Letter by Letter (Sophia Topper, The Silhouette, September 16 2015)
Universities Have a Voice (Journal Editorial Board, Queen's Journal, June 2 2015)
The Canadian University and the War Against Omar Khadr (Tyler Pollard, Public Intellectuals Project, May 17 2015)
Professor wants Omar Khadr to Study at McMaster University (Mark McNeil, Hamilton Spectator, May 15 2015)
Mac Prof Wants to Teach Omar Khadr (Desiree Finhert, AM900 CHML, May 14 2015)
Omar Khadr offered a seat in McMaster class by professor (Jeff Green, CBC News, May 13 2015)
What does it mean to welcome Omar Khadr? University students and the lesson of hospitality
|Tyler Pollard - I wonder, Dr. Clark, if you might discuss why it’s so important for these letters to be written, as you suggest, in “the spirit of hospitality and in the name of peaceableness and humane reconciliation”? What is it about notions of hospitality, peace, and reconciliation that make them so important to this particular project? And, I’d add, to what extent does this gesture summon questions of justice and considerations of what a truly just response to Khadr’s torture and incarceration might look like?|
David L. Clark - Thank you for your generous and, after all, hospitable questions. Given the specific occasion of this interview, I can’t help but begin by remarking that you address me not only in the spirit of understanding and reasonableness but also in the form of a welcome – a generous openness – and thus in anticipation of momentarily ceding your voice to another. Those are precisely the qualities that I imagine quickening the letters of welcome addressed to Omar Khadr.
|Tyler Pollard - Can you talk a bit more then about the ways in which this gesture acts as a counterpart to the institutional challenge you posed to Dr. Patrick Deane, President and Vice-Chancellor, McMaster University, and the larger university community earlier this year to make available a spot for Khadr to enroll as a first-year undergraduate student? The former challenge, as we discussed in our interview this past May, was one of holding the public university accountable, while The Hospitality Project here seems to be offering young people, the students of these institutions, an opportunity to speak. Why is it so important that young people have their voices heard here?|
David L. Clark - You are absolutely right to point out that this initiative is directed towards a different audience, not to the university’s senior administration or to the management of public universities at large but very particularly to the students without whom, after all, there would be no higher education. The two initiatives are deeply linked, to be sure, since the letter that I wrote to President Deane was deliberately public in nature, and thus meant to be read by everyone, including students. Moreover, my letter to President Deane and The Hospitality Project share the same twofold focus: first, to find a way meaningfully to reach out to Mr. Khadr, who is, after all, not a phantom enemy to be feared and reviled but a real person, a young man whose youth was unjustly destroyed both by his military captors and their many, many civilian apologists in Canada and the U.S., and to reach out to him in the spirit of friendship, dignity, respect, and civility. The object here is to join others in offering Mr. Khadr hope, succor, and solidarity; second, to engage Canadian public universities, beginning with the one in which I happen to teach and research, encouraging these universities to live up to their public mission in concrete ways and to take a more legible stand for peaceableness and against warring enmity, for a more just future and against those who would murder justice and the future. “Can the university stand for peace?” my friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Searls Giroux asks so pointedly. That question means a very great deal to me. As far as I am concerned, Can the university stand for peace? is McMaster’s secret but true university motto, rather than the one that we inherited from the days when it was a Baptist college—a motto that is, in its own way, also a call for peaceableness and community! My hope and intent is to contribute in whatever way that I can, beginning with the initiatives regarding Mr. Khadr, not only to answer Dr. Searls Giroux’s searingly timely question in the affirmative but also to demonstrate in persuasive ways that the university is indeed up to this task and that in fact standing for peace is central to its role in Canada’s future. Both my letter to President Deane and The Hospitality Project are, as I say, then, quickened by those two imperatives.