Friday, May 3, 2013

Rep. James Lankford Named 2013 Commencement Speaker

[Ed.: Evidently the Lankford adress is a no-go. The OBU website is reporting, as of 5/8/13, that a well loved faculty member will give the address.]

In light of our mentioning the overtly rightward political tilt of OBU's invited chapel speakers, several readers sent in this item yesterday:
U.S. Rep. James Lankford will return to Oklahoma to bring the Spring Commencement Address to OBU’s graduates on Friday, May 17. 
Rep. Lankford was elected to the United States Congress on Nov. 2, 2010, representing Oklahoma’s Fifth District. The Republican legislator serves on the House Committees on Budget and Oversight and Government Reform, where he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements. He also was elected chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee for the 113th Congress.
Apparently there are at least a handful of -- shudder -- Democrats among the Save OBU faithful.  All three of them (!) sent me notes yesterday expressing dismay.

I told them to chill out.

Rep. Lankford represents Pottawatomie, Seminole, and most of Oklahoma County in Congress.  He has deep ties to Baptist life in the state, having been the director of the Falls Creek camp for 13 years before resigning in 2009 to enter the Republican primary to replace retiring Rep. Mary Fallin, who ran successfully for Governor of Oklahoma in 2010.

It's pretty typical to invite governors and members of Congress to speak at college graduation ceremonies.  Graduation speakers are also, I would argue, qualitatively different from chapel speakers.  Yes, this will mark the second Tea Party politician to speak at OBU this spring.  Maybe OBU students should have the opportunity to hear from a moderate Republican (Mickey Edwards, where are you?) or a Democrat from time to time.

But for now, let's just file this away and keep a tally.  If it truly is the case that Democratic politicians are systematically excluded from ever being invited to campus, then yes, we need to protest OBU's ideological rigidity.  But all 5 of Oklahoma's U.S. representatives and both senators are Republicans.  So it's not like there are any Democrats to choose from at the moment.

In the meantime, however, it may be worth considering that some OBU students may want to hear from speakers whose Christian commitments lead them to political and social views that are not in lockstep with the Religious Right.  Even Cedarville University, which recently completed its fundamentalist transformation, recently invited both Shane Claiborne and the Reverend Jim Wallis to speak.  These liberal evangelicals are less enthusiastic about translating their faith commitments into unconditional support for the Republican Party.  Perhaps it would be a helpful educational and spiritual experience for OBU students to consider the ideas of at least someone who is not a footsoldier of the Religious Right political movement.

As for Rep. Lankford, he will be speaking at a graduation ceremony, which even at a Christian college is not technically a service of religious worship (though there will be some hymns and prayers, as there should be).  When former Rep. J.C. Watts spoke about 10 years ago, there was some hand-wringing among the moderates that it would be an overtly partisan political speech.  Most people recall Watts giving a good commencement address.

Also, we may see Rep. Lankford moderate some of his more extreme positions as he develops his career in Congress.  Like his colleague, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Lankford will find that he can have more influence if he works as a partner for the common good rather than a cheerleader for a platform that has no chance of passing.

Already, he may be moderating from the far far right to the merely far right.  As recently as March 29 of this year, Lankford had "liked" a page on Facebook called Outraged Patriots.  You can see the "patriots'" page here:

What could be more patriotic than noose imagery...?  I'll leave it to your imagination what this image connotes to many Americans.

Here's Representative Lankford's Facebook page, "liking" the Outraged Patriots as of March 29 of this year.

After some people expressed concern and asked him to clarify his position, the congressman "unliked" the page, indicating that he does not, after all, endorse the rhetoric and imagery of lynching.

So don't worry, OBU students and faculty.  At least your 2013 graduation speaker is on record opposing lynching.  Practically a moderate!

So chill out.

[Ed: If it matters, I've voted Democratic and Republican.  Presently, I'm not registered to vote and I did not vote in the 2012 presidential election.  Pretty bad for a political scientist, I know... And, to reiterate: Save OBU is completely uninterested in secular politics and supports no outside issues or causes.]


  1. I do mot think a Democrat will speak anytime soon. They are the party of choice. They were prochoice on slavery prochoice on abortion. Prochoice on homosexual marriage. If the Bible against it Dems are for it. They also said anyone prolife not welcome in their party. I do not think one would want to speak

    1. Should have said they are against the traditonal Conservative SBC view of what the Bible says

    2. Thanks for clarifying, Bro. Kevin. However, I suspect a Democratic member of Oklahoma's delegation would speak if invited. Of course, there are none :-)

      People often forget that, as a young state legislator and political science professor at OBU, David Boren ran his campaign for U.S. Senate (as a Democrat) with the help of OBU and Shawnee friends. Boren resigned from the Senate in 1994 in order to become president of OU. His son, Dan, served in Congress from 2005 to 2013. Both Borens are conservative Democrats.

    3. When I was at OBU, Tony Litherland ran for Congress as a Democrat and several of us helped on his campaign. I even changed my voter registration to Oklahoma so I could vote for him.

      Also, Corey Brooks, an OBU alum has been elected to the Oklahoma State Senate. Looking at his bio, he is likely every bit as conservative as he was when he was a student whereas I've gone even more to the left than I was when I had fun sparring matches with Corey while we worked on Dr. Litherland's campaign. However, I would think it would be entirely appropriate if OBU invited Corey to give a speech since he is an OBU grad using his political science degree in politics in Oklahoma.

  2. I actually somewhat enjoyed this blog post Jacob. I think Democrats need to chill out.
    Charlie B


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