Commentary: Wokeness in all its self-flattering moral vanity comes for a statue at Princeton

January 06, 2023 1 min read

by George F. Will

Excerpt: Squalls of indignation gust across campuses so frequently that they seem merely performative — synthetic, perfunctory, uninteresting. Princeton’s current contretemps, however, fascinatingly illustrates how wokeness, which lacks limiting principles, limits opposition to itself. Since 2001, a statue of John Witherspoon (1723-1794), the Presbyterian minister recruited from Scotland to be the then-college’s president, has adorned a plaza adjacent to Firestone Library.

Now the woke, who subordinate everything to “social justice” as they imagine it, demand its removal because he owned two slaves and did not advocate immediate abolition. As Princeton’s president, this “animated son of liberty” (John Adams’s description of the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence) assured the precarious institution’s survival. His students included future congressmen, senators, Supreme Court justices and a president — James Madison stayed an extra year to study with Witherspoon. . . . Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS), an alumni organization much more devoted than the university’s administration and trustees are to viewpoint diversity, notes that “the atmosphere on campus greatly inhibits students, faculty, and others from stating their true views” on “highly politicized issues,” which nowadays most issues become.

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