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Madeleine in Berkeley

Greetings of peace:
   I thought y'all should see this.

The following is a summary of what happened in Berkeley during
the commencement last week.  The whole event, and Fadia's actions in 
should be a source of encouragement and
motivation for all progressive people, particularly Arab-Americans!

Fadia Rafeedie and her "Since they kicked most of my friends out, I'll
have to speak for them" commencement address.

Well, it's been exactly 24 hours since Albright's battle in Berkeley and I
still have tingles running down my spine.  The protesters were out in full
force well before the 4 pm ceremonies, with a commendable showing by IAC,
the Muslim community, and of course, our very own ADC-SF.   As Albright's
motorcade arrived I don't think she had any idea what she was in for.
She arrived looking very prim and proper in a graduation gown, hat and
tassle.  Just as she emerged from
her car she was blasted with one of the most horrendous, blood-curdling
chorus of boos I've ever heard....enough to probably make you feel sorry
for her if she weren't a war criminal.

She scurried off to take refuge in the amphitheater which I'm sure she
expected to be a relatively safe haven given that only graduates and
immediate family members were allowed inside.  Of course, if you've read
the newswire you'ld know that nothing could have been further from the

Recognizing that this whole event wasn't quite shaping up the way they had
intended, the organizers decided to have Albright speak first and whisk
her out of Dodge before things got ugly.   They also decided to not have
her sit next to Fadia, the top graduating student, as is tradition in
Berkeley (perhaps it had
something to do with the fact that, when asked, Fadia likened her sitting
next to Albright to a holocaust survivor sitting next to a Nazi).

So, Albright gets introduced as "the greatest woman of our time", at which
point all hell breaks loose never to be restored.    I've heard mainstream
media claim that Albright was "unfazed".  On the contrary, I can't imagine
anyone could have been more "fazed".   She literally could not get out
more than one or two sentences without being disrupted by this or the
other protester, who used their
15 seconds in the limelight to yell the most vile curses at her, "child
killer", "murderer", "war criminal".  The police were everywhere, so no
one got more than 15 seconds before being forcibly subdued.  Like
clockwork, every time she took a breath, you'd hear some courageous lone
voice castegating her for her crimes in
Iraq, followed by murmers, a small commotion and a gang of police hauling
the next protester off.

They say there were 59 brave soles forcibly evicted that afternoon.  But
that's only because her speech ran out before the protesters did - had her
speech gone on another 10 minutes, there would have been 50 more.

I suppose what made the atmosphere different than Kent State (though I
wasn't there to compare), was that the general audience at Cal was so
disgustingly supportive of Albright.  The graduates were constantly
yelling at the protesters to "shut up", "go back to Iraq", and to
generally "stop ruining my day" [yeah, well there are 1.5 million dead
Iraqi's that aren't exactly having a good day
either, pal].  No, this is not your father's Berkeley, let there be no
mistake about it.

The reason I believe Albright was really taken by surprise is her
reaction.  She looked at each yelling protester with sincere curiosity, as
if to ask, "why are you yelling at me?"  I really think, in her mind, she
must believe the nonsense
she spewed in her commencement address about her being the defender of
human rights around the world.  Did she learn nothing from Kent State?

Anyway, the scene was a real mess.  The protesters ranks were slowly being
decimated - about half our ADC board of 10 was hauled off by
police...which was kind of too bad since Fadia managed to score us some
VIP seats (I had to stay to videotape the whole thing of course :) ).
Meanwhile, Albright muddled through her speech trying not to look too
befuddled while the graduates were just generally pissed off.  And, that's
how things pretty much stayed, until Albright
was whisked off the stage after her speech and was last seen lying face
down in the back seat of her car as it sped off.  What followed was a very
forgettable slew of standard, boiler-plate speeches, including the
ever-present "When I was your age we hid beers in our gowns too".

Then it came time for Fadia's speech.  By then, attrition had taken no
less than half of any group of protesters.  To be honest, the wind had
really been taken out of our sales.  The administration had attempted to
completely marginalize us, or, worse yet, to co-opt us into the "diverse
Berkeley culture".  With the sanction and support of the conservative
Berkeley grads and their parents, they
appeared to have succeeded, at least to some extent.

But, by her very first utterance, Fadia managed to lift all our spirits
and changed the whole dynamics of discourse.  After being introduced in
the most glorious manner (with reference to her 4.0 gpa, 14 A+'s, quotes
from professors that she was their best student ever, acceptance into Yale
Law School, etc.),
she immediately gave all of us credibility, by making that unforgettable
remark I quoted in the title of this e-mail.  Can you imagine what it was
like for us?  We were verbally assaulted (yes, the name calling against
the protesters was very personal) and physically beaten and only scattered
remnants of our many
groups were left lingering in the crowd.   For the few of us who remained,
to hear those most remarkable words bellowing over the loudspeaker was
like an oasis in a desert.  "Since they kicked most of my friends out,
I'll have to speak for them".    Then she proceeded with a most eloquent
and fluid ad-hoc
speech, that she spoke without once referring to notes. !! !

Certainly there were graduates who stood up in the middle of her speech
and walked out.  And, yes, the school paper chastised her the following
day, calling her tactless and her speech inappropriate.   But, for the
rest of us...for those of us who had been phsycally silenced by a
heavy-handed police force sanctioned by a self-absorbed
hear all the thoughts and ideas we had so dearly wanted communicated
spoken over a loudspeaker to a mainstream audience
was a release of years of pent-up frustration.  It was a great
moment...for all of us.  And, as Dennis Bernstein of Pacifica radio said,
if you want to know who won "the battle of Berkeley", just look at who had
to be rushed out cowering in the back seat of a car and who marched off,
head held high, to a standing ovation!

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