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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 16, 2009 at 4:00 PM

UW graduation

Robert Gates a poor choice for commencement speaker

As a parent of a graduating senior, I found the University of Washington’s choice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates as commencement speaker [“Secretary Gates urges life of public service,” NWSunday, June 14] one that failed students and their families.

These students deserve congratulations, encouragement and articulation of the hope for a better world, yet they received a speaker involved in one of our country’s most tragic self-created debacles, one that has incurred a crushing human toll.

This objection is not castigating an official for guilt by association, or a case of “character assassination” as Gates might imply. As defense secretary, Gates shares responsibility for U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan since taking the position in 2006. Despite the current administration’s stated intentions to end the war in Iraq, the U.S. maintains a strong troop presence and permanent military bases that undermine Iraq’s stability.

The call to public service is laudable. Equally important would be recognition of the economic and human devastation created by our Middle East ventures. With the economy tanked and UW tuition skyrocketing, our multibillion-dollar war investments come at the expense of the graduates who sat before the defense secretary, their families and prospects for a future that might include peace.

— Nancy Dickeman, Seattle

Comments | More in military, University of Washington

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