Lauren Noble, founder of Yale University’s William F. Buckley program spoke during PLB on Friday, March 29. Invited by seniors Matt Safalow and Michael Autorino and the KO Conservative Diversity Club, she spoke about the importance of civil discourse and growing up in an area of liberal majority.
Matt discussed how he first came in contact with Ms. Noble. “I first discovered Ms. Noble when researching other private schools and seeing whether or not they had implemented programs and had brought speakers to campus to engage in civil discourse and improve intellectual diversity,” he said.
Matt added that bringing in a conservative speaker was new for the school. “Being at KO for nearly seven years, I realized that we had never had this sort of assembly or discussion on campus before,” he said.
Ms. Noble grew up in Boston, an area with a known liberal majority, and was initially politicized by the events of September 11, 2001 and the issues of foreign policy. With all of her friends expressing liberal ideas, she decided to educate herself on the conservative perspective of important issues of the time.
When asked about growing up in a liberal environment she stated that it benefitted her. She said that on college campuses there is a tendency for conservatives to feel stifled and that those with conservative beliefs should speak up, especially in a country where we have the power to do so.
While individual issues were brought up throughout the conversation, the underlying theme of the assembly was the importance imp of listening for understanding rather than simply reacting, and eliminating the demonizing of those with opposing viewpoints.
She stated that ignoring the other side restricts one’s knowledge of their own. In addition, she said that it is important to learn how to debate civilly because everyone will come across people of disagreement and civil discourse. These are some of the messages she hopes to send with her program at Yale, the William F. Buckley program.
Matt said that Ms. Noble’s message is directly aligned with the message of KO Conservative Diversity.
“Ms. Noble’s experience of being an outspoken conservative voice at Yale and engaging in civil discussion with liberal classmates is exactly the type of environment that KO Conservative Diversity tries to foster,” Matt said.
As a senior at Yale, Ms. Noble founded the program which initially began as a small speakers series which would hold civil debates. Over the past ten years they have grown to hold lectures, conferences, and debates between people with opposing political viewpoints. The program held 48 events last year.
Ms. Noble was inspired by Buckley, a Yale graduate from the class of 1950. During the conversation she attributed the title of “the godfather of modern conservatism” to him. The program seeks to encourage many of the ideas that she spoke of while at KO. Rather than solely encouraging conservative beliefs, it seeks to encourage diversity of thought and listening to opposing viewpoints.
Finding common ground between two sides and finding a way to disagree productively are among the highest priorities that the program looks to promote, and ones that Ms. Noble spoke of at KO.
After her preliminary speech, seniors Matt Safalow and Michael Autorino took to the stage for some questions that they had prepared for Ms. Noble. These were followed by open-mic questions from the audience. These questions included how she gets her news today, how she was politicized as a middle schooler, identity politics and how it is affecting America, freedom of expression, and reducing the stigma around conservatism.
Chinese teacher Naogan Ma also came up to the mic for a crowd pleasing story about her experiences running for office and not identifying with a certain party. She spoke to the importance of recognizing the group of independents in the country, and how students can learn not to label based on party, but to talk as a citizen.
Ms. Noble’s visit generated a varied response from the KO community. Discussions about the assembly took place in classes that followed.
“I heard a group of students who I had never known to be politically active discussing the assembly and their opinions on some of the topics brought up during the Q&A session,” Matt said about students he had heard talking in the dining hall.
“To me, hearing this discussion occur proved that the hour-long assembly had been a success,” Matt said.
Sophomore Jacob Schwartz said that the assembly was important. “At first I was skeptical because I thought she would just hammer us with her beliefs, but I thought it was important that she separate her beliefs and the idea of civil discourse she was talking about,” he said.
“I thought it was good that she came and spoke to us even though I disagree with what she said,” sophomore Chris Morris said.
“I believe that all groups who feel that marginalization against them should continue to partner with the KO administration about having assemblies about fairness,” Matt said. “This will be the only way to engage in civil discourse in the future,” he said.
Although some disagreed with certain points, plenty of KO students agreed that what she had to saw was important for the community to hear.“This will be the only way we can continue to engage in civil discourse in the future,” he said.