Utah State University President Stan Albrecht used an Earth Day speech to comment on actor Danny Glover's controversial selection as May's commencement speaker as well as the global warming debate, saying that both illustrate a lack of "rational and thoughtful discourse."
Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of about 100 in USU's Taggart Student Center on Thursday, Albrecht began by saying that "ideological discord" in the United States has reached new heights.
He went on to explain his support of Glover's visit, saying that the actor was chosen "not because of his Hollywood achievements but because he is a renowned and highly respected humanitarian known for his personal, hands-on efforts to help people throughout the world on issues that include hunger, housing for the poor, community safety, equal and fair wages for workers and meeting the health care needs of the underserved."
"Looking at this life in total, it reflects 40 years of actions that are centered in kindness and generosity, acts that are not at all defined by politics but by compassion for people," Albrecht added. "He has also been a political activist, taking on issues that for some are highly controversial."
Glover, the star of movies like "Lethal Weapon" and "Dreamgirls," is a public supporter of Venezuela's leftist president Hugo Chavez, appearing on his TV program, introducing him at events and calling him a "visionary."
These ties have "generated an outpouring of anger and controversy," Albrecht said.
To show the extent of the vitriol, Albrecht quoted from a Herald Journal blog comment that was printed in the newspaper on Sunday. The rant calls Albrecht "a hardy supporter of USU's uber-radical leftist Gender Studies Program, which is based on the purely Marxist, KKK, Nazi theory of ‘compassionate' lies and abuse."
"If anyone here can tell me what that sentence means, could you stay afterward and enlighten me, please?" the president joked, before taking a more serious tone, saying that the comment shows "the difficulty that we have today in having rational and thoughtful discourse."
Albrecht noted that this isn't the first time he has drawn fire from conservative members of the community.
His 2007 signing of a commitment to make USU carbon neutral set off similar tirades.
One that the president quoted began "O learned one, the only thing exceeding your arrogance is your stupidity."
However, Albrecht said he stands by his decision to support the American College and University President's Climate Commitment. In his final comments, he addressed why he backs environmental efforts:
"I signed that document because I believe that as a president of a major research university, we have a unique responsibility to support the critical research and education that will be absolutely necessary for us to address (climate change)," he said. "Unfortunately our ability to solve some of our pressing Earth Day challenges is made more difficult today by those who would deny the preponderance of scientific evidence that is available to us. Some have punished our research faculty who study these issues by eliminating their research funds if their findings contradict certain political views. They would make a problem go away by passing a resolution saying it doesn't exist. As reflected in some of the responses to our commencement speaker, ideology turns into science just as it triumphs in the case of Danny Glover, over a life of humanitarian service."
Albrecht wrapped up by urging audience members to learn about "green" issues.
"As students of this great university, help us inform that conversation that is so greatly driven by the uninformed."
The president's comments were well received, drawing hearty applause and cheers from the crowd.
USU's third annual Earth Day events also included live music, free food and information booths from groups like Aggie Blue Bikes, Global Village Gifts, the USU Anthropology Club and Aggie Composters.