Two-thirds of the Stoller Center gym did not provide enough seating for the Noam Chomsky lecture on April 20. The event drew a mix of Pacific, community and non-local individuals that topped 1,500, filling all available seating.
Pacific President Lesley Hallick, Philosophy Professor David Boersema and speaker Chomsky took to the stage and began the presentation promptly at noon despite brewing protests before the event started.
Hallick approached the podium first to “introduce the introducer” of the distinguished guest. She sung Boersema praises, noting that the professor has won every award Pacific has to offer.
Boersema shrugged it off, saying that if he were the equivalent of a high school basketball coach, Chomsky would be Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant all rolled into one.
Chomsky has received honorary degrees from more than 37 universities across the globe and has won numerous awards, including the 1988 Kyoto Prize in basic sciences, the Helmholtz Medal, the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award and the 1999 Benjamin Franklin Medal in computer and cognitive sciences. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, among many others.
“Are you Batman?” Boersema asked. “You’ve done everything.”
The 83-year-old then took the stage and launched into his talk, “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East.” The social activist’s gravelly, low voice and refreshingly unfrenzied, slow way of speaking took command of the airwaves, leaving the gym silent for the 40-minute span of the presentation.
Subtopics ranged from the WikiLeaks revelation to possible trouble at the up-coming United Nations meeting and were discussed with simple language that didn’t assume the audience had extensive previous knowledge.
“‘International community’ equals Washington [D.C.] and whoever agrees with it,” Chomsky said. “The world is not ruled by law, it’s ruled by force, and that force is mostly in Washington. If they change their policies, we might move forward.”
After his talk, the floor was then opened to a question-and-answer session.
“I was a bit surprised,” said Boersema, “and so was Chomsky, that no one really challenged him on the things he said. He is pretty straightforward with his criticisms of U.S. policy and practice in the Middle East and he told me that he often has met with pretty determined objections and criticisms.”
After eleven questions, the session reached its time limit and the speaker was rushed off in accordance with his tight schedule.
Attendees were encouraged to contribute to the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund, which was established to work toward Chomsky’s wife’s goal of a more just global community. It promotes humanitarian aid, education and human rights projects in the Middle East. For more information, visit chomskyfund.org.
Boersema said he would like to thank all parties involved in making the event possible, including the Marketing and Communication department, events staff, CPS staff, the Stoller Center staff, the set up crew and President Hallick.