This week, a highly decorated combat veteran, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy, and distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy turned down a Distinguished Graduate Award from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia was scheduled to receive the service academy’s highest honor this spring. But in the face of protests over an article he wrote against the idea of women in combat in 1979, Webb decided he would be a distraction from the ceremony and withdrew.
“I am being told that my presence at the ceremony would likely mar the otherwise celebratory nature of that special day, and as a consequence I find it necessary to decline to accept the award,” Webb said in a statement.
He’s being considerate of others involved with the event, which is a worthy impulse, but this courtesy has a broader negative impact than would disruption by protesters at a graduation ceremony.
Unfortunately, when people like Webb turn down such honors and speaking gigs in the face of protest, they teach protesters their protests aren’t just useful for registering discontent— another worthy impulse!— but for silencing those with whom they disagree. Especially on college campuses, which are allegedly interested in free inquiry, the standard should be high for speech that is unacceptable, and yet every day the limbo bar falls lower and lower and lower.
Webb’s speech offense is a 40-year-old essay, for whose tone and effects he’s expressed regret. Since that essay was published, Webb has been a Secretary of the Navy who increased the service’s roles for women and a senator from Virginia in the party that fancies itself the sole fair representative of women.
This article continues at [The Federalist] Jim Webb Should Veto The Heckler’s Veto On Campus