Holbrooke plays Kipling to Mac's new burden

By Mac Weekly Staff

This year’s convocation was delivered by former US ambassador to the UN and 2008 Secretary of State hopeful Richard Holbrooke.

This aspiration may have played a part in his moderate “Hillary Clinton” general election-ready address. His ambitions paralleled the aspirations tempering Macalester’s legacy of unadulterated radicalism and tradition of speaking truth to power. The Institute for Global Citizenship’s troubling relationship to power and privilege has been a microcosm of the systemic transformation that Macalester’s leadership has willfully entered us into.In seeking to bolster its own privilege and thrust this College from proud activism into pride for further self-advancement, Macalester’s increasingly public-conscious image is being converted to privilege. This privilege is the currency underwriting our new white man’s burden, and Mr. Holbrooke readily supplied gravitas and ideological support for this project.

Before a diverse audience of citizenships and identities Mr. Holbrooke advanced a baldly America-centric philosophy. He emphasized that little of consequence would take place internationally without American involvement, placing the burden of keeping the world’s peace squarely on America’s tortured shoulders.

Just as Mr. Holbrooke insisted that all positive change hinged on American involvement, Macalester has taken it upon itself to solve all the world’s problems. The Third World is a career. And a mission.

This worldview proved so insular that Mr. Holbrooke repeatedly emphasized that no lives were lost in NATO’s 1999 Kosovo campaign, only later adding the caveat that he was referring to NATO lives.

Mr. Holbrooke’s address was aimed at and resonated with a growing body of politically-focused Macalester students planning to enter into a close relationship with the governmental and financial institutions responsible for the very injustices that we (for now) universally bemoan.

The crown, and the race for it, will lie heavily on Macalester’s head as long as we continue our missionary relationship to the rest of the world. In working to link up students to transnational networks of privilege, we close minds to futures, experiences, and solutions outside of that privilege.

Mr. Holbrooke was far more at home at Macalester than he might have been 30 years ago. This reception is troubling.