Barbara Boxer: member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors for six years, delegate for the California State Democratic Convention in 1983, Representative in the United States House of Representatives for nine years, former Chief Deputy Majority Whip in the United States Senate, and Senator in the United States Senate for 22 years. University of Redlands’ Convocations and Lectures brought the former senator to speak at the Memorial Chapel as a part of the Spring Semester Political Talk Series.
For the majority of her life, Mrs. Boxer has been contributing to the political climate of our country. She has voted on a number of bills – on gun control, child prostitution, clean water, clean air, space on airplanes, education, bipartisan budgets, and so many more.
Mrs. Boxer delivered an eloquent talk to the University of Redlands and its surrounding community, with the nurturing tones of a high school commencement speech. In her address, she prided herself on being able to throw away partisanship and reach across the aisle.
She encouraged people of all political leanings to look not at Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. She said that when she looks into her heart in search of American values, she immediately thinks of freedom of speech, of assembly, of press, of religious expression. These are all values that Americans hold dear – after all, they are first on the list of things the government can never take away from us.
Looking at American values rather than values of a platform is the ticket to bipartisanship. Dissenting discourse is the ticket to education.
Because Barbara Boxer is such an advocate of education and the value of freedom of speech, I was surprised when the talk turned to the question and answer portion. She listened to and answered several people’s questions: some asking where to look for a role model, some asking how to better form the youth so that they stay away from bad influences like drugs and gangs, some asking where to find funding for political campaigns.
The most interesting question to me was one that went unanswered.
Chris Hult, a senior here at the University of Redlands, had spent the past week thinking of a question to ask Mrs. Boxer when she came to this portion of the night. He did his research on Senate Bill 3122, a bill decriminalizing child prostitution in the hopes of removing blame from the victims of sex trafficking.
His concerns with the bill include the motivation for low-income children to enter the world of sex work as a way to combat poverty and the idea that pimps may now have more motivation to target children because they will not be adequately taken off the streets. He personally believes that subsidizing nonprofits, such as Children of The Night, would be a better alternative as opposed to writing legislature that creates a dependency on the government.
The point of his question, though, was not to criticize Mrs. Boxer’s position on child prostitution, or even to ask her opinion on the bill.
He opened with his gratitude for her coming to speak on campus, and apologized for focusing on a bill that he did not agree with. He cited Senate Bill 3122, and Mrs. Boxer said “Here it comes!” hinting that this was going to be a blow to her political career.
She dismissed him before he could ask his question, saying “I got your question, I got your question, thanks.” She then said that she was sorry, but that she refused to believe that criminalizing the victims of sex slavery is a good thing. She said that she would rather be jailing the people that prey on these children.
But the issue is that Hult never got to ask his question. His question was not about child prostitution, sex slavery, or this bill at all. He was planning on using this bill as an example to set the stage for the following question:
Do you think policy makers and lawmakers feel a pressure to rush things to achieve progress, especially given today’s political and social atmosphere, that we end up progressing too fast for us and overlook mutually beneficial laws and policies?
This is a question that does not take into consideration conservative values or liberal values, right side or left side, Republicans or Democrats. It is a question that applies to all legislators in the United States, who are supposed to be in office in order to, in the words of the Preamble to the United States Constitution that Boxer cited, “form a more perfect Union”.
Hult was hoping that his question would spark a conversation about the social responsibilities of policy makers and elected officials, especially in a society like ours where we crave instant gratification.
I feel a great disappointment that former Senator Barbara Boxer would not entertain Hult for more than 45 seconds before dismissing him. I feel a great disappointment that some liberals continuously say that conservatives squash free speech, but Ben Shapiro entertained a question from the opposing side for four minutes without dismissing the student at all. I feel a great disappointment that we, at this University and in this country, do not allow challenges to our ideas.
Barbara Boxer claims she is an advocate for education. I am an advocate for liberal education. Liberal education is the cultivation of the mind and soul, and can be achieved only through openness to all ideas, including those in opposition to one’s own. It is obvious to me that she is not for liberal education, only for the echo chamber that the left lives in.
Barbara Boxer claims to hold the American value of freedom of speech, but it is evident that she is only for free speech that she deems appropriate.
My question for Barbara Boxer is this: why so hypocritical?
photos contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Halie West