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They create a desert and call it peace
Tacitus resonates in academia
When I spoke to ACTA President Michael Poliakoff this week, he used a wonderful quote that I did not put in my column about hecklers at Boston University’s graduation ceremony who drowned out Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
It was a nice address — and the topic of my most recent column. Zaslav admitted that he was “a little nervous,” and offered some sound advice. Here are five key points.
— “Figure out what you’re good at” — and love what you’re doing.
— “You gotta make your own opportunities.”
— “It’s just as important to figure out what you’re not good at” as it is to figure out what you are good at.
— “It’s really painful to get outworked.” He vowed at age 14, “I will never be outworked again.”
— “Show up.” Show up at a funeral for a friend’s dad. Show up even when you’re swamped. Being there for people pays off for them and you.
After I mentioned to Poliakoff that that there aren’t as many stories about commencement dis-invitations this year, the ACTA president responded by quoting Tacitus. In Latin: ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
Rough translation with preceding language: To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a desert and call it peace.
In short, Poliakoff was saying that academic activists have intimidated the non-woke and prodded institutions of higher learning not to invite controversial speakers. So what might appear to be harmony is in fact the result of the ruthless culling of contrary opinions.
In 2016, “dis-invitation season” peaked with a record 42 universities inviting public figures to speak, then dis-iniviting them after student activists protested.
Since then, colleges and universities have tended to pick vanilla speakers — individuals less like to draw protests — to avoid embarrassing stories when they rescind invitations, Poliakoff argued.
I loved the Tacitus quote, but thought that using it in the column might distract some readers and others would stop reading if they realized Latin was involved. So I left it out. Was I right or was I wrong?
Debra J. Saunders is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership.