April 16, 2003

Students Speak Out At Ho Plaza Session

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Cornell students and other Ithaca residents voiced their opinions on the war in Iraq yesterday on Ho Plaza in the first in a series of speak-out sessions.

The speak-out sessions are being organized by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Isaac Kramnick, Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’69, and the Cornell Political Forum, represented by editor-in-chief Daniel Braun ’04.

The speak-out sessions are intended to provide the opportunity for students, faculty and local residents to share their different viewpoints regarding the war.

Nine speakers took the podium between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. and presented both antiwar and pro-war opinions.

The first half-hour consisted of six speakers who had each prearranged for five minutes of podium time.

Hubbell introduced these speakers and welcomed the crowd.

“During the 1960s this area was a very important forum … [this is] the first of what we hope will be a series of discussions,” Hubbell said.

The organizers scheduled three pro-war and three antiwar speakers for the more formal first half hour.

Tamas Nagy grad, spoke first, offering a pro-war viewpoint.

Nagy compared his own experiences living in Communist Hungary to the condition of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

When he saw photos of Iraqi citizens and soldiers tearing down the statue of Hussein, he said that thought of the people in his own country who were “happy and joyful to destroy the statue of Stalin.”

Alex Bomstein ’04 spoke out against the war.

“What you’re seeing through the media is manipulated imagery…the journalists are in bed with the military,” Bomstein said. “The only thing we see is the headlines…back home, there’s a third front being fought, and we’re losing it,” Bomstein added.

Following Bomstein was a pro-war speaker, Philip Kim, ’04, who stated that he was “here to protest the antiwar movement.”

“The situation in Iraq can and should represent a turning point in U.S. policy.” Bornstein said.

Lin Yang ’05 expressed a mixed opinion toward the war.

“I want Saddam to be taken out as soon as possible…I believe a war is necessary to bring him down,” Yang said.

However, he added that “this war has become a reflection of us against them, America against the world. We’ve become the agressors…our arrogance got in the way.”

Andrew Bernie ’04, felt that “this war has prevented far more death than it’s caused.”

Charles Larsen ’45, the final scheduled speaker, offered advice to the leaders of today’s antiwar movement.

“Opposition to the war needs more than protest. [It] needs education. We must sow the seeds of peace by undermining [President Bush’s] support.”

When Ryan Horn grad, chair of the Cornell Republicans, took the podium, his words were met with yells and obscene gestures from the crowd that had gathered on the grass surrounding Ho Plaza.

“To [the] antiwar left, war movements are their never-never land,” Horn said.

Horn also added that “the only diversity that matters is the diversity of thought.” He was booed down off the podium when he finished.

The only woman who spoke during the session was Christina Tonitto, who stated that her husband works at Cornell. Tonitto discussed the dire medical and hospital situation in Iraq and the need for basic necessities, such as water.

“If you’re for or against the war is really beside the point,” Tonitto said.

A group of about 20 students had gathered on the lawn to listen to the speakers, and many others paused for a few moments when they walked by.

“I appreciate the balance of opposing viewpoints,” said Justin Forlenza ’03.

At the same time, Forlenza felt that the war “hasn’t gone on long enough” to form an opinion one way or the other.

Ithaca residents were also present and eager to be heard.

Gino Bush spoke during the second half hour.

“Ain’t no diversity…on this university,” Bush said. He also added that he was “anti-war, anti-racism, anti-starvation, and anti-globilization.” The crowd responded positively to Bush’s conclusion that “if you believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, you’ll be against the war.”

The organizers of the speak out sessions report that they already have people lined up for today’s speak-out session, which is to take place from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Ho Plaza. The speak-out sessions will continue on subsequent Tuesdays and Wednesdays as long as there is student demand.

Archived article by Natalie Adams