMU is going and all that we desire to accomplish as an institution.
This kind of dialogue takes a commitment to communication, the ability to listen, as well as speak, and an attitude of mutual respect. Rather than turning our backs, let’s face our concerns head-on and meet on the common ground of respect for each other as human beings.
Angie Green is a junior newspaper journalism student from Gainesville. She can be reached at email@example.com.