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Oglesby: Columbia was right to invite Iran's leader

POSTED: January 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Count me among those who thought -- and still think -- it was worthwhile in our free, democratic society for Columbia University to invite Iran's mystifying president to speak while attending a session of the United Nations.

One major negative was the university's president blatantly insulting the institution's guest during the introduction instead of showing him that in an open democracy people can and do disagree agreeably. While it was good to expose him to civil protests, another major negative was our extremist groups that crossed the line of orderly, peaceful protest.

Did he make any good points? Yes, particularly that our citizens could benefit from considering the views of those we disagree with instead of arrogantly dismissing their views in a "we know best about all things" and "my way or no way" manner of extremists on both flanks.

Should he have been permitted to visit the 911 site. Absolutely NOT!

Did he make any bad points? And how! Most of his points, in fact. A sampling.

He insists more research is needed on the question of whether the holocaust was real.

He, who's on record as supporting the elimination of the Israel state, says Iran has more to fear from Israel than Israel should fear his "peace loving" Iran. He may be partially right in that Israel won't let Iran develop a nuclear weapon should U.N. diplomacy fail.

Mainstream Islam doesn't condone terrorism, including the mass, random killing of innocent people. Why then does Iran support terrorism, including providing financing and weapons, without openly condemning it as state policy?

I am glad Americans got a chance to see and examine this fellow more closely. Maybe it will inspire more of them to learn more about the organization and workings of today's worldwide, organized terrorism network of independent but cooperative terrorist groups supporting sometimes contradictory ideologies and goals. An overwhelming majority of our citizens don't, but when and if they do, they'll finally realize the magnitude of the stakes in this war on terrorism now rightly or wrongly, but in reality, centered in Iraq.

Switching gears, the foreclosures, state charges, etc. really have little bearing on Michael Vick's sentencing on his federal guilty plea. His failed drug test and alleged marijuana activities certainly do detract from an image of repentance, acceptance of responsibility and rehabilitation, cooperation with prosecutors, and becoming an active role model for our youth. In response to some questions, my earlier column still stands. IF the judge finds he is satisfying those tests, society would be better off unleashing his talents to those pursuits after a year out of football and in prison. If activities such as these recent ones lead the judge to conclude Vick isn't satisfying the tests and in effect thumbing his nose at such an opportunity, fine him the maximum and let him serve the maximum sentence. In such a case, the NFL should ban him from the sport for life. The league already has too many negative role models.

Another gear change. Many have heard about my heart adventures. After a sudden episode and an afternoon and early evening in the emergency room, a full day and two half-days in doctor's offices leading to a determination I needed heart catheterization and a pacemaker, the procedures were scheduled for 5:15 a.m. last Tuesday. After a light dinner about 5:15 p.m. Monday, I was there and ready to go to the operating room by about 7:15. Only problem, a piece of vital equipment wasn't working. Shortening the story, it was repaired and they took me in about 4 p.m.

The point is the caregivers, doctor, nurses and other aides kept us fully informed regularly and were genuinely concerned about the delay. Equipment failure was beyond their control, but without exception they all went above and beyond to make this guy with increasing hunger and thirst feel easy. I, for one, thank them profusely.

A final gear change. Ellen DeFoor, the third female president in its long, storied history, hands over the reins of the Gainesville Kiwanis Club to Wayne Parrish today. This enthusiastic lady and friend led the club to perhaps its most successful year ever. Besides continuing, even expanding, its many traditional youth service projects, she led the launch of the club's most ambitious project in its history, the Kiwanis Hope Foundation, and seeded its start with a $25,000 legacy gift. Ladies traditionally have smaller feet than men, but Wayne has some mighty big shoes to fill.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Originally published Oct. 2, 2007



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