Pink Balloons at Harvard

Thousands of pink balloons flew over Harvard a few days ago. No, it was not an outing for toddlers. It was a group of Harvard students and faculty protesting a commencement address by General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For the gay-rights crowd at Harvard, General Powell is a symbol of the military's ban on homosexuals. And they weren't going to let a little thing like the gravity of the occasion stand in the way of their sacred right to protest. Many students and guests came to the graduation ceremony laden with decals, placards, pins, pink ribbons, and balloons that all read, "Lift the ban." Other speakers at the event took the opportunity to make pointed statements directed against General Powell. A student speaker criticized the military's policy. A Cambridge rector, who conducted the morning prayer, called for tolerance for all the different ways of what he called "expressing love." And during Colin Powell's own speech, some of the guests sitting on the dais stood up in silent protest. But, most offensive, when the general was awarded an honorary degree, some of the students chanted "Lift the ban"—while others rose and deliberately turned their backs on him. After watching General Powell endure this string of insults on television news, I was surprised to read newspaper reports characterizing the event as relatively quiet. After all, reports said, the vast majority of the participants applauded the general. And apparently university officials successfully headed off much more disruptive demonstrations threatened by gay activists. Well, I guess we should be thankful. But it's a little as though someone had kicked you in the shins—and you were told to be thankful he didn't spit in your face, too. It's deeply disturbing to me to see well-heeled, privileged young students, attending an Ivy League school, enjoying all the advantages our country has to offer, taking aim at a black man—a man who has enjoyed none of the same advantages, who worked his way up the hard way. Yet they think nothing of looking down their young noses at him, posturing and protesting in a self-righteous way, with little thought for decorum or respect. Whatever happened to the ideal of showing civility even to people we disagree with? Isn't that the very meaning of the word civilized? Besides, I wonder how many of the students or faculty waving their pink balloons have ever served in the military, have ever been shot at in defense of our country. Colin Powell has. He fought in the jungles of South Vietnam; he led our troops through the sands of Saudi Arabia, putting his own life on the line for the rest of us. And yet they had the effrontery to lecture him. My mind goes back to another graduation ceremony in 1978, when the great Soviet dissident Alexandre Solzenhitsyn stood on this same spot and warned of the decadence eating away at the underpinnings of western culture. Surely he was being prophetic. The pink balloons may have looked cheerful bobbing over the black gowns of the graduates. But to me they were symbols of a growing cultural barbarism afflicting our nation's next generation of leaders.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary