Volume 96, Issue 10
Friday September 13, 2002

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Let's hear them speak

Between lines
Tait Simpson
Opinions Editor

We are here to learn. Sometimes I have trouble remembering that myself, but it's true.

If your first priority was to earn money now, you'd be somewhere else. As a student, you've decided to sacrifice your time because you feel that learning is important.

Learning takes a different shape and form for everybody. Some say they can learn while napping in class – they've made it to class after all, they say.

What any student can tell you, is that when it comes to professors, there are the good, the bad and the ugly. Some keep you on the edge of your seat, some make you want to fall off it. Either way, for a lot of students, that's where the learning ends.

Being here at Western affords us another form of learning – the one that separates a good university for a two-bit local college. Annually, Western gets some of the best speakers in the country – many of whom take a serious pay cut to come here and speak. For some of the more academic speakers, it's a chance to pad their resumé and not much of a show. But for politicians, union leaders and members of the media, the reasons run deeper.

They come to be challenged by the best students, who often provide a more critical and intellectual audience than they often encounter. When asked why they come to speak here at Western, the most common answer is that they want the chance to answer the questions of the people who will be the next generation of leaders.

One telling sign of any school's reputation is the quality of speakers they are able to attract. Here at Western over the last two years we have had Joe Clark (former Canadian prime minister), Stéphane Dion (Liberal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs) and Buzz Hargrove, (president of the Canadian Auto Workers' Union) to name a few.

Having watched all three speak, it was clear that numerous members of the audience didn't share the same views as those of the speaker. The speakers were also aware of this, yet, all three were in a hurry to get through their prepared texts so that they could get on to the questions with the student audience. Lefties questioned Clark, separatists questioned Dion and nearly everyone in the audience, except the card holding union members questioned Hargrove. It was the difficult questions, not the complimentary ones, that made for a challenging debate.

Monday, Steve Paikin, author of The Life: The seductive call of politics and host of TVO's Studio 2 spoke in the McKellar Room. The senior crowd showed up to see one of their favorite television personalities, but the number of students present didn't count for more than a dozen.

I know that it's hard to find information on when speakers are coming. All but the biggest speakers usually don't attract more than an ounce of student interest. Still, even some of the big name speakers don't speak to a full house.

Western will have good speakers this year – that much is certain. When they come, make an effort to go and see them. If you don't share their point of view, all the better. Hear what the other side of a debate has to say and then draw your own conclusions.

Universities are a place where we can hear the best speak, whether we agree or disagree. Think of it as a class where you don't have to take notes and you don't offend anyone by walking out half way through.

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