Universities lie at the heart of the American experiment in democracy. They are places where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can come to study and debate their ideas freely and openly. I’d like to talk with you about how important it is for that freedom to exist for everyone, no matter how strongly we may disagree with another’s viewpoint.
Tolerance for other people’s ideas and the freedom to express your own are inseparable values. Joined, they form a sacred trust that holds the basis of our democratic society. But that trust is perpetually vulnerable to the tyrannical tendencies of monarchs, mobs and majorities. And lately, we have seen those tendencies manifest themselves too often, both on college campuses and in our society.
I think both Harvard and my own city of New York have been witnesses to this trend.