This is a response from Robert Boyers, who asked that we publish it.
I write precisely to “belabor the obvious,” to quote Roger Berkowitz. Of course the Arendt Center did not endorse the Alternative fur Deutschland when it invited Professor Marc Jongen to speak at the recent Democracy conference held at Bard. And of course the effort to understand ideas always inevitably entails a willingness to engage with persons with whom we disagree. To risk entering into what Arendt calls “the interminable dialogue” is the task of the Arendt Center, and that task inevitably requires a refusal to accept that we can learn only from those whose views safely accord with our own. Professor Jongen was invited to participate in a conference in which several competing perspectives were represented, and the Arendt Center saw to it that Jongen would be interrogated by a fully worthy antagonist in Ian Buruma, one of the leading intellectuals in the United States. The proper work of the Arendt Center is the examination of a wide range of ideas “that demand scrutiny, not suppression,” as President Leon Botstein of Bard College writes in his own letter of support for the work of the center, and I want to add my own voice to say “thank you” and “please don’t allow the voices of suppression and intellectual intolerance to prevent you from doing the brave work we have come to expect from the Arendt Center.”
Editor, SALMAGUNDI Magazine
Professor of English, Skidmore College
Director, NY State Summer Writers Institute