Reconsider the Smith College 2014 Commencement Speaker

The following members of the Smith community request that you reconsider your decision to select Christine Lagarde as the commencement speaker for the class of 2014. By selecting Ms. Lagarde as the commencement speaker we are supporting the International Monetary Fund and thus going directly against Smith’s values to stand in unity with equality for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity or class. Although we do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments as a strong female leader in the world, we also do not want to be represented by someone whose work directly contributes to many of the systems that we are taught to fight against. By having her speak at our commencement, we would be publicly supporting and acknowledging her, and thus the IMF. Even if we give Ms. Lagarde the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system, we should not by any means promote or encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters. The IMF has been a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries. This has led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide. At Smith College, a school with a campaign called “Women for the World”, we are taught how to stand up and fight against inequality and corruption. We are taught to speak up when something is unjust, and we do not wish to be represented by a system that doesn’t support us.

Discussion

  • Anonymous X With all due respect to the many views aired on this forum, perhaps I could share my views on why I think this petition is unnecessary and blowing this way out of proportion.

    First and foremost, it is good to remember that a commencement speech is, as speechwriter Anthony Trendl aptly writes: "an opportunity to share your experience, values and advice. The precise form is up to you. This affords the speaker a platform to say amazing, unlimited things." This means that Christine Lagarde's coming to Smith gives all of us an opportunity to listen to a remarkably accomplished woman dish out general life advice and the usual "what-I'd-have-done-instead-if-I-were-22-again", and how she achieved success and finding her place in the professional world as a woman. Her purpose is NOT to propagate any questionable IMF policies, beliefs or anything at all about her professional career. It is not even required of you to harbour positive feelings towards her or the IMF. Listening to her speak for half an hour about her LIFE - not the IMF's policies - doesn't mean you are aligned with the IMF's policies.

    Let us take a look at her numerous accomplishments and accolades, which I've copied and pasted for your convenience from Wikipedia:

    - A noted antitrust and labor lawyer, Lagarde became the first female chairman of the international law firm Baker & McKenzie.
    - On 16 November 2009, the Financial Times ranked her the best Minister of Finance in the Eurozone.
    - Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Trade
    - Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment
    - Lagarde was the first woman to become finance minister of a G8 economy, and is the first woman to head the IMF.
    - Christine Lagarde was named Officier in the Légion d'honneur in April 2012.

    Look at that. I'm excited at hearing HER speak. Now: I am in no way supporting the corrupt practices of the IMF. What I am asking you to do, however, is to reconsider her legacy, and the fact that Christine Lagarde was only appointed the head of the IMF in June 2011, about 2.5 years ago. She certainly isn't responsible for the shit that IMF has done prior to that (the bulk of which were probably the things that you have learnt in class and read about in the papers). Have any of you considered the fact that she is just as aware - if not more - than all of you are of the many "corrupt, racist, imperialist and neo-colonialist" practices of the IMF? She was chosen because she is exceptionally brilliant at what she does, and one that many have deemed fit to save the sinking ship that is IMF. I support Christine Lagarde for all that she does, and is trying to do with the IMF because she has called for so many policy reforms, and is trying to make the IMF into a more effective system that it undeniably needs. To substantiate my point, I bring to your attention this article: http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/news/393646/reform-reset-restart-we-should-listen-to-christine-lagarde .

    Perhaps we Smith women should graciously acknowledge her brilliant accomplishments as a woman, a leader, and one that we can all look up to, instead of inappropriately relegating her to be responsible for all the mistakes that the IMF has done in the past. Her coming to speak at Smith is an honour; not an affirmation of the IMF's practices. She is coming as Christine Lagarde, not the Head of the IMF. I am not signing this petition, and I hope you will not too.

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  • Susan Meck I'm sure there are many other accomplished and brilliant woman leaders that don't work for, or should I say manage the IMF. Many other accomplished and brilliant women that would be a much better choice as MY commencement speaker. Smart and effective woman leaders that are not leading an organization that is appallingly out of touch with other countries, cultures, and economic circumstances ...I am a SMITHIE!! And very proud of that fact!!

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