Canceled commencement speeches, obstetric malpractice suit demonstrate severe lack of gratitude

     Robert Birgeneau, formerly the University of California, Berkeley Chancellor, was forced to withdraw from a commencement speech at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. (Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)

    Robert Birgeneau, formerly the University of California, Berkeley Chancellor, was forced to withdraw from a commencement speech at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. (Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)

    Some of us seem to be suffering from a serious lack of gratitude. Recent news reports about woeful-when-they-should-be-grateful academic types and a woman obsessed with delivering her third child by means of natural birth come to mind.

    The students of Haverford College and their like-minded professors, who threw temper tantrums about the school’s originally scheduled graduation speaker, former chancellor of the University of California Berkeley Robert J. Birgeneau, could use a reality check. Don’t they realize how lucky they are to be students and educators at this respected liberal arts college?  

    There are people among us who would give anything to attend any college, let alone one like Haverford.  The 200-acre institution of higher learning sits like an oasis of tranquility, complete with gorgeous trees, flowers and geese by a pond, jogging trails and elegant Quaker-styled architecture off of bustling Lancaster Avenue on Philadelphia’s lovely Main Line.  

    Instead of being grateful for their good fortune to matriculate or teach at such a place, the pouty Haverford College students and their profs took their cues from other intolerant ingrates, Rutgers University faculty members who protested Rutger’s original choice of Condeleeza Rice as its commencement speaker because of her role as secretary of state during the war in Iraq.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Haverford College’s rebels without a relevant cause opposed their school’s selection of Birgeneau because, during his time as UC Berkeley’s chancellor, he enlisted the campus police who strong-armed Occupy Cal movement protesters in 2011.  Haverford’s crybabies demanded an apology and a written explanation from Birgeneau for his actions at UC Berkeley in 2011, if he intended to address them at their graduation.

    From the Haverford website’s “About” page: “Haverford is one of America’s leading liberal arts colleges, a close-knit intellectual community that combines the Quaker values of dignity, tolerance and respect with a rigorous academic program.”

    If those protesting Birgeneau’s presence had been grateful, rather than spiteful, perhaps they might have lived up to those Quaker values of dignity, tolerance and respect toward another intellectual.

    Most of us have attended graduations featuring speakers with whom we have little in common.  Sometimes we learn things of interest or value from them.  If I could sit through a graduation speech snoozer by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at Catholic University in 2006, and a more entertaining address by MSNBC’s fingernails-on-the-blackboard voiced Chris Matthews at St. Joseph’s University in 2009, surely Haverford College and Rutgers University audiences could politely listen to accomplished academics like Birgeneau and Rice and possibly learn something.      

    Birgeneau had the grace to withdraw as commencement speaker, as Rice did earlier at Rutgers.

    Ungrateful on the operating table

    Another news item demonstrated a new low in lack of gratitude. The report involves Rinat Dray, 35, a woman who wanted to deliver her third child naturally in the worst way.  

    Never mind that Dray gave birth to her first two children via cesarean sections.  And, never mind that doctors at Staten Island University Hospital urged this mother to have another C-section, not only for the baby’s well-being but for hers, since risk of rupturing the uterus is high after two cesarean births.  Moreover, such a rupture could be fatal to both mother and baby.

    Despite her docs’ advice, Dray tried to deliver vaginally for several hours in between arguing with them about having a cesarean section. Doctors finally had their way and wheeled Dray into the operating room where her baby boy was delivered via C-section in July of 2011.  

    Now Dray is suing the doctors and the hospital for malpractice.  She’s charging them with “improperly substituting their judgment for that of the mother,” according to The New York Times.

    Where is Dray’s gratitude toward doctors for saving her son’s and possibly her life?   

    I have considerable experience with C-sections. My firstborn was an emergency C-section. Medical personnel rushed me into the OR after I labored for 24 hours with little dilation. Worse still, there were the danger signs for my baby. Ultrasound imagery showed meconium, an infant’s first intestinal waste, floating the amniotic fluid around her. Since we survived that ordeal, I chose C-sections for my next two babies who were also born healthy. 

    Decades later, I’m still indebted to every doctor and nurse in those operating rooms.

    We all take good things in our lives for granted at times. But one would hope that those granted the luxury of a college education would have the common sense to appreciate it. Moreover, a mother who deliberately puts her herself and her baby in a life or death situation and then sues her doctors for saving them brings new meaning and extremity to the word “ingrate.”

    Our society has developed a bad case of broken gratitude syndrome, which we’d better address. For an absence of gratitude only leads to bitterness. Bitterness is synonymous with resentment, animosity, hostility, cynicism and other bad attitudes that lead to divisiveness.

    And there’s already too much of that going around.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal