Booing the president disrespects us all

Oct 25 2012 - 3:35pm

President Barack Obama isn't the first American head of state to be booed at a sporting event. That distinction goes to Herbert Hoover. Newspapers reported at the time that he was booed at the 1931 World Series' opening game. And, reports NBC News, Obama received that response when he threw out the first pitch at Nationals Stadium in Washington in 2010.

But that doesn't make it right, no more than it was right in 2008, when President George W. Bush was booed as he opened the same stadium.

The discussion arises because at the Clemson-Virginia Tech game at Clemson last Saturday, when the oath was administered to new recruits into the university's Reserve Officer Training Corps, booing and laughter marred what should have been a memorable occasion for those students and their families. The oath reads, in part, "that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. And that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. And I will obey the orders of the President of the United States. ..." That's the point where booing and laughter can be clearly heard, even on an amateur video of the event.

No one -- except those involved -- knows whether the disruption was by Clemson fans, Virginia Tech fans or a combination of the two. It doesn't matter. They may have thought they were cleverly expressing their dislike of the president (although his name was never mentioned). What they were really doing was showing disrespect for the office -- and for the country that we dare say most of them would loudly profess to love.

Clemson President Jim Barker responded with a letter to the Clemson family, saying that he had heard from several Clemson people who were saddened and disappointed by "the public disrespect for the office of the president."

In his statement, Barker said: "I understand that we are in the home stretch of a heated presidential election and that freedom of speech is a right which makes our country great. Regardless of one's political leanings, however, this ceremony was a sacred moment to the recruits, their families and many others in attendance. ... The heated rhetoric and lack of civility we hear every day can be contagious. But it is possible to hold opposing viewpoints and debate issues without rancor and disrespect."

We recall a story told some 30 years ago by a reporter who, while interviewing an elderly man in the days following Watergate, was surprised that the staunch Southern Democrat displayed a portrait of President Richard M. Nixon in his home.

When the reporter questioned the portrait's presence, the man replied that it wasn't a picture of Nixon, just as the previous photo had not been one of Lyndon B. Johnson, the Democrat who preceded him.

It was a picture of the president of the United States. And as long as he was alive, he would honor the office of the president of his country, one he fought for and one that men like him had died for.

That old gentleman, long gone now, might have had a few words to say to the people who chose an inappropriate time and place to embarrass themselves, the university and the community.

 

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