Posted on Sun, May. 18, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Donahue injects politics into speech
Comments on liberals draw boos as well as cheers at graduation
RALEIGH - Talk show pioneer Phil Donahue got catcalls and cheers Saturday for a politically tinged commencement address at N.C. State University.
A handful of the nearly 4,000 graduating at N.C. State walked out of the ceremony at the RBC Center when Donahue began listing "what liberals believe."
Donahue said constitutional rights and privileges have been eroded and he made a backhanded reference to the war in Iraq.
"Only Congress can declare war," he said to some cheers and boos, "and not just one man, the president."
The basic liberties of citizens are being undermined by the war on drugs, Donahue said, and by a "trend toward the sword rather than a trend toward civility."
What liberals believe, he said, "is that no one in authority should tell you to `shush,' that executing retarded teenagers is wrong, and that unions give workers a deserved place at the bargaining table."
Donahue, 67, whose most recent talk show on MSNBC was canceled in February after six months, urged the graduates to help renew basic American constitutional values of free speech, separation of church and state, and respect for the rights of minorities.
"Your mission is to challenge your public servants and bring America back to basic constitutional values," he told the students.
He urged political conservatives to be tolerant of those with differing views.
"Take a liberal to lunch," he said. "Take a Dixie Chick to lunch."
Donahue is a nine-time Daytime Emmy winner for his syndicated talk show, which began in 1967 and aired nationally from 1970 to 1996, paving the way for dozens of such shows to follow.
He was invited to speak in part because he and an N.C. State professor both attended the University of Notre Dame. He got loud applause by noting that N.C. State beat Notre Dame in this year's Gator Bowl.
"I came looking for liberals," he said, "and here at N.C. State I found friends."